Archive for the ‘Heidegger’ Category

The Question Concerning Technology

November 10, 2018

“The Question Concerning Technology” by Martin Heidegger is not an easy read. This short essay is full of unusual terms and phrases. I think part of the reason for this is Heidegger’s style of writing, and part is the capacity of the German language to build compound words easily. Thus in the English translation you have several hyphenated words like “standing-reserve” and “bringing-forth”. Of course, difficult terminology seems to be typical for Heidegger, but there are also many words taken from classical philosophy that have special meanings, which Heidegger was well versed in.

In this essay we first learn that our question is really a questioning and will be a process that “builds a way” to understanding, so initially we are more interested in the journey than the destination. The way that is desired is towards a “free relationship” between an “open” human existence and the “essence of technology” (essence being what a thing is, as if we can know exactly, so finding out is part of our journey). Second, we are told that the essence of technology is not technological, so to try to find what this essence is by using more technology is to be in an “unfree” relationship with it.

Third, our question concerning technology is really asking what technology is. A common and “correct” definition is that it is both a means to an end, and a human activity. The former is the instrumental aspect of technology, and the later is the anthropological aspect. But Heidegger does not think that these two aspects are the complete or “true” ones, and so our questioning leads us to inquire as to the essence of instrumentality. For that, we turn next to consider the general causes of things and their effects, and so on to examine the classical Four Causes of Aristotle.

Readers of this blog will be familiar with the Four Causes, as I have mentioned them frequently. I consider them an important paradigmatic four-fold, and have tried to develop a more modern version of them with my four-fold Structure-Function. However, Heidegger was no friend to modernity, and his treatment of the Four Causes and the remainder of his essay shows that plainly. But let us continue on with our journey before we spoil our quest. As a reminder, here is a quick list of the Four Causes:

  • Efficient Cause – causa efficiens – Logos
  • Material Cause – causa materialis – Hylos
  • Formal Cause – causa formalis – Eidos
  • Final Cause – causa finalis – Telos

By thinking about causes in this way, can we discover the essence of causality? Heidegger explains that what causality is involves the things responsible for the bringing about of other things or what kinds of things a thing is indebted to in order for it to occur. (Others have argued that instead of causes another good name is the four “becauses”, i.e. the reasons for or the explanations of things). Note that Heidegger uses the terms responsibility and indebtedness to give the Four Causes (what I consider to be) a normative aspect.

Heidegger presents to us a silver chalice as an example of how to think about the the Four Causes in relation to Greek thought. Hylos (or hyle) is the material we start with, Eidos is its form or aspect, Telos is responsible for bringing together both (but not as aim or purpose but as bounds or context), and all three are indebted to… Logos? Heidegger now departs from how Aristotle was understood to view the causes named after him, and says so himself, in order to argue that these four ways of responsibility and indebtedness are really what these causes are all about.

To be continued… maybe…

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Question_Concerning_Technology

http://www.psyp.org/question_concerning_technology.pdf

http://www.english.hawaii.edu/criticalink/heidegger/guide1.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heideggerian_terminology

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_causes

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-causality/

Notes for Further Writing:

Interesting articles on Shintoism and Heidegger:

https://iainews.iai.tv/articles/spirited-away-meets-heidegger-we-killed-the-gods-with-technology-but-the-sacredness-of-life-is-continuous-auid-1104

https://prezi.com/hvul4-ped2z4/shintoism-and-spirited-away/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto

Interesting article on language and technology (tool-making) arguing that they are related: The structure of language mirrors the methodological structure of tool making:

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/06/toolmaking-language-brain/562385/

A nice symmetric view of the Four Causes as things undergoing changes is shown in:

Boris Henning / The Four Causes, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol.106, No.3 (March 2009), pp. 137-160

[*10.114]

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Graham Harman’s Quadruple Object, V2

March 13, 2014

The world is made up of a basic set of polarities – four of them, it turns out. They cannot be derived from a single radical root, but neither do they exist as incorruptible elements untransmutable into one another in the manner of the Empedoclean air, earth, fire and water.

— From Prince of Networks by Graham Harman

sq_harman

Objects exist as autonous units, but they also exist in conjunction with their qualities, accidents, relations, and moments without being reducible to these. To show how these terms can convert into one another is the alchemical mission of the object-oriented thinker.

— From Prince of Networks by Graham Harman

sq_harman2

I have made an attempt at orienting Graham Harman’s fourfold of real object, sensual object, real qualities, and sensual qualities with respect to the other fourfolds presented here. The fourfold object emerges from Harman’s analysis of Heidegger’s das Geviert.

References:

Graham Harman / Guerrilla Metaphysics: phenomenology and the carpentry of things

Graham Harman / Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and metaphysics

Graham Harman / The Quadruple Object

[*6.46, *6.48, *6.62, *7.40, *7.132, *7.133]

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Structure-Function

July 3, 2012

Aristotle’s Four Causes is an important fourfold that seems to be the basis for many of the fourfolds, both original and not, presented in this blog. Two of the causes, efficient and material, are acceptable to modern scientific inquiry because they can be thought of as motion and matter, respectively, but the other two causes, formal and final, are not. Why is that?

The formal cause is problematic because the formal is usually considered to be an abstract concept, a construction of universals that may only exist in the human mind. The final cause is also problematic because it is associated with the concept of telos or purpose. There, too, only human or cognitive agents are allowed to have goals or ends. So for two causes, efficient and material, all things may participate in them, but for the two remaining, formal and final, only agents with minds may.

These problems may be due to the pervasive influence of what the recent philosophical movement of Object Oriented Philosophy calls correlationism: ontology or the existence of things is limited to human knowledge of them, or epistemology. The Four Causes as usually described becomes restricted to the human creation and purpose of things. Heidegger’s Tool Analysis or Fourfold, which also appears to have been derived from the Four Causes, is usually explained in terms of the human use of human made things: bridges, hammers, pitchers. Even scientific knowledge is claimed to be just human knowledge, because only humans participate in the making of this knowledge as well as its usage.

Graham Harman, one of the founders of Speculative Realism of which his Object Oriented Ontology is a result, has transformed Heidegger’s Fourfold so that it operates for all things, and so the correlationism that restricts ontology to human knowledge becomes a relationism that informs the ontology for all things. Instead of this limiting our knowledge even more, it is surprising what can be said about the relations between all things when every thing’s access is as limited as human access. However, this transformation is into the realm of the phenomenological, which is not easily accessible to rational inquiry.

I wish to update the Four Causes, and claim that they can be recast into a completely naturalistic fourfold operating for all things. This new version was inspired by the Four Operators of Linear Logic. Structure and function are commonplace terms in scientific discourse, and I wish to replace formal and final causes with them. It may be argued that what is obtained can no longer be properly called the Four Causes, and that may indeed be correct.

First, let us rename the efficient cause to be action, but not simply a motion that something can perform. I’m not concerned at the moment with whether the action is intentional or random, but it must not be wholly deterministic. Thus there are at least two alternatives to an action. I’m also not determining whether one alternative is better than the other, so there is no normative judgement. An action is such that something could have done something differently in the same situation. This is usually called external choice in Linear Logic (although it makes more sense to me to call it internal choice: please see silly link below).

Second, let us call the material cause part, but not simply a piece of something. Instead of the material or substance that something is composed of, let us first consider the parts that constitute it. However, a part is not merely a piece that can be removed. A part is such that something different could be substituted for it in the same structure, but not by one’s choice. Like an action, I am not concerned whether one of the alternatives is better than the other, but only that the thing is still the thing regardless of the alternative. This is usually called internal choice.

Next, we will relabel the formal cause to be structure, but not simply the structure of the thing under consideration. Ordinarily structure is not a mere list of parts, or a set of parts, or even a sum or integral of parts, but an ordered assembly of parts that shapes a form. Ideally structure is an arrangement of parts in space. However, in this conceptualization, structure will be only an unordered list of parts with duplications allowed.

Last, instead of final cause we will say function, but not simply the function of the thing as determined by humans. Ordinarily function is not a mere list of actions, or a set of actions, or a sum or integral of actions, but an ordered aggregate of actions that enables a functionality. Ideally function is an arrangement of actions in time. However, like structure, function will be only an unordered list of actions with duplications allowed.

As we transform the Four Causes from made things to all things, both natural and human-made, we will later examine how that changes them.

References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_realism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Object-oriented_ontology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Harman

http://wiki.cmukgb.org/index.php/Internal_and_External_Choice

[*6.144, *7.32, *7.97]

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Graham Harman’s Quadruple Object

June 30, 2011

Graham Harman’s book The Quadruple Object is now available in English, and hopefully it will clarify some of the questions I have about his metaphysics. I have made an attempt at orienting his fourfold of real object, sensual object, real qualities, and sensual qualities with respect to the other fourfolds presented here. The fourfold object emerges from Harman’s analysis of Heidegger’s das Geviert.

Graham Harman / Guerrilla Metaphysics: phenomenology and the carpentry of things

Graham Harman / Prince of Networks: Bruno Latour and metaphysics

Graham Harman / The Quadruple Object

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Heidegger’s Fourfold (das Geviert)

May 4, 2010

We are too late for the gods and too early for Being. Being’s poem, just begun, is man.

— From Thinker as Poet by Martin Heidegger

“Every man makes a god of his own desire.”

Virgil

Note that Heidegger’s Fourfold is a perfect schema for the Tower of Babel: while mortals strive to join the earth and sky, the gods undo their efforts by turning their unity into multiplicity.

References:

Graham Harman / Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects

http://www.cosmosandhistory.org/index.php/journal/article/view/133/276

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_realism

http://culturalstudiesnow.blogspot.com/2011/05/martin-heidegger-building-dwelling.html

http://avoidingthevoid.wordpress.com/2009/10/28/heating-up-the-transmutations-of-media-beings-part-1/

[*6.2, *6.3, *6.56, *6.62]

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