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By S.S. Ray

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Instead of attempting to set limits to the operation of the Gestell by theorising how broader social and cultural frameworks might work to structure a different mode of relatedness to the world, Heidegger turns inward, at times solipsisticly, exposing himself up to a body of criticism that is justified, even if limited (as I hope to show). Heidegger’s work after the ‘turn’ has been seen by some as precluding any possibility of subjective engagement with or critical appropriation of technology. As Richard Wolin argues, ‘the doctrine of Being, in its oppressive omnipotence, causes the conceptual space in which freedom can be meaningfully thought to all but disappear’ (Wolin 1990: 153).

When Heidegger seems to dismiss human action, it could be argued that this refers only to human action under the Gestell. In order to respond appropriately to technology, we would need to act outside the sphere 32 Heidegger and technology: salvation and danger of the Gestell. This may well be possible if we reconceive our notions of activity and passivity. We can make use of Heidegger’s thinking if we try to understand his notion of passivity differently. We can distinguish between two types of passivity.

By glibly dismissing the role of motherhood as that which grants a specific form of revealing, Singer cuts himself off from a more fundamental question, namely: can the widespread operation of technologically mediated birth work to alter the meaning of what it is to have a child – in effect hollow out the ground through which childbirth has a meaning in any human sense of the word? The real danger, then, is not the incorrect use of technology, but the denial of access to other modes of revealing which would allow us to operate within a different modality to that of the Gestell.

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