The essential unfolding of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealment of standing-reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it. But human reflection can ponder the fact that all saving power must be of a higher essence than what is endangered, though at the same time kindred to it.
But might there not perhaps be a more primally granted revealing that could bring the saving power into its first shining-forth in the midst of the danger that in the technological age rather conceals than shows itself?
There was a time when it was not technology alone that bore the name τέχνη. Once the revealing that brings forth truth into the splendor of radiant appearance was also called τέχνη.
There was a time when the bringing-forth of the true into the beautiful was called τέχνη. The ποίησις of the fine arts was also called τέχνη.
At the outset of the destining of the West, in Greece, the arts soared to the supreme height of the revealing granted them. They illuminated the presence [Gegenwart] of the gods and the dialogue of divine and human destinings. And art was called simply τέχνη. It was a single, manifold revealing. It was pious, προμος, i.e., yielding to the holding sway and the safekeeping of truth.
The arts were not derived from the artistic. Artworks were not enjoyed aesthetically. Art was not a sector of cultural activity.
What was art—perhaps only for that brief but magnificent age? Why did art bear the modest name τέχνη? Because it was a revealing that brought forth and made present, and therefore belonged within ποίησις. It was finally that revealing which holds complete sway in all the fine arts, in poetry, and in everything poetical that obtained ποίησις as its proper name.
The same poet from whom we heard the words