Franco Volpi - Heidegger and Aristotle

Translated by Pete Ferreira


5. Being as 'Φύσις' and its capture in 'Τέχνη'

To fully understand the changed perspective in which we place the essay on Aristotle's concept of φύσις, we must consider an additional element, namely the emergence in Heidegger's thought on the problem of technology. In fact, Φύσις occurs to Heidegger as the original meaning of being in conjunction with the gelling in him of the belief that metaphysics, which conceals its origins, is essentially connected with the phenomenon of technology, and indeed that it comes to its realization, namely its complete explanation and its fulfillment, only where the technical disposition that it describes reaches its fullest and perfect actualization, and that is the essence of modern technology.

In Being and Time Heidegger is certainly not yet the critic of technology he would become later. Lexicographic analysis of the text proves it, because, as the computer tells us, the word 'technology' appears in Being and Time only twice.51 But there is a structural reason why in Being and Time Heidegger cannot criticize technology in the way that he will later. In this work, in fact, only that fundamental attitude towards things which corresponds substantially to the technical arrangement is described in an essentially positive way, namely the attitude of taking care that is first and foremost a dealing with things as a way of using them in operational contexts (Zuhandenheit), and only secondarily simply observing them in their presence (Vorhandenheit). But the use of things in operational contexts is exactly that attitude that modern technology has raised to a power and made absolute in order to master entities; it is precisely that attitude that the later Heidegger questions radically.

As far back as the analysis of the phenomenon of truth done by Heidegger in the 1920s, we showed how Heidegger interprets τέχνη as one of the ways in which being-there is discovering, i.e., it accesses the entity and is in relationship with it; and how such access and relating is characterized precisely by Heidegger, who appropriates from the determinations given by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics Book VI, as an ἀληθεύειν, that is, with an essentially positive power.

How is it then that Heidegger arrives at that critical attitude towards technology, in whose essence he sees a complement to metaphysics as the fulfillment of the destiny of the present age haunted by the travails of nihilism?

51 See R.A. Bast — H.P. Delfosse, Handbuch zum Textstudium von Martin Heideggers “Sein und Zeit”.1, Frommann-Holzboog, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt 1980, p. 262.

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