Heidegger and the Idea of Causality

Heidegger utilizes the lost art of thinking to form new and unique perspectives on, what was thought by many in this world, already settled arguments. If not settled then at least those ideas that are taken for granted and barely thought about at all, especially in regards to the purpose of technology. Heidegger by thinking through the etymology of a specific word can use one word to fit his argument with precision. This word in question is ‘cause’ in regard to its role in technology. The latin word causa means “to fall” and can be traced back to Aristotle with Heidegger taking note that the Greek word Aristotle used, aition is quite different than modern interpretations which mean effecting, and instead aition carries with the sense of responsibility for something else. By looking at the origin of the word in question he is able to return to the foundation where our concepts of technology are built upon and argue that we have been misguided this entire time.

This responsibility mentioned is at the heart of Heidegger’s entire philosophy because held inheritantly within the idea of responsibility are the shared ideas of indebtedness, and more centrally care. By equating causality with responsibility he is able to show that modern concepts of technology need to transcend sheer means & ends. This transcendence of means and ends means that the actual role of Dasein is in the revealing of something, which changes the relationship between the user and the instrument. In the example of the silversmith and the chalice Heidegger notes that the silversmith’s role is changed from a master beating the material into submission to form the desired object to one of almost playfulness at looking at the potentialities of the silver to form the ‘abstract’ concept of the chalice. In his mind, everything is ‘given up’ in the process of making the chalice come into being. A self-sacrifice, so to speak, towards something greater. Returning back to the theme of etymology, when viewing the verb “to give” in German es gibt means “There is” and it is intricately tied to being. This poetic viewpoint seems to be almost an antithesis when viewed against our relationship with modern technology.

In addition to, or because of, this class I am reading through much of Wendell Berry. Like Heidegger, Wendell Berry views our modern conception of technology as not only dangerous but essentially counter to humanity’s very being; simply because it leaves us, humanity, divorced from the things we make. What Heidegger called the “instrumentation of humanity”, Wendell Berry called the “Industrialization of Humanity” in which it is only a matter of time (with that time already here) in which we treat everything in this world, including our own bodies, as parts and not as the total. This mechanistic demarcation leaves us progressing further towards a future that is not our own but one in which we solely take ownership.

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