Saturday, July 25, 2009

In the End Nothing Else Really Matters..or Does It?

Heidegger’s World Picture
Martin Heidegger argues: “The fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture.”

What does Heidegger mean by the modern age and the notion of the world as picture? What are the consequences of the world as picture? And why do research, technology and ordering play such a dominant role in Heidegger’s thought?

-What Heidegger meant by the modern age and the notion of the world as picture is central to his argument that a break with the tendency in the history of ideas to define each period by their “world view” or zeitgeist. Heidegger suggests that this should be taken as a symptom of the modern period’s tendency to reduce Being (Dasein) to a picture or image. The argument is related with the thesis found in The Question Concerning Technology that technology, as developed in the modern west, turns nature into a “standing reserve.” (Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, p. 19) Heidegger’s influential argument about the centrality of visualization for the definition of truth in the modern era that “the fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture” (Heidegger, handout, p. 9) explains that “the word “picture” (Bild) now means the structured image (Gebild) that is the creature of man's producing which represents and sets before. In such producing, man contends for the position in which he can be that particular being who gives the measure and draws up the guidelines for everything that is.” (Heidegger, p9)
-The consequences of the world as picture is that the symptoms of transforming all that is into an object apprehend as representation or as picture: science and mathematical physical science, the machine technology that rises out of physical science, art’s moving into the horizon of aesthetics so that the art work becomes the object of mere subjective experience of what is good taste, human activity is conceived and consummated as culture, and the loss of gods and atheism, so Christian doctrine becomes a “world view.” Heidegger stated that “this objectifying of whatever is, is accomplished in a setting before, a representing, that aims at bringing each particular being before it in such a way that man who calculates can be sure, and that means be certain, of that being. We first arrive at science as research when and only when truth has been transformed into the certainly of representation.” (Heidegger, p6) The subject arises through a process of representation of Being as a world picture. Heidegger argues that “the very essence of man itself changes, in that man becomes subject. We must understand this word subjectum, however, as the translation of the Greek hypokeimenon. The word names that-which-lies-before, which, as ground, gathers everything onto itself. This metaphysical meaning of the concept of subject has first of all no special relationship to and none at all to the I.” (Heidegger, handout, p. 6-7) But in the modern period man became the relative core of that which is, and this is only possible when that which is has been translated into a “world picture.” But what does this mean? “World” is a word for “what is in its entirety.” (Heidegger, handout, p.7) Picture is not simply a double, copy of simulation. Instead it sounds forth in the expression “We get the picture” or “to get into the picture” “(literally, to put oneself into the picture) with respect to what something means to position whatever is, itself, in place before oneself just in the way that it stands with it.” (Heidegger,p7)
-Research, technology, and ordering plays a dominant role in Heidegger’s thought because in order to regulate the methodology, an applicable model needs to be able to work itself out systematically. “The scholar disappears. He is succeeded by the research man who is engaged in research projects. These rather than cultivating of erudition, lend to his work its atmosphere of incisiveness.” (Heidegger, p5) The previous statement by Heidegger indicates this notion that the organization and structure of research, technology, and ordering heavily applies to metaphysics, ontology, cosmology and epistemology. But in addition, through this representation, “what is stands before us---in all that belongs to it and all that stands together in it---as a system.” (Heidegger, p.7) “Hence world picture, when understood essentially, does not mean a picture of the world but the world conceived and grasped as picture.” (Heidegger, p. 7) “Wherever we have the world picture, an essential decision takes place regarding what is, in its entirety. The Being of whatever is, is sought and found in the representedness of the latter.” (Heidegger, p. 7) Science (research) becomes an important shift: the modern age scholar (research) becomes a scientist. There is also a shift to technology (the device) as a totalizing and organizing form. It codifies how we see and establishes a hierarchy. Everything becomes a machine, a function of process. Research becomes limited by its own process.