Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 103–117 | Cite as

Towards the origin of modern technology: reconfiguring Martin Heidegger’s thinking

  • Søren RiisEmail author


Martin Heidegger’s radical critique of technology has fundamentally stigmatized modern technology and paved the way for a comprehensive critique of contemporary Western society. However, the following reassessment of Heidegger’s most elaborate and influential interpretation of technology, “The Question Concerning Technology,” sheds a very different light on his critique. In fact, Heidegger’s phenomenological line of thinking concerning technology also implies a radical critique of ancient technology and the fundamental being-in-the-world of humans. This revision of Heidegger’s arguments claims that “The Question Concerning Technology” indicates a previous unseen ambiguity with respect to the origin of the rule of das Gestell. The following inquiry departs from Heidegger’s critique of modern technology and connects it to a reassessment of ancient technology and Aristotle’s justification of slavery. The last part of the paper unfolds Heidegger’s underlying arguments in favor of continuity within the history of technology. According to these interpretations, humans have always strived to develop “modern” technology and to become truly “modern” in the Heideggerian sense. The danger stemming from the rule of das Gestell is thus not only transient and solely directed toward contemporary Western society, but also I will argue that humans can only be humans as the ones challenged by the rule of das Gestell.


Phenomenology Genealogy Modernity Western history Anthropology 



I would like to thank Prof. Robert C. Scharff for the critical, yet very constructive comments on preliminary drafts of this article. Furthermore, I’m thankful to Therese Hauge and Anna Glasser for helping me with the copy-editing.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.FrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and Science StudiesRoskilde UniversityRoskildeDenmark

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