Question Forum 2

Please refer to the readings assigned for readings assigned for 26 September.


1) Create an outline of The Question Concerning Technology. Try to distill the main concepts to produce a succinct sense of Heidegger's arguments within the piece. One way to do this might be to isolate what you understand as the narrative of this article. What arguments does he make? What conclusions does he make.
(If you have chosen to do the exam assignment for this class, this exercise may be helpful to reference when writing. )

2) What are the two definitions of technology presented by Heidegger in his writing? What is the relationship between these definitions and the essence of technology? Are the definitions adequate representation of what technology is?

3) How does “instrumentality” tell us about/ disclose what technology is?

4) How does Heidegger understand the relationship between technology and science? How does that relationship influence the ‘essence’ of technology?

5) What is the threat of technology? (“The rule of Enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth” (14).) What consequences emerge from this threat? Are there consequences from the threat of technology that impact contemporary life?

6) Throughout the essay Heidegger places emphasis words and their “primal meanings” (PG#). How does this focus serve his argument? Why do these type of meanings matter to the essence of technology?

Marie Stettler Kleine's Bold Attempt

3. Heidegger’s use of “instrumentality” illuminates the relationship between his first definition of technology and causality. This definition, that technology is “a means to an end” (9) begs both who/what the actors that are involved in the process of technological process (a greater part of his second definition of technology) and the kinds of intentionality behind revealing technology. Now, Heidegger ties this intentionality to Aristotelian causes, grossly simplified to: material, form, purpose, and effect. Each of these “causes” are accompanied with different systems of actors (usually non-human) being indebted to the process in which they are involved. With regards to “instrumentality,” what matters most is their relationship to these causes, how each of the debts accrued in the process of creating technology serve a more global role, and how each debt propels the next (but non-linearly, I think…).

The combination of these functional causes add to the more general concern of an instrumental technology. These small steps of what makes technology shows the process of “revealing” truth (12). Through a series of challenges to the material(s) and their surroundings, the technologist artfully orchestrates and manages these debts. However, Heidegger is very clear that people are not revealing truth, but rather, it is revealed to them. For Heidegger there seems to be a material a priori. We are somehow expected to prioritize how technology is situated physically in order to ignore human agency and historiographical context. Now, I’m having trouble reconciling how this foundational text in philosophy of technology fits within a more broader conception of technological creation in STS, but I’m interested in gaining insight to see how it has informed the field (both Phil of Tech uniquely and STS more generally). While this version of instrumentality of technology (with(out) human agency) reminds me a lot of Durkheimian functionality, but I’d have to read much more (and iteratively) to try to analyze how they compare in any nuanced way.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” Technology and Values: Essential Readings. Ed. Craig Hanks. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 1–23. PDF.


Ezra Awumey
Question 5

For Heidegger, technology is intimately related to, or perhaps even the manifestation of some aspect of the human ontology. The inherent threat of technology lies in its ability to escape from human control. For Heidegger, this is especially troubling since we are “chained “ to it. He believes this may result in humanity departing from its essence or natural way of being. Our anthropocentric view of the world leads us to regard technology among other things as tools or instruments (a means to an end). Heidegger explains that this is problematic since viewing technology instrumentally causes us to lose sight of its essence— that modern technology frames humanity and nature as a “standing reserve” or resources to be used.

The consequence of this is that humans begin to align or orient themselves in relation to technology. What was once considered only an instrument is now the user. Mentioned earlier, this is problematic for transparently obvious reasons. Heidegger believes that this dilemma stems from a human tendency to “enframe” or to place the world into categories as to make sense of it. He claims that the essence of technology isn’t bound by anything technical (argues that it precedes applied science), but rather this notion of enframing.

The consequence for contemporary life is that we are slowly making changes in our lives for benefit of technology and are allowing technology to assume a more dominant position in our lives. For example, Google maps refused to give me directions to a restaurant because she assumed that it was closed for Labor Day. However, I knew it was open and eventually changed the settings to get the directions. I offer this example in jest, but it highlights the fact that technology is slowly imposing its will, in this instance efficiency or perhaps accuracy, on our lives.

Heidegger does offer a glimmer of hope in suggesting that once we come to realize the essence of technology, we may be able to establish a free relationship to it.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” Technology and Values: Essential Readings. Ed. Craig Hanks. Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. 1–23. PDF.


Annie Y. Patrick***

2) What are the two definitions of technology presented by Heidegger in his writing?
Heidegger introduces two definitions of technology in the beginning of this writing that are based on an ancient stance that the essence of a thing is considered to be what the thing is (p.9). Heidegger goes to explain that there are two statements to defining technology: (1) Technology is a means to an end. (2) Technology is a human activity.

What is the relationship between these definitions and the essence of technology?
Heidegger made clear that the “essence of technology” is not the same thing as “technology” and is not related to something being “technological.” The ancients defined the essence of a thing to be what that thing is (p9). In regards to that definition and the definition of technology, would one be correct in explaining that the essence of technology is the human activity that brings the means to a particular end? Heidegger goes further to explain that the essence of technology is in the enframing. From this enframing, the essence of technology is a combination of these two definitions of technology: the means (the gathering for the setting–upon) and the human activity (the revealing).

Are the definitions adequate representation of what technology is?
I believe that the provided definitions are a part of technology. I support the definition that technology is stoked in human activity and creativity, I would assume that this is Heidegger’s belief of the revealing. However, is technology the means to an end? There I disagree. To say that technology is the means to an end, is too finite to say and especially without defining “end.”

5) What is the threat of technology? (“The rule of Enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth” (14).) What consequences emerge from this threat? Are there consequences from the threat of technology that impact contemporary life?

The threat of technology lies in the revealing, enframing, and the standing-reserve of being in this place in which one’s eyes are open to the real. The revealing of technology places man in a precarious positon that is an illusion in which he is lord and creator of all, thus creating order, which ends the revealing and trickles through the line, thus ending everything else. However, there is another way to view the threat. The revealing lies in the harboring and concealing and comes into the open where it is not constrained by laws or arbitrariness (p 18), thus does not limit itself to the order that may be imposed by man. However, at the time of revealing, “the unconcealment in which everything that is shows itself at any given time harbors the danger that man may misconstrue the unconcealed and misinterpret it.” (p19). Thus the threat is not the technology itself, but instead of how the technology is used. There are many times in which it is not the technology that has harmed, but instead how man has used the technology.

Question 6 Roger Burnett
Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology” is an amazing read. He rivals Poe in the use of language as an image maker. In fact, my sense is that he is creating a unique language to understand technology. He often references German terms which handily combine words into a unique (but often obtuse) nouns and verbs. The focus on language (“emphasis words”) serves his arguments very well as the reader lets go of his own preconceptions to flow with the descriptions Heidegger offers. Heidegger takes this reader to a higher plane that makes me really appreciate the creativity of humanity. His final sentence is a wonderful wrap up: “The closer we come to the danger, the more brightly do the ways into the saving power begin to shine and the more questioning we become. For questioning is the piety of thought”. What a wonderful piece.
This focus serves his arguments by taking the reader completely away from preconceptions.
The types of meanings he invokes then takes the reader to a higher level understanding of human creativity (and also the danger!)

Question 4 Roger Burnett
As I started through the essay I was disappointed that Heidegger seemed to describe technology in simplistic terms of manufacturing and machines without connecting the early and difficult phase of technology development to the process. This is the phase that I am familiar with as the most troublesome; the transition of a scientific breakthrough into something useful. He describes the development of a chalice in almost clinical terms without mentioning the science that preceded this development. But then, on page 12, he grapples with the “revealing” and soon states “The establishing of this mutual relationship between technology and physics is correct.” On page 17 he states “Modern physics is the herald of Enframing…”. The capitalization of his major terms such as “Enframing” is also intriguing and gives the reader pause to ponder. Could it be that he thinks of modern science as the “standing reserve” which is Enframed into what we know as technology? A couple more passes through this essay between now and Monday may help me. Also reviewing the secondary readings may help.

Heidegger, Martin. “The Question Concerning Technology.” Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. Ed. David M. Kaplan. Rowman & LittleField Publishers, Inc., 2009. 1–23. PDF.


~Joshua Earle

Q5: The threat of technology is determinism, teleology, and the separation of the human from technology's essence. Technology is a human activity (p. 1), and yet it threatens to slip from human control (p. 2). If technology becomes it's own master, it determines its own path, and the human then becomes irrelevant. As Heidegger writes:

"Yet when destining (determinism) reigns in the mode of Enframing, it is the supreme danger.
This danger attests itself to us in two ways. As soon as what is unconcealed (the real, or the world) no longer concerns man even as object, but does so, rather, exclusively as standing-reserve, and man in the midst of objectlessness is nothing but the orderer of the standing-reserve, then he comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall; that is, he comes to the point where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve." (p. 13, parentheticals mine)

Enframing, as defined in the keywords section, is the method by which the real is put into standing reserve, or makes it a resource that is able to be used. As such, if the enframing of things is destined, then technology (or, the real) then becomes the driving force, and it is humans that are mere objects to be used (standing reserve). Humans become the means to the end - a resource to be exploited - and a technological activity instead of the other way around. Then, in true dystopian fashion, if humans are the resource of technology… one wonders how long it will be before we are replaced by a more efficient standing reserve.

There is also the threat that, because standing reserve is not truth or the essence of technology: "[there is] the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing-reserve." (p. 18) Should this happen, then humans would be forever separated from the essence of technology. However, in this threat there is also the saving potential. By bringing techne and poiesis back together, by seeing technology not as just a means to an end (echoes of Kant, here), but as a thing of grace and beauty, and of worth in itself rather than just how it orders the world into standing reserve… as art… we can get closer to the essence of technologyand protect ourselves from the danger of becoming a mere tool of technology itself.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License