CriticaLink | Heidegger: The Question Concerning Technology | Guide to pp. 338-341

"The irresistability of ordering and the restraint of the saving power draw past each other like the paths of two stars in the course of the heavens. . ."

The danger of technology's essence and the saving power inherent in it are joined, Heidegger tells us, in the way stars are joined in a constellation: part of a whole, but separate entities. Enclosed as we are within our enframing orientation to the world, what can we do to save ourselves from the consequences of enframing? How can we nurture an alternative way of looking at things that will help us to change the ways of thinking that drive technology and thus to evade some of the horrific dangers that inhere in technology?

Against an orientation that investigates all aspects of the world and assumes that the world can be grasped and controlled through measurement and categorization, Heidegger upholds an alternative: art. He takes us back to a moment in the history of the West before the onset of enframing, back again to ancient Greece, where the concept of techne--which, as we have seen, is the source of our word "technology"--included both instrumentality and the fine arts, that is, poiesis. Heidegger imagines a classical Greece in which art was not a separate function within society, but unifying force that brought together religious life, political life, and social life. The art of ancient Greek culture, according to Heidegger, expressed humanity's sense of connectedness with all Being. Art was a kind of "piety;" it was the outgrowth of humanity's care--in the sense of "stewardship"--of all existence.

In our own time, Heidegger suggests, the paradox of how "enframing" can hold within it a saving power can be resolved by viewing the artistic or poetic orientation to the world as the alternative dimension of "enframing." The poet looks at the world in order to understand it, certainly, but this reflection does not seek to make the world into a "standing-reserve." For Heidegger, the poet takes the world "as it is," as it reveals itself--which, for Heidegger, is the world's "true" form (remember that the Greek word for truth, aletheia, literally means "revealing" or "unveiling").

"Truth" for Heidegger is a "revealing," the process of something "giving" or "showing" itself. Art is the realm in which this "granting" of the world is upheld. Art's relationship with the world is, in Heidegger's view, different from technology's in that art is less concerned with measuring, classifying, and exploiting the resources of the world than it is with "taking part" in the process of coming-to-being and revealing that characterize the existence.

We should not interpret Heidegger to be suggesting that we all go out and become artists, but rather that we incorporate more of the artist's and poet's vision into our own view of the world. By doing so, we can guard against the dangers of enframing, and enter into a "free"--constantly critical, constantly questioning--relationship with the technology that is constantly making new incursions into our lives.

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