Pending the outcome of the continuing review of our current operations, all Muslim Faculty of Advanced Studies programmes are suspended until further notice. In the interim, we have made the lectures freely available here on this site.

Concerning Technique

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم وصلى الله على سيدنا محمد وعلى ءاله وصحبه أجمعين وسلّم

Title: Concerning Technique

Author: Ibrahim Lawson

Publication date: 9/3/2013

Assalamu alaykum. Welcome to the Civilisation and Society Programme of the MFAS. This is the sixth of 12 sessions which make up the Science and Technique module. The lecture will last approximately 40 minutes during which time you should make a written note of any questions that may occur to you for clarification after the lecture. 


Introduction: Heidegger and Islam 1

Reading Heidegger 2

Questioning 2

What is Technology? 3

Truth and Freedom 4

Causation 5

Poiesis, Techne, Physis 6

Modern Technology and the Standing Reserve 7

Gestell (Enframing) 8

The Veil 10

Introduction: Heidegger and Islam

During the next 40 minutes or so we will be questioning concerning some aspects of Heidegger’s work on science and technology. I will be referring to the essay The Question Concerning Technology and due to the constraints on our time, I have decided to examine the first two thirds of this work and to leave the final third for another time. For those of us whose ears are sufficiently tuned to the discourses of Sufism, there is more than enough in the first 20 pages to be going on with.

However, before turning to Heidegger, I would like to address the question of why we are doing this.  The only conceivable motive for me would be to advance, in some small way, the project which we all share: to live our lives in the best possible way. As a Muslim, one would recognise this in terms of honouring one’s contract with Allah and His Messenger, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam. The basis of this contract is to fulfil the duties for which we were created as vicegerents or khulafa of Allah and to do this, we have to understand it, which in turn requires that we pay attention to the context of implementation. Our context is late modernity, the present day culture of what might loosely be called ‘western civilisation’, of which philosophy and science are two important pillars.

Our theme, then, is Islam and western late modernity; and our case study is ourselves, as Muslims in the west.

In this work, our guide is Shaykh Dr Abdalqadir as-Sufi, whose teaching during the last 40 years or more represents the most profound understanding of both Islam and the modern world. Of his early book, The Way of Muhammad, he writes

The original intention of the work was to show that it was possible to grasp the meaning of Islam in terms of the European existential tradition. Indeed, it is of course the culmination of it.

This is a far reaching statement. It proposes that Islam might be grasped through the way of thought that is generally referred to as existentialism and that, moreover, this is because existentialism comes in some way very close to Islam, to the point where only one further small step remains to be taken. If this is true, it would be extraordinary for two reasons: firstly because existentialism is generally regarded as an essentially atheist philosophy and secondly because any philosophical way of thinking that culminates in Islam would be an exception to the generally accepted trend that philosophy has been essentially refuting religious belief from the European enlightenment onwards.

It is in order to evaluate this astonishing claim of the Shaykh that we would do no better than to turn to the work of Europe’s leading ‘existentialist’ philosopher, Martin Heidegger.


To conclude this prefatory section, I would like to cite the following, opening passage from The Way of Muhammad in order to put what then follows from Heidegger into an Islamic perspective.

There is only one method by which you can approach the sufic sciences and that is to start, tabula rasa, by putting away the whole world-picture and value structure which has formed you until now and which is completely the result of your social and historical imprinting which you share with millions of others, whatever particular individuality you may imagine you have over and against those millions of others. You have an idea of how things are, and how you are, how things should be and how you should be. Interposed between you and reality is a functioning, fluctuating conceptualisation of existence that, mingled with your personal emotional responses to event and personality, make up what you think is both 'you' and 'your world'.

The subject of tasawwuf – Sufism – is you.

The subject of tasawwuf is reality.

If you desire to know reality you must know yourself.

You are the key, the only key to reality.

You are nothing but a mirror of reality.

It is enough to reflect.

Heidegger's work must be approached in this way too for the same is true of philosophy: to understand philosophy, we have to do philosophy. And what is the fundamental question of philosophy? It is the question of the meaning of being.

What we will find is that the philosophical pursuit of the question of the meaning of being will lead us to the same point at which Shaykh Abdalqadir begins his teaching of the way of Muhammad. Let us then reflect.

Reading Heidegger

Firstly, some considerations on dealing with a Heideggerian text. The particularity of Heidegger’s approach to philosophy is that rather than using ordinary language in its usual sense or inventing his own technical vocabulary, he uses ordinary language in a new way, finding new meanings in familiar words. Of course, he does this in German and this means we have to refer constantly to the German original in order to follow his thought correctly.

Secondly, he is not writing to be understood, if that means translated into some easier vernacular and assimilated into our habitual modes of understanding. He is writing to transform understanding itself. This means that we should be wary of easy explanations of ‘what he means’.

Thirdly, his work is of an extraordinary profundity such that it is not accessible to any great extent on a first reading; it takes many readings to begin to penetrate the depths of insight into the human condition that he offers us. As Wittgenstein observed, when we enter into a new way of being in the world, we do not construct this piece by piece, proposition by proposition, rather ‘light dawns gradually over the whole’.

Finally, as with any great master, he work is immediately recognisable. In a sense this means that the whole of his work is present in every part. In the essay on technology, we will find him dealing with the themes of thinking, language, mind, truth, causation, freedom, ethics, knowledge, essence, being and God. Let us not go into this therefore thinking we will be able to extract any more than a brief glimpse of some of these perennial human concerns.


With these considerations in mind, we must pay close attention to the very first words of Heidegger’s essay:

1. In what follows, we question/ask after technology. Im folgenden fragen wir nach der Technik. 

2. Questioning/asking builds, or builds on, a way. Das Fragen baut an einem Weg. 

We might say that questioning or asking is a way or is the building of a way. It is a methodology of thinking which is distinctive in Heidegger’s usage of the term and he both begins and ends his essay by referring to it. Clearly it is important and yet it seems that commentators do not pause here for reflection

By questioning, we are building, or creating, a way of doing something.

We might also ask here, therefore, ‘a way of doing what?’ or ‘a way to where?’ In view of what follows, we might say that it is a way not only ‘through language’, as Heidegger says, but a way of discovering ever more deeply the essence of what we are ourselves as language users as well as users of technology.

The third sentence now begins to show itself more clearly:

3. Hence/therefore it is advisable above all to heed the way and not to keep hanging onto singular/isolated sentences and titles/topics. Darum ist es ratsam, vor allem auf den Weg zu achten und nicht an einzelnen Sätzen und Titeln hängenzubleiben

What Heidegger is proposing here goes to the heart of his philosophy. We might ask who is being questioned when we question concerning technology. Who is supposed to be providing the answers? Philosophy is neither an empirical science, where it might seem we are questioning nature, nor a study of the logical relationships between ideas. Existentialism, in particular, has been defined as a philosophy of subjectivity: we ourselves are both the subject and object of concern and this places specific and peculiar constraints on our methodology.

This now recalls the sufic requirement to set aside all we think we know and understand already. We might ask how we are supposed to do that. In another formulation, if the self is the obstacle, then what can the self do to overcome itself?

What is needed is a tentative method that allows us to proceed incrementally into unknown territory within ourselves. If we are genuinely questioning, because we do not know, we will find ourselves on a way or path that has not been trodden before. As we engage thoughtfully with our subject, new thoughts come to us and lead us on to somewhere we have not been before; somewhere that is ‘unusual’ or ‘extraordinary’ as Heidegger says. This is, of course, the essence of the human, of what we are. We seem to be the only beings who have this innate, essential need to question, however poorly this may be done; every human being has an understanding of, a theory of, being, of what it means to be human. We should understand ourselves as homo inquirens rather than homo sapiens.

What is Technology

The goal or purpose of this questioning is to prepare (not achieve) a ‘free relation’ to the essence of technique/technology. By identifying this essence, by responding or corresponding to it as it is in our existence in the world, what it means to us, we will see it in and for itself, suggesting that at  present  we cannot step aside from it and see it in itself; we are too close to it, too bound up in it.

The essence of technology is not some further kind of technology; the essence of technology is not something itself technological. The essence of technology is something which produces technology. To identify this, we should not limit our gaze to the external manifestations of technology, either as equipment or as a way of thinking or proceeding to manage things. Technology comes from somewhere; its essence is manifested as what we see of technology in the processes and tools of manufacture. If we only see its outward, or the outward of its inward, which is the thinking that produces it, we may endorse and approve of it or we may dislike and reject it but we will not see it for what it essentially is and therefore we will remain trapped in it and not free towards it. Both of these positions – for and against – see technology merely as something we can either use or not use, something neutral which lies waiting for our response. This is the worst way of falling into the trap of technology.

Technology may be defined initially in two ways:

1. It is a means to an end

2. It is a human activity

We use technology to achieve some end purpose and we are unique, more or less, in the animal world in using such means to ends. Hence our preliminary understanding of technology is instrumental and anthropological.

This way of understanding technology shows us that, far from being a relatively modern phenomenon or invention, human beings have, more or less by definition, always used technology. Even a crude stone hand-axe is technological. Homo habilis is considered to be a species of human being – they used tools.

The application of power machinery to production is then simply a modern development of the basic technological impulse, on this initial definition

Heidegger uses the word ‘unheimlich’ to describe the correctness or accuracy of the anthropological instrumental definition of technology. This may be translated as unhomely or uncanny. Elsewhere, Heidegger talks of human being as ‘unheimlich’ in the sense of being not a part of the world; the world is the clearing of being constituted by human existence or ‘Dasein’ and as such Dasein, the being of human being, is not ‘in’ the world but is rather the pre-condition of there being a world in the first place. Through technology, human being, Dasein, expresses its own uniqueness, which is at the same time its ‘unhomeliness’. 

The definition of technology here invites us to think of it as something under our control. It is a means employed by us to achieve our ends or purposes. As such, it must be that the right relation to it is one of mastery, all the more so when it threatens to slip out of control.

The proposed ‘correct’ definition is in fact a technological explanation of technology, a technical definition of technology, ascertained by arranging its elements as they present themselves before the eyes for inspection and re-presentation in a propositional form. As such, it has not escaped from the technology but remains within it.

If, however, technology is not just and only a means to an end, a matter of technique which we can choose when and how to employ, then how would that affect our trying to come into a proper relation to it? How can we master something if we find that is not even potentially under our control?

Truth and Freedom

A correct definition is not all that can be said of a thing, it does not reveal its essence in being correctly defined. The correct fixes upon a certain aspect of the thing by ascertaining it (stellt fest; Feststellung)  but only when the essence of a thing is uncovered/revealed can we say we have arrived at the truth, that truth has come to pass (sich ereignet).

This seems to be a way of pointing to a level of truth that goes beyond the propositional. A proposition appears to capture something true by somehow reflecting a state of affairs or matter of fact. We know this doesn’t really work like that, even if this way of thinking has its uses. The adequacy or correctness of propositional truth is founded upon something more holistic and immediate, more close to home. When we say that technology is a man-made means to a man-made end, that is true, but there is more to be said. This more to be said – is it just more propositions, more correctness?  Or are we after a deeper level of truth altogether, in which case what would that look like?

By pursuing the path that is built by questioning through language in a way that is unique concerning technology we have arrived at a point where we have a correct definition but are aware that something still eludes us. Is it merely that we have not completed our analysis or is it that we cannot go further with this particular way of thinking?

Is ’uncovering the essence’ of a thing qualitatively different from completing a propositional description of it? Is there really a difference between the correct and the true? 

‘Things approach us out of their essence’. That is, the first contact we have with something is different from our later grasping of that thing propositionally. In the first contact we are free towards the thing, perhaps we could say that we free it by being free towards it. This means that as regards technology so far we have not freed ourselves from our propositional grasp of it; a grasp that masquerades as neutral but which has chained us to technology in a way that we do not yet see.

By generalising this point, we do not have a free relation to anything which we represent propositionally since that obscures our first approach to things as they come to us from out of their essence. The truth comes to pass at the point of the uncovering of the essence of things in a free relation to them – this suggests the kind of ur-phenomenon of existing in relation to things which we may be seeking; which the early Greeks had and we have lost but may re-find now in a new, enhanced way.

We seek to free ourselves in relation to the world, to reality, to Being, to Allah. 

We seek the true through the correct, as we must inevitably start from where we find ourselves. In Islam, the same thing; we have a correct definition, by way of which we seek a freer connection with its essence. The way down is the way up. 


Questioning after the essence of technology has led us to uncover the being of truth as the clearing of Being itself and the possibility of freeing ourselves in relation to the way in which Being is revealed. If we cling only to the instrumental understanding of technology we will not be able to move further towards realising our relation to its essence. Instrumentalism is within the domain of causation and so we now come to a long section where Heidegger discusses causation, our understanding of how things come about. Technology is a way in which humans achieve or seek to cause their ends; it is a means. We can call this means/end relationship ‘instrumentality’. So to understand technology, we must understand instrumentality.

Today we only usually recognise one kind of cause, what was once called the efficient cause, that which effects or brings about the result. Science deals with this kind of cause when it investigates initial, antecedent conditions at T1 and the forces acting on those conditions which produce the effect at T2. It is a very mechanical image of the universe moving from one instant in time to the next entirely under the control of the laws of nature, which science seeks to discover.

We do also recognise that intention, the ‘end towards which’, is important. We would not think of answering the question of why the chicken crossed the road in terms of the pushing of its muscles but rather in terms of what the chicken desired to accomplish – the pull factor, if you will.

For the ancients, not only was the end, or final cause, important but also the form into which an object such as a silver chalice might be shaped and the material, silver, from which it was made. All in all, then, there are four causes which contribute to the final effect: the material, efficient, formal and final causes. If anyone of them changes, the effect will change. In Heidegger’s example of a silver chalice, the silver material, the chalice shape and the use of the chalice are as important in causing it as the silversmith.

Turning back from Latin to Greek, we find the material from which something is made is named: hyle. The form it takes is: eidos. The purpose for which it is made is: telos.  

The stuff, or hyle, and the outer look, or eidos, are brought into a relationship by the telos, which in advance defines the chalice as chalice, that is, in reference to the whole domain of human intentions and behaviour. The telos does this by giving bounds, by circumscribing, setting ends or limits to what the thing is, in this case a chalice. This does not complete the thing, it does not finish or end it, far from it. From within these bounds or ends, the thing can begin to be what it is, something that only begins once the making has finished. In this sense, the telos continues to cause what the chalice is even after the ‘efficient cause’ has done its work and the silversmith has moved on to other work. The telos holds together the hyle and eidos, it is responsible for them; this is not the same as being their purpose or aim as if that were something separate from the chalice as object, matter and form.

Islamically, sufically, we may comment that there is no dualism here of meaning and form, value and fact, mind and matter; we are beginning to see the emergence of tawhid in this account of how things become what they are.

What the earliest Greek thought did not do was consider the efficient cause, that which acts to bring about the effect, as one of four. Rather, this cause, in instrumental human terms, is the being who assembles and brings into relationship the three causes of matter, form and purpose. We must not think of him or her merely as a kind of fabricating machine, a simple, bare efficient cause. In the Greek there is no name for what the Latin terms the causa efficiens. 

The silversmith is responsible for the chalice; it is indebted to him for its coming into being. Yet he is no mere cause among other causes, he is responsible for gathering together the material, form and purpose. He holds the logos of the chalice, in caring for and considering it carefully. The logos is rooted in apophainesthai, the shining forth of being which brings the chalice into existence. (See the introduction of Being and Time for a discussion of the function of the logos as apophainesthai.)

The causal elements are unified: what is the source of this unity? In what way are they able to be jointly responsible for the chalice? How are they able to hold sway together in the being of the chalice?

This question means that we must not see the chalice merely as a lump of silver shaped in a particular way and style and occupying a location in space. It is ‘lying before us’ and ‘lying ready’, which are characteristic of the ‘presencing of something that presences’. Already, we have to see the chalice as occupying a ‘space’ in the world of human concern; it has a meaning, a significance. It is only merely lying there while we do not notice it. Once we take notice of it, it is before us, it enters into our awareness, our world, as something with a certain kind of presence, it is ready for something, some use, some evaluation. The three causes of hyle, eidos and telos set the chalice free in the sense that it can now start on its way as its own individual identity, its complete arrival, its completion of what it is. This is what is meant by responsibility. The main responsibility is not just to let the chalice be but to send it on its way; this is the responsibility of the silversmith. The smith is more than just the occasion of the chalice in the usual sense that it happens to be through his activity; he occasions it, he causes it in the sense of being responsible for the gathering of the other causes in his care and concern and his role of opening to the shining forth of the chalice. Ver-an-lassen is to finish the letting into being of something and to send it on its way is how the Greeks originally saw causation. (lassen = let; anlassen = start; veranlassen = cause)

This is clearly a much fuller and richer account of objects in the world and the way in which they are caused than the scientific naturalist view provides or is concerned with. In Heidegger’s philosophy, things are considered first as a revealing of Being; it is only then, in a founded or secondary way, that they can be understood as physical objects in time and space. Again, we may recall the qasida which tells us that ‘the attributes of the essence are hidden and shine forth as evidence traces; created beings are but meanings set up in form.’

Poiesis, Techne, Physis

How then does it happen that the four causes, the four aspects of veranlassen, are able to combine, to play together? What is the unifying context?

What this playing accomplishes is the bringing into presence of something that was not present. This bringing into presence or shining forth is the unity of veranlassen. Plato says that all occasioning, all bringing forth, is poiesis or her-vor-bringen. So cause is veranlassen is occasioning is poiesis and hervorbringen.

Poiesis is bringing forth (hervorbringen) and must be understood deeply in its full scope and as the Greeks thought it.

One way of poiesis is by handcraft, by manufacture.

Another is by artistic and poetic concrete imagery.

Physis also is a bringing forth of something ‘from out of itself’, a poesis in the highest sense, as it is not by another such as the silversmith that the blossom blooms.

The essence of technology is poiesis inasmuch as it is causation which is a bringing forth, a presencing brought about, veranlassen, by humans, as physis is a presencing brought about by nature of itself.

Technology is not just a means, it is a way of unconcealing and this opens up a new perspective on its essence. The essence of technology lies in unconcealment, aletheia, and so truth.

‘Technology’ comes from the Greek word techne which is a poiesis of the kind that is brought about by/through man in his activities not only of making hand crafts but also the arts of the mind and the fine arts.

Techne is a form of poiesis and, significantly, it is associated, until Plato, with episteme. When we know something, in the widest sense, we are at home in it, it pervades us in a familiarity that enables an expertise. When we know something, it is part of us, we have made it our own; we know our way around; there is a reprise after the déprise of the original encounter in the unfamiliarity of ignorance, to use Ricoeur’s terminology. When we make something, it is produced from within us, we are responsible for it, we know it intimately. In both cases, techne and episteme, there is a revealing of something from concealment, a poiesis, an aletheia. Episteme is a poiesis also then, an opening up.

These are the ways of truth. We think here of the Arabic ma’rifah, intimate knowledge, such as that which Adam, the first man, experienced on the plain of ‘Arafah when his earthly contract with Allah began.

A modern thought would be that the view of techne as revealing holds for simple handcrafts but not for modern technology such as a hydro-electric dam and other power machines.

This would be serious because it is precisely modern technology which we wanted to question, not some simple hand-axe or chalice. It is thought that modern, as distinct from traditional technology is based on science, especially physics as an exact science.

But the opposite is also true: modern physics depends on technological apparatus and the development of technology in the construction of the tools of modern science. Historically, the two went hand in hand. But what started the process off? What led to people wanting to develop technology so that they could do better science?

The fact is that the revealing of the techne precedes the scientific use rather than the other way round, even if today we start with the scientific need and then create the apparatus. This is true also of the essence of modern technology: it precedes the development of science.

Technology is a revealing, a form of poesis as techne, and we can see the new element of modern technology more clearly for what it is as something new when we see it as a way of revealing the truth than if we see it as some kind of advanced, machine powered manufacturing process only and as the application of science.

Modern Technology and the Standing Reserve

The way modern technology distinctively reveals is not as poiesis in the sense of an unfolding into a bringing forth, a hervorbringen.

Rather it is a challenging of nature, a her-aus-fordern. It makes the ‘unreasonable’ demand that nature produce energy that can be stored for later use. The old technology did not do this – it took what was available and used it; it did not seek to unlock energy and resources and store them up as such.

Once technology starts to do this, everything becomes a resource to be used for further purposes, nature is challenged/summoned (herausforden) into a furthering (herausgefördert).

The earth is challenged to produce coal and uranium, minerals

The field is challenged to yield as much agricultural produce as it can

The very air is challenged to supply nitrogen

This challenging sets us in a different relation to nature than the peasant who nurtures and cares for his fields, sets things in order so as to maintain them, not use them up, who cares for them as they are, not for what they can do for him.

The setting/putting upon (stellen) that drives the challenging/summoning forth (herausfordern) of the energies of nature is an expediting/furthering (fördern) in two ways:

It challenges forth the energies of nature

It stores them up to put to further use

The further use is basically in the name of ‘maximising the yield at the minimal expense’.

Is this the secret behind the whole critique? What drives the whole of modern technology is the desire for more and more wealth and power. The use of riba (usury) increases the gain. Riba IS essentially the same as modern technology, it is the desire for the most output for the least input, preferably something for nothing. At the same time is it also the levelling down of being into a mere standing resource in which even wealth and power are vulgarised and characterless.

The energy concealed in nature is unlocked, transformed, stored up, distributed, switched about. This does not stop or fade away, it becomes an end in itself; everything is subjected to regulation/steering and securing, which are the chief characteristics of challenging revealing.

We deal with everything now on this basis, the constant change is the point, the goal, and so is never satisfied. In fashion, the point is not to have clothes to wear, even really nice clothes. The point is now to tune into the desire for nice clothes, to unlock that energy, transform, store, distribute it, set it on its way and keep it moving through the fashion industry, factories, magazines, shows, shops, online shopping, sales, information and entertainment industries, the financial sector, markets, bank loans and so endlessly on.

Steering and securing, herausforden, unconceals itself for itself says Heidegger. The demand that nature keep giving reveals nature as that which keeps giving. Psychologically, I am revealed to myself for myself and the other is challenged forth as the mirror in which I display myself.

Challenging forth reveals its multifarious networkings so as to or by steering/regulating them, and it secures this steering and regulating everywhere. Is this not what is happening in education? Everything must be set upon and challenged forth as a resource to be used in the regulating and steering of events so as to secure them in the endless pursuit of change for its own sake, even if this is not acknowledged de jure it is the case de facto.

In this revealing of Being, everything is ordered (bestellt), that is set up in order in place at its place, waiting there immediately to hand for when it is needed for a further ordering/set up arrangement, for further arrangements which will lead to further arrangements. As things stand like this ready for use they constitute the standing-reserve of Bestand. This Bestand is not just stock or provisions, it is the entire mode of presencing that is called up by the herausforden, the summoning forth – it is an ontological category, a way of the being of things as what and how they are and in that they are. As such, these are not objects ‘before us’ any longer.

We begin to see now that when we talk about modern technology as something new, setting upon, ordering and standing-reserve force themselves forward through our language in an undifferentiated blanketing over of everything by regulating and securing which is monotonous and oppressive.

We feel a sense of monotonous oppression in the face of the undifferentiated standing-reserve of the Bestand which is set up by our revealing.

Man is challenged to exploit the energies of nature, summoned to further the energies of nature, only then can there be an ordering unconcealing. Man is summoned himself as a part of the standing- reserve; he himself becomes a supply, a resource, a material, an undifferentiated part of the Bestand, the standing-reserve. Heidegger will see this as ‘the greatest danger’: that man loses sight of his own real nature.

Gestell (Enframing)

What controls this process of revealing if it is not anthropological? 

Where and how does this revealing happen if it is no mere handiwork? That which has already claimed man and has done so, so decisively that he can only be man at any given time as the one so claimed. Wherever man opens his eyes and ears, unlocks his heart, and gives himself over to meditating and striving, shaping and working, entreating and thanking, he finds himself everywhere already brought into the unconcealed. The unconcealment of the unconcealed has already come to pass whenever it calls man forth into the modes of revealing allotted to him. When man, in his way, from within unconcealment reveals that which presences, he merely responds to the call of unconcealment even when he contradicts it. Thus when man, investigating, observing, ensnares nature as an area of his own conceiving, he has already been claimed by a way of revealing that challenges him to approach nature as an object of research, until even the object disappears into the objectlessness of standing-reserve.

Modern technology is therefore not essentially merely a human doing. Rather man himself is set upon and challenged to order the real as standing reserve. Man is gathered by and challenged into this ordering. This challenging claim is Ge-stell (Enframing), the completion of a setting in place, the ways of setting up that mark the essence of technique/technology.

There is a point here about the role of language in opening up or revealing new things. Since Plato, we think of the world in terms of ideas in the way he opened up. It is not so much about giving things their proper names as naming a thing out of unconcealment – a powerful initiating act – which then deteriorates with use and a new naming is called for. It is at the point where the highest thinking is called for that the most violence must be done to our common use of language.

Gestell is the gathering of putting/setting that sets up, that challenges man to reveal the actual as Bestand. Gestell is the way that sways in modern technology. It is not technical in itself.

Gestell operates also on man as much as through man on things. It is not technological, it is not man’s creation, it seizes hold of man as if man were a machine. The results, the technological equipment, machines and apparatuses and all the modes of ordering and setting up are not Gestell, they are the outcomes or results of effects of Gestell but not the cause of it or the constituent parts of it.

Gestell is not just something man does nor the way he does it. This modern technology is therefore not just anthropological and instrumental, and cannot be rounded out by adding a metaphysical or religious explanation on top, that is, by adding to our account of technology and its hold over man either a metaphysical/philosophical or a theological explanation. That would merely prematurely close off our questioning and defer the problem by transferring the burden of explanation to another level.

Man is summoned into unconcealing in a particularly outstanding way. In setting up nature as the object of an exact science we begin to see it as Bestand, as a calculable nexus of forces. It is a requirement of the science of physics that nature presents itself as such. Then we think of nature as what is revealed by physics, forgetting that we have defined a priori rather than discovered nature as such, as part of our summoning forth.

Gestell needed the modern scientific attitude in order to be able to summon man into revealing the actual as Bestand. ‘The modern theory of nature prepares the way first not simply for technology but for the essence of modern technology’.   

‘Chronologically speaking, modern physical science begins in the seventeenth century. In contrast, machine-power technology develops only in the second half of the eighteenth century. But modern technology, which for chronological reckoning is the later, is, from the point of view of the essence holding sway within it, the historically earlier.’

In modern physics, it is increasingly clear that what is being represented and how it is being represented is more and more impossible to grasp because it is invisible, it cannot be seen at all. This is a product of Gestell which demands that nature be ordered as Bestand. Even if modern physics backs away from the way its object has been represented until now it will never be able to get away from its demand that nature reveal itself as a calculable system of information. This way of seeing is produced by a causality that is not an occasioning that brings forth, an Anverlassen, not an efficient cause even, let alone a formal cause. Causation has shrunk to a mere reporting of the statistical probability of events in sequence in the challenging forth of a standing reserve. 

As Gestell, modern technology employs the physical sciences and seems then to be an application of these sciences. This seeming can only be overcome by understanding the real nature of modern technology and the sciences it employs through questioning.

So do we then just accept this definition? Where do we go from here? We still have not answered the question concerning technology if that means finding a way to respond to it.

Enframing is the gathering together that belongs to that setting-upon which sets upon man and puts him in position to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve

We are a part of the Enframing, it is not something we stand outside of and come to identify objectively later, it pervades all of our understanding. We can however realise our part in it and open ourselves to the realm in which that occurs. We can experience ourselves as the challenging forth of the actual as Bestand by Gestell. 

Always the unconcealment of that which is goes upon a way of revealing. Always the destining of revealing holds complete sway over man. But that destining is never a fate that compels. For man becomes truly free only insofar as he belongs to the realm of destining and so becomes one who listens and hears [Horender] , and not one who is simply constrained to obey [Horiger]

We are always completely within the destining of the revealing of our time. But we may be free within it, and this is freedom itself: that we belong to a destining and so HEAR AND LISTEN to it rather than simply submit to it without reflection, constrained to obey. We cannot but be in the world, but we can be not of it.

From within this freedom, we can anticipate a new destining, post-Gestell, and prepare the way to participate in the arrival of that.

The Veil

All such revealing goes hand in hand with harbouring and concealing, but that which frees things to the clearing, a mystery as Heidegger says, is always concealed and conceals itself. 

But concealed and always concealing itself is what frees (das Befreiende), the mystery.

Freedom is that which conceals in a way that opens to light, in whose clearing there shimmers that veil that covers what comes to presence of all truth and lets the veil appear as what veils.

How can something conceal in a way that opens to light? Are the two not contradictory? By concealing something we show it. The fact that it is concealed and we notice it is concealed, is its way of coming to our attention. By freeing something from non-presencing into presencing as something concealed in its essence, we become a clearing, an opening, where the truth is seen as something veiled, and where that veil appears as the veil of truth.

By realising that we are in an illusion, the illusion does not disappear but we see it for what it is. The only reality outside the illusion, which is revealed/concealed by the illusion itself, is on another order of being completely. Thus the veil reveals the true by being the veil. We do not exchange the veil for the true. Rather, the true is always there and the veil is a revealing of the true AS veil.

These are Heidegger’s findings, and there are more to come which we do not have time for today. I hope, though, that some of you will take the time to compare what Ibn Ata’illah has indicated:

One way He shows you the existence of His overwhelming power is by veiling you from Him by that which cannot exist alongside Him.

Wa la hawla wa la quwwata illa billah.