The Question Concerning Technology

We dare to use this word in a sense that has been thoroughly unfamiliar up to now.

According to ordinary usage, the word Gestell [frame] means some kind of apparatus, e.g., a bookrack. Gestell is also the name for a skeleton. And the employment of the word Gestell [enframing] that is now required of us seems equally eerie, not to speak of the arbitrariness with which, words of a mature language are so misused. Can anything be more strange? Surely not. Yet this strangeness is an old custom of thought. And indeed thinkers follow this custom precisely at the point where it is a matter of thinking that which is highest. We, late born, are no longer in a position to appreciate the significance of Plato's daring to use the word εἶδος for that which in everything and in each particular thing endures as present. For εἶδος , in the common speech, meant the outward aspect [Ansicht] that a visible thing offers to the physical eye. Plato exacts of this word, however, something utterly extraordinary: that it name what precisely is not and never will be perceivable with physical eyes. But even this is by no means the full extent of what is extraordinary here. For ἰδέα names not only the non-sensuous aspect of what is physically visible. Aspect (ἰδέα) names and also is that which constitutes the essence in the audible, the taste-able, the tactile, in everything that is in any way accessible. Compared with the demands that Plato makes on language and thought in this and in other instances, the use of the word Gestell as the name for the essence of modern technology, which we are venturing, is almost harmless. Even so, the usage now required remains something exacting and is open to misinterpretation.

Enframing means the gathering together of the setting-upon that sets upon man, i.e., challenges him forth, to reveal the actual, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve. Enframing means the way of revealing that holds sway in the essence of modern technology and that is itself nothing technological. On the other hand, all those things that are so familiar to us and are standard parts of assembly, such as rods, pistons, and chassis, belong to the technological. The assembly itself, however, together with the aforementioned stock-parts, fall within the sphere of technological activity.