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Questions Concerning Heidegger

Image of 2 vintage brain maps on heads

I have spent the last few weeks, mentally stuck. Unable to move on, forward, backward, or any direction. Why? Heidegger.

Martin Heidegger, was a German philosopher and a seminal thinker. According to the Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, he is “widely acknowledged to be one of the most original and important philosophers of the 20th century.“1 His philosophy, in particular, his post-war writings reminds me of J. R. R. Tolkein, whose seminal fantasy works The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings. Tolkein too, lamented the decline of the rural peasant, and the overpowering, dominating aspects of technology on the human soul and the landscape.

But, why is he tormenting me? Because I cant stop thinking about him. A philosophical crush. As well as blaming him, I am blaming the double-sidedness of my brain:

The extreme manifestation of left-brain-dominated philosophy is maximum logical precision with minimum relevance to everyday life. The extreme manifestation of right-brain-dominated philosophy is minimum logical precision with maximum relevance to everyday life.

Nicholson, Carol. ‘Philosophy And The Two-Sided Brain‘. Philosophy Now. Issue: Feb/Mar 2016

There is a lot I want to say about him, about his writings, and I just go blank. His words have gone straight to the visual side of my brain, and I cant quite find the words to describe, what I want to describe. Which I need to describe, as part of this academic course. Extreme manifestation, of complete holistic brain-dominated philosophy, with minimum logical precision to the relevance of my everyday life.

I have always been influenced by Eastern ideas and thought. The philosophers of the East always lured me, more than Eurocentric philosophers. When researching a Eurocentric train of though, I will always try to discover, what Eastern, or indeed Southern thought systems and influence could be unearthed. Reinhard May records Chang Chung-Yuan saying that “Heidegger is the only Western Philosopher who not only intellectually understands but has intuitively grasped Taoist thought.” 2

You can read a general biography on Heidegger on Wikipedia, but I was more interested in researching his background. On reading his paper ‘Questions Concerning Technology’, I got the jist of what Heidegger is saying, but couldn’t quite grasp the overall concept. Although the paper isn’t that long, it packs quite a punch.

I looked around for articles about Heidegger’s article, and came across a fantastic article by Mahon O’Brien. O’Brien was a speaker at the IWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. XVI/1, and gave a “Commentary on Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology”. This Commentary was an excellent discussion on the thoughts behind Heidegger’s concept. Having never read Heidegger before, I found O’Brien’s commentary invaluable, in understanding where Heidegger was coming from, his previous work, his love of early Philosophical work such as Plato, and of his interest in Philology.

As an artist, I have always believed to truly study or understand something, you must draw it. Only then, can you lose yourself in the beauty of what is actually in front of you, and not what your concept of it is. So, I have set myself a challenge, to create a visual piece on Heidegger’s ‘Questions Concerning Technology‘. this will enable me to have a greater understanding of what he was trying to say, and also test out my somewhat lacking technological skills.

So far I have gotten as far as a 2 minute Monty Python style gif on Heidegger. Only another hour of video, and countless hours of editing to go.

gif of Heidegger

I have found it so hard to verbally express my understanding of Heidegger, that is has stalled me, derailed me on my quest for digital knowledge. Though I am falling behind in course work, I feel it is a good thing. What Heidegger is trying to say, the expression of the essence of technology, is something I feel strongly about.

Heidegger does not unequivocally condemn technology: while he acknowledges that modern technology contains grave dangers, Heidegger nevertheless also argues that it may constitute a chance for human beings to enter a new epoch in their relation to being.

As I continue my quest to create a visual representation of Heidegger’s Questions Concerning Technology, I will leave you with this fantastic little video by The School of Life. I am quite taken with their freestyle presentation skills, yet, philosophically accurate information. Check out their other 5 min takes on philosophy and other Big Questions.

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Heidegger
  2. May, Reinhard. Heidegger’s hidden sources: East Asian influences on his work, p. 7. Translated, with a complementary essay, by Graham Parkes. 1996. London and New York.
  3. O’Brien, Mahon. 2004. Commentary on Heidegger’s “The Question Concerning Technology”. In Thinking Together. Proceedings of the IWM Junior Fellows’ Conference, Winter 2003, ed. A. Cashin and J. Jirsa,Vienna: IWM Junior Visiting Fellows’ Conferences, Vol. 16.

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