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For a Cosmotechnical Event: In Honor of Don Ihde and Bernard Stiegler

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Reimagining Philosophy and Technology, Reinventing Ihde

Part of the book series: Philosophy of Engineering and Technology ((POET,volume 33))


What will philosophy of technology be as its practitioners depart from the crossroads of the ideas of Don Ihde and Bernard Stiegler? Their two lines of thought confront and cross each other, giving rise to different ways of understanding technologies. Rather than following one or the other of these directions, I propose an Erörterung of such crossroads. As Martin Heidegger’s 1953 commentary on Georg Trakl’s poetry (Die Sprach im Gedichte) insists, Erörterung means, first, “to point out the proper place or site of something to situate it (das Weisen in den Ort),” and, second, “to heed that place or site (das Beachten des Ortes).” This Erörterung has to be conducted at multiple times, on multiple levels, as each of them hermeneutically identifies its own site. I proceed first through an Erörterung of the crossroads of the thinking of technology after Ihde and Stiegler, and second through an Erörterung of the Ort or the site of the first Erörterung, where the Ort for Heidegger is the land of the evening, the Occident [Abendland], in the throes of globalization, or more precisely Americanisation, a form of disorientation, that obscures the unconcealment of the essence of the human-technology relationship central to Heidegger. In the third part, I propose that the way to integrate and extend Heidegger, Ihde, and Stiegler is to acknowledge the importance of historical, cultural, and geopolitical difference in the interrelationship between the cosmos, morality, and technical activities, what I call cosmotechnics.

In honor of Don Ihde and Bernard Stiegler

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  1. 1.

    Heidegger & Fink, 1993, p. 5.

  2. 2.

    Wiener published Cybernetics Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine in 1948.

  3. 3.

    Ihde says that “The early example arises from his ‘tool analysis’ in Being and Time (1927), and it is the most classically phenomenological of his analyses of technology. Interpreters of classical phenomenology often characterize Heidegger’s adaptation to be a move to ontology, compared to the more epistemological thrust of Husserl. That is surely correct in its own way, but I see it as equally a much more explicit turn to praxis in a quite pragmatist sense” (2009, p. 32).

  4. 4.

    Similarly, Jochem Zwier, Vincent Blok, and Pieter Lemmens (2016) state that Ihde has ignored both the question of the ontological and the Gestell. The authors also criticized postphenomenology’s theory of technological mediation for having ignored the ontological dimension.

  5. 5.

    Stiegler proposed a general organology according to which technology is the technical organ, which is irreducible to either good or bad, for it is pharmacological. Stiegler, referring to Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus (274c–274e), calls writing pharmacological because it helps remembering but it also facilitates forgetting (since one does not need to remember anymore).

  6. 6.

    In Heidgger’s Technologies (2010), Ihde refers several times to Graham Harman’s Tool Being (pp. 114, 117, 119).

  7. 7.

    Heidegger (1991) invokes Goethe to show that “because,” weil, is not only a response to Warum, but rather a form of continuation, which comes from dieweilen, weilen; it resonates with his analysis of the word essence in “The Question Concerning Technology”: again by invoking Goethe, Heidegger suggests that the word essence should be understood in the sense of fortwähren, fortgewähren, meaning preservation.

  8. 8.

    “Philosophie muß in ihrer radikalen, sich auf sich selbst stellenden Fraglichkeit prinzipiell a-theistisch sein. Sie darf sich gerade ob ihrer Grundtendenz nicht vermessen, Gott zu haben und zu bestimmen.”

  9. 9.

    “Die heiße Flamme des Geistes nährt heute ein gewaltiger Schmerz / Die ungebornen Enkel.”

  10. 10.

    “Es ist die Seele ein Fremdes auf Erden”

  11. 11.

    Françoise Dastur (2014) makes an important point here concerning the movement of the soul, “l’âme ne fut pas la terre, lieu inhabitable pour elle, comme le veut le platonisme traditionnel, mais au contraire cherche la terre. Il faut donc entredre ce vers différemment: l’étrangeté à la terre n’est pas l’attribut de l’âme, mais, dans la mesure où elle nomme son être en chemin vers la terre, son essence meme.”

  12. 12.

    This form of romanticism echoes what Joseph Goebbels writes in Deutsche Technik, “we live in an era of technology. The racing tempo of our century affects all areas of our life. There is scarcely an endeavour that can escape its powerful influence. Therefore the danger unquestionably arises that modern technology will make men soulless. National Socialism never rejected or struggled against technology. Rather, one of its main tasks was to consciously affirm it, to fill it inwardly with soul, to discipline it and to replace it in the service of our people and their cultural level. National Socialist public statements used to refer to the steely romanticism of our century. Today this phrase has attained its full meaning. We live in an age that is both romantic and steellike… National socialism understood how to take the soulless framework of technology and fill it with the rhythm and hot impulses of our time,” cited also by Ihde (2010, p. 11).

  13. 13.

    Dastur writes “le site de la poésie de Trakl est donc le pays du soir, une terre spirituelle: en tant que tel il s’oppose aussi bien à l’Occident métaphysico-chrétien qu’à l’Europe économico-technique, aussi bien au passé qu’au présent. Cet Occident auquel nous appelle Trakl est le pays de ingénérés, un Occident encore en latence (Verborgen). Trakl est ainsi, aux yeaux de Heidegger, le poète d’un tel Occident à venir.”

  14. 14.

    Wiener (1948) calls Leibniz a “patron saint” of cybernetics.

  15. 15.

    “Being ‘is’ the Ab-grund in as much as Being and Grund are the same.”

  16. 16.

    Feenberg (2015, p. 231) writes “I want to pursue this question in terms of the deep background of contemporary thinking about technology. Heidegger most definitely plays the central role in that background.”

  17. 17.

    This reading of the relation between cosmos and technology as ground and figure is a key theme in Part III of Gilbert Simondon’s On the mode of existence of technical objects (2017), which I further elaborated in §2 of The Question Concerning Technology in China (2016) as well as in Recursivity and Contingency (2019).

  18. 18.

    The Greek word Kosmos also carries a third meaning, an ornament worn by females (see Berque, 2017).

  19. 19.

    See Hui, 2016, §2 (“Cosmos, Cosmology and Cosmotechnics”).

  20. 20.

    See Hui, 2016, §23 (“Nihilism and Modernity”), where I have tried to demonstrate how the discourse on Nothingness has its influence on other Kyoto School members such as Keiji Nishitani and his reading of Heidegger.

  21. 21.

    An exposition of this question is available in my “Rhythm and Technics: On Heidegger’s Commentary on Rimbaud” (2017b), which also includes my translation of the following paragraph.

  22. 22.

    See Hui, 2016, §27 (“Sinofuturism in the Anthropocene”).

  23. 23.

    I am also grateful to see that Carl Mitcham has tried to facilitate a dialogue between China and the West in the past decades: there is an ouverture in him since he understands very well that it is necessary to develop different technological thoughts in order to recover from the catastrophes that are arriving.


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This essay was originally prepared for the workshop “Philosophy of Technology at the Crossroads,” a meeting dedicated to two post-Heideggerian thinkers of technology, Don Ihde and Bernard Stiegler, that took place January 11–12, 2018, in Nijmegen, Netherlands, organized by two Dutch philosophers Pieter Lemmens and Yoni Van Den Eede.

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Hui, Y. (2020). For a Cosmotechnical Event: In Honor of Don Ihde and Bernard Stiegler. In: Miller, G., Shew, A. (eds) Reimagining Philosophy and Technology, Reinventing Ihde. Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, vol 33. Springer, Cham.

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