Hiedegger’s Questioning Concerning Technology starts off with an understanding of essence and ends with a profound statement, “For questioning is the piety of thought.” Between these two milestones of that discuss lie nuggets; wealth, the quest for truth, essence and being; democracy, social and environmental justice; a few mention of technology itself, but Heidegger manages to ensure that the discuss is not drawn to technology in of itself but its essence. It is important to highlight that Hiedegger uses analogies to describe his philosophies and age old tradition of using the known to peer into the immediate unknown; hydroelectric power plants, the windmill, bridges, and of course the ultimate chalice in its chaliceness. It was as if he was using concepts that his audience understood and asking them to see beyond their understanding of the same to discover what the essence of every day things could further reveal. Thus, Hiedegger starts with the questioning of their own understanding – their understanding of technology. He starts his questioning from two points; essence and truth and arrives at a discuss that puts aside the mere definition of technology as a means to an end and as a human activity to a discuss that focuses on the essense of technology itself. For it is in understanding the essence of a thing that that thing is revealed to us. And the revealing of the thing is only but a small aspect of its essence that requires further questioning. Thus, questioning does not stop as seeking essence leads to more revealing.
Hiedegger starts by stating that the existing definitions of technology as instrumental and anthropological is limiting and enframing. He would go on to argue that enframing is “the extreme danger” to technology’s essence, and that it can block all “appearing of truth.” But we understand technology today purely from its enframing. This or that tool can be used for this or that thing. An ipod is for listening to music or the mobile phone is for talking only or that tool is not appropriate as an educational technology. Or this, or that… So much that we do not see the further use of the ipod or mobile phone for other uses.
Hiedegger goes on to argue that it is the instrumental definition of technology (and I reckon, our enframing of it) that allows us the freedom to classify technology as old or new. Hence, he would discuss the difference between the windmill and the hydroelectric power plant. Old vs. new technology. In our day, we will discuss the pencil vs. the word processor; Youtube and on demand TV vs traditional unidirectional broadcast models; or the chalkboard vs. the slide projector. At one point in time, what we now use, we questioned their essence only to accept them as educational technologies much later when we knew we would miss the train if we did otherwise. The enframing of technology allowing us the freedom to classify technology makes us see technology as a means to an end and not a process. If we could only see the pencil as belonging in the era of Youtube and facebook, perhaps we will question its essence such as would lead us into the “bringing forth” of an electronic stylus or a finger enabled 6th sense pointing device which in actual fact is an extension of the pencil; which in actual fact came from the early man drawing in the sand with the tip of his finger. Hiedegger questions enframing and enframing is limiting. For us to bring forth better things and to use technology for our good we must cast enframing aside.
We must also critically look at causes and effects. For causes and effects are linear and linearity is also an enframing. If this, then that. This goes before that and that only. Hiedegger uses the analogy of the chalice to argue that the four (materialis, formulis, finalis, efficiens) causes may be limiting and that the application of the four causes to the definition of technology limits technology’s essence and that the definition of technology as defined by the four causes makes it obscure. Hiedegger argues that cause efficiens, the import of the creator of the chalice erodes cause finalis (the purpose for which the chalice is created). For cause finalis is an end in itself and defining technology with an end is limiting. It is as if to say, if we have the fisherman, we do not need the fish.
Hiedegger goes on to argue that causa efficiens comes from the verb “to fall”, cadere, which has nothing to do with post aristocratic’s bringing forth but rather, an indebtedness to its matter (hyle), its shape (eidos), its circumscribing (telos), and the logos, who is responsible for the bringing forth of the substance. In every day terms, this translates to our what, why, how, when, who where of the substance in question. If in our quest of questioning the essence of technology we could iteratively answer those questions, then we are an iterative step closer each time to finding its essence, the truth about its bringing forth and the means of making it better for humans.