69. "Dwelling in the fourfold" Heidegger on Science and Technology
Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Madras Christian College, Tambaram, Chennai - 600 059
The human understanding of the world can be viewed from various frameworks of analysis. Within a humanistic or anthropocentric framework, the human beings are given a privileged status and the rest of the things in the world, both animate and inanimate, are considered to be for the sake of human manipulation and gratification. The emergence of technological modernity, to a great extent, is attributed to this attitude towards the world, where man enjoys a relative domination.
Having realized the obvious dangers of the anthropocentric attitude, some argue that unless we take necessary steps to limit our domination over nature, it may go against the long-term interests of humanity and the well-being of all living and non-living organisms. It is imperative from our part to stop exploiting the nature, because in the course of time, it may thwart the very existence of life on earth. It categorically suggests that nature will turn against us unless we impose certain limits to our freedom. This line of thinking is generally labeled as "deep ecology".
In this paper we are looking for a position
that moves away from the two extreme views mentioned above. Some
of the basic contentions of the thought of Martin Heidegger (1889-1976)
can lead us to elucidate this new line of thinking. Heidegger
is highly critical of the anthropocentric and utilitarian attitude
that is prevailing in the western culture, which is reiterated
further by the philosophical and theological traditions. Heidegger's
position seems to be more close to the claims of deep ecology,
though he rejects the view that it is the nature which demands
a limit on our domination.
Heidegger's philosophical inquiry aims at a new way of thinking or a new paradigm of understanding that can shed light on the fundamental question: What does it mean to be? He lays emphasis more on the experiential relation with Being (Sein) rather than a definition of Being in the text book fashion. His aim, therefore, is not to give an answer to the question of Being, but to respond meaningfully to it. By response Heidegger means a vital and dynamic reciprocity suitable to an event of participatory engagement. The pre-Socratic philosophers were successful in maintaining primordial relationship with Being. The intellectual awe resulting from the radiance of the vision of Being can be explicitly seen in the thoughts of philosophers belonging to this period. They were seized by the marvel of Being and this expressed itself in words such as physis, logos and aletheia in the Greek language.
The state of affairs, however, radically changed in the post-Socratic period. Thinking which was attuned to Being gave way to philosophy in the sense that the representational thinking got mastery over Being. Analytical rational approach took its lead in the western mind on account of which Being fell into oblivion. Being which had been experienced by the Greek thinkers as aletheia has been transformed into idea. Reason(ratio) emerged as the defining principle and a basic category. This forgetfulness of Being continued its march through the middle ages to the modern period and reached its culmination in the writings of Nietzsche. It is Heidegger's singular aim to recapture the original meaning of Being (1) seeking an alternative mode of thinking that can definitely lead to the goal. It is Heidegger's contention that there is much unsaid in our answers to the queries pertaining to many of the fundamental questions of philosophy. Heidegger, therefore, calls for an original meditative thinking that is capable of carrying the thought forward to the milieu where logic fails to carry us to. Logical thinking is inadequate, for it does not explore the full amplitude of the richness of Dasein's relation to Being. The basic thrust of meditative thinking is to take one towards a fuller and comprehensive understanding of Being. It demands of us "not to cling one-sidedly to a single idea" (2) and it is possible only if we radically unlearn what is traditionally considered as thinking. The early Greek experience of Being points to the fact that establishing a close relation with Being is not an impossibility. The primordial relation with Being nurtured by pre-Socratic philosophers remains as a key to the riddle of Being. The Greek notions are, therefore, born out of an experiential relation with Being, and listening to them we can get into a different stream of thought, for a Greek word itself is a path opening to the Greek world.
The Greek word logos carries an original meaning and a derivative meaning. The primary meaning of logos refers to two aspects of the Being-process, viz., collecting and collectedness. It is a primal gathering principle (3) and maintains a bond within itself so that what is gathered and brought together may not disperse haphazardly. In the derivative sense, logos means discourse or speech (4). His is only a variant of its original meaning as a gathering principle. The deterioration of meaning took place in the post-Socratic period, and thus logos which originally stands in no direct relation to language came to mean discourse and speaking (5). This gathering referred to here is not a mere amassing of things, rather it belongs to collecting which has, as its end in view, a sheltering. What makes the gathering more than a random association is not `something extra' added afterward. Preservation and safe keeping are two accompanying features of the gathering (6).
The explication of logos as the gathering principle brings in only an aspect of Being. To the early Greeks, Being revealed itself as physis. The term physis is derived from the root phuo, which means to emerge, to be powerful, of itself to come to stand and remain standing (7). It is a self-blossoming emergence as it happens in the case of a flower. It is an opening up, unfolding of, that which manifests itself in such unfolding and preserves and endures in it. Heidegger uses the German word `Anwesen' (presenting) to translate the Greek word physis. The translation of physis into presenting is intended to express the `creative' occurrence or the poiesis of physis. For the early Greeks the experience of Being was not born exclusively from the natural phenomena, rather it was mainly due to a fundamental poetic and intellectual experience of Being. Therefore, the world opened up as well as the process of arising, of emerging from the hidden, is referred to by physis (9). Simultaneously, it brings out explicitly the unity that prevails in between the process of unfolding and that which is unfolded in the process. This line of thinking helped the early Greek thinkers to view the world appearance in its fundamental unity.
From the elucidation of logos and physis
Heidegger drew certain valid conclusions which contributed positively
to the development of his thought. The primordial ambiguity of
physis bestowed a unique insight to Heidegger. The Heraclitean
statement, `physis likes to hide', added momentum to this line
of thought and led Heidegger to conclude that there is a mystery
circumscribing the manifestation of Being. The disclosure is never
total; and there is an element of concealment in each and every
instance of unconcealment. There is a primordial tendency for
beings to hide and never to open up fully. This phenomenon of
partial disclosure is discussed in the context of the Greek notion
of aletheia. Being is not mere presence; it is the interplay of
absence and presence, of concealment and unconcealment. The term
aletheia refers to the process of coming forth from hiddenness.
It is an occurrence where events enter into uncocealedness (aletheia).
It further gives the meaning that beings are brought to light
from hiddenness because of the aletheiac-process which preserves
a unique and essential relation with physis (10) and, as mentioned
earlier, that which is brought to light belongs essentially to
Heidegger's motive behind the elucidation of the Greek terms is to emphasize that the proper theme of philosophy is to provide a theoretical and conceptual interpretation of Being. Since the inquiry is oriented towards Being, it requires a new mode of thinking that can go beyond the confines of science (scientific inquiry is oriented towards beings). This new mode of thinking unlashes severe criticism on the Cartesian image of man, or the modern man of reason, and all anthropocentric tendencies that failed to reach the essence of man. The essence of man, from the Heideggerian point of view, is to participate in the activity of creating creatively the occurrence of Being, and it is to this participatory engagement in Being that the term Dasein refers. As a co-player in the play of Being, Dasein has to submit itself to the mission of Being in a befitting manner by participating in the event of appropriation, where the truth of the world and thing take place removing the veil of concealment.
The cultural crisis of the present is caused by the degeneration that took place in the mode of thinking which gave primacy to beings. The one dimensional, partial approach took precedence over a comprehensive view of reality. Moreover, human interest has become the criterion for the determination of the worth and place of a thing in its totality. The intrinsic value of a thing is not taken into consideration, therefore, things are robbed of its worth and are reduced to an object for human estimation (11). This tendency takes away the harmony and dynamism that are fundamental to things in the world.
In the technological era, everything including human beings are treated as means to technological progress. Though we find occasional protests from thinkers and seers, trying to place things in their proper perspective, the result stands short of merit, because the rules and the guiding principles are formulated to suit human understanding (12). Heidegger's criticism of modernity is to be seen from this perspective, for his immediate aim is not to curtail human freedom, rather to find out underlying factors of a `technological' understanding of nature. Since there is a predominance of technology Being is equated to the world of objects. The world is considered as a totality of objects to be confronted by a subject. In Heidegger's view modern technology accomplishes the unlimited self-assuring feasibility of everything through its irresistible transformation of everything into an object for a subject.
Essentially technology is the way of revealing the totality of beings. This is prior to the advent of scientific determination and not a consequence as we generally consider it to be. This profound understanding of Being is concealed in the scientific criterion of meaningfulness. The thought of Being is replaced by the theoretical concern of beings. Being is reduced to the state of an object which is determined by human calculations and Being as physis is not found in the present technologically dominated thinking. Examining the etymology of technology Heidegger observes "the essence of technology is by no means anything technological" (13). It is a ode of revealing, and it comes to presence in the realm where revealing and concealment take place (14). In other words, technology is closely associated with the aletheiac - process, where beings manifest themselves with least human interference. It is poiesis, a making or a bringing forth. Thus in its original sense, techne means the precondition for any particular being to emerge and shine forth. It is the process of bringing into true Being that which is inherent or concealed in physis. Technology lost its meaning of mystery and has become a technique suitable for achieving a specific end. It is a characteristic of the technological view to consider beings as ends or means. technology is therefore subordinated to human purposes, because their worth depends on the suitability to meet certain ends.
Heidegger is critical of reducing technology to some practical and user oriented application of modern science. The revealing in modern technology is understood as challenging - forth. It considers the nature as a depository of resources, and unlocking, transforming, storing, distributing and switching about are considered as ways of revealing (15). This is a clear expression of man's domination over nature and his emergence as the determiner of Being. This sense of technology is alien to its essential meaning as a revealing in harmony with physis.
There is a deliberate attempt in Heidegger's thought to curtail the dominance of man over other beings. The notion of `Dwelling' which Heidegger introduces along with the concept of fourfold is to place man among other beings and to show the essential relation that exists among mortals, gods, sky and earth. The world is not a totality of objects rather it forms a unity within the fourfold. The unity is not imposed from outside rather the fourfold comes into existence by its own inherent unifying principles. Human beings are only one element among the four, and world founding is not considered to be the prerogative of human beings. The man centered worldview is replaced by a new scheme of interrelationships that are self-emerging, and self-sustaining. The term `mortal' clearly suggests the web of relationship within which man finds himself. Man is playing an important role like any other being in the world-making, through various practices and cultural products. In this engagement things of intrinsic worth are often recognized and relations are established. they can be called `divine' as long as they make a demand on us and direct various modes of existence within the fourfold. The `earth' refers to the self-concealing dimension of beings which are never fully opened up or made its presence in a particular way. There are infinite ways in which the earth can show itself. The earth holds within itself the potentiality to express and relate in manifold ways. Thus, the earth which opened up can be seen subject to greater forces like storms, earth quakes, floods or the seasonal changes in nature. These cosmic forces are brought under `sky' in the Heideggerian elucidation of the fourfold. Heidegger's elucidation of the fourfold clearly indicates the need to replace the anthropocentric attitude towards nature, and paves way for things to disclose themselves in their intrinsic worth and inter-relationship. It also announces the beginning of a new line of thinking that is capable of bringing about a change in our web of relationship. Heidegger thus succeeds in providing a critique of our theoretical foundations and showed a new path of thinking that can set things in their proper perspective. In addition to it, Heidegger's call to dwell on earth along with sky, and gods has profound implications for a new life pattern that can meet the demands of the time.
1. Martin Heidegger, Being and time, Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1973, p.1.
2. Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, Translated by John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund, New York: Harper and Row, 1966, p.9.
3. Martin Heidegger, An Introduction to Metaphysics, Translated by Ralph Manheim, London: Yale University Press, 1959, p. 128.
4. Ibid., p. 124.
6. Martin Heidegger, Early Greek Thinking, Translated by David F. Krell and Frank A. Capuzzi, New York: Harper and Row, 1975, p. 62.
7. An Introduction to Metaphysics, op. cit., p.71.
8. Ibid., p. 14.
9. Ibid., pp. 14-15.
10. Ibid., p. 102.
11. Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, Edited by David F. Krell, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978, p. 228.
12. Ibid., pp. 238-39.
13. Ibid., p. 287.
14. Ibid., p. 295.
15. Ibid., p. 298.
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