Sunday, July 26, 2009

Heideggerian critical philosophy of technology provides a useful counterbalance

Thinking about the moon landings, I can't help thinking about the space race, the arms race, the Cold War, and the massive technologization of society that followed world war two... But I also think about how the photographs have affected people on a deep, and not only conscious, level, making it that much more possible for us to think of humanity as a single entity, and more importantly, of the earth as a single interconnected set of living processes. anotherheideggerblog Saturday, July 25, 2009
Interview with Adrian Ivakhiv
Our latest interview is with Adrian Ivakhiv, Associate Professor of Environmental Thought and Culture with a joint appointment in the Environmental Program and the Rubenstein School of Environment & Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. He is also runs one of my favorite blogs over at Immanence.

Heideggerian pessimism regarding technology, including that represented by the moon landings, is a perspective that has influenced me, and it's one I continue to consider important for any future environmental or ecological thought. Along with the writings of a more Marxist-influenced kind of geography (such as Denis Cosgrove's work on environmental and global visuality), a Heideggerian critical philosophy of technology provides a useful counterbalance against those in the environmental movement for whom the photos of Earth from space are nothing but a positive cultural touchstone in the movement toward global environmental awareness. Thinking about the moon landings, I can't help thinking about the space race, the arms race, the Cold War, and the massive technologization of society that followed world war two. In fact, I think of a television ad that played some years ago for "Tang," the orange flavor-crystal soft drink that made its name when it was used by NASA in its Gemini flights. In the ad a couple of animated "moon men" come to Earth bearing rocks which they want to trade for Tang, the drink they apparently gained a taste for when astronauts brought it to the moon. So I think of the moon landings also as part of the commercialization of massive technological enterprise - a way to get the American people on board in something much larger, and much less salutary, than the "one small step for man" that Neil Armstrong famously referred to. [...]

There is a strong resonance between Heideggerian thinking and deep ecology (or biocentrism). Many of the influential thinkers associated with the deep ecology movement - Arne Naess, Bill Devall, George Sessions, Neil Evernden, Dolores LaChapelle, among others - refer to Heidegger at least in passing. Some, like Evernden and LaChapelle, have worked with Heideggerian ideas fairly extensively. And ecophilosophers including Michael Zimmerman, Bruce Foltz, Laura Westra, and Ingrid Leman-Stefanovic, while not necessarily identifying themselves as "deep ecologists," have brought a fair bit of refinement into the environmental application of Heideggerian concepts.

The key Heideggerian ideas that have been taken up within biocentric writing are, first and foremost, his critique of technology, i.e. its essence as Gestell, the disclosure of things as raw material for human use, and, secondly, his notion of Gelassenheit (commonly translated as "letting things be"). Heidegger's later writings on poetry, art, and language as the "house of being" have also influenced a certain subset of ecocritics (ecologically oriented literary and cultural critics) including Jonathan Bate, Greg Garrard, and Kate Rigby.

That said, Heidegger has been critiqued (rightly, I think) for a residual anthropocentrism and human-animal dualism, and his involvement with Nazism has negatively affected the extent of interest among environmentalists in his philosophy. In the end, I would say his philosophy has been one among several sources, often taken up somewhat superficially (as in the influential 'Deep Ecology' text co-written by Devall and Sessions in the 1980s) though at least occasionally with a fair bit of rigor, but it has been a crucial one only for a limited subgroup of biocentric thinkers, and less so for activists. Deep ecology, it should be mentioned, evolved in constant conversation with the activities of movement activists, including the radical wilderness activism of Dave Foreman and other founders of Earth First! and the more broadly political work of later Earth First! activists and related groups. Its theoretical positions have also been refined and developed in dialogue with those of social ecologists, ecofeminists, postmodern and poststructural ecologists, pragmatist ecophilosophers, more mainstream (rights based, etc) environmental ethicists, and perhaps most closely with Buddhist and process-relational environmental thinkers (some of whom, like Joanna Macy and Freya Matthews, identify with the "deep ecology" label and others of whom do not). Within this broader field of critical environmental thought, Heidegger is one of many reference points, but he does constitute an important link between ecophilosophy and continental philosophy. [...]

(I also find Bakhtin's emphasis on the dialogical nature of meanings useful; without Heidegger, there'd be no Derrida, no Foucault, and perhaps a different deep ecology as well. But then Heidegger makes room for all these things; he just didn't analyze technology with the nuance and refinement that we can apply in a post-McLuhan, post-Latour, and indeed post-Heidegger world.) ... Posted by Paul Ennis. Labels: , , , , ,

*** Heidegger and Asian Thought: Graham Parkes: Books
S_Mir (Pala) - See all my reviews Furthermore, it has also been claimed that a number of elements within Heidegger's thought bear a close parallel to Eastern philosophical ideas, particularly with Zen Buddhism and Taoism. An account given by Paul Hsao records a remark by Chang Chung-Yuan claiming that "Heidegger is the only Western Philosopher who not only intellectually understands but has intuitively grasped Taoist thought."

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