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The Heideggerian perspective on nihilism : a critique of modern technology through its manifestations in literature, philosophy and social thought

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Title:The Heideggerian perspective on nihilism : a critique of modern technology through its manifestations in literature, philosophy and social thought
Critique of modern technology through its manifestations in literature, philosophy and social thought
Authors:Fandozzi, Phillip R.
Keywords:Heidegger, Martin
Nihilism (Philosophy)
Technology and civilization
Date Issued:1974
Abstract:Within various contexts, our age has been described in both a negative and positive manner. Negatively it has been characterized by such traits as "anxiety," "absurdity," "alienation"; positively it has often been characterized in terms of technological progress, among others. Taking the root-meaning of "nihilism" to be negation, the negative traits may be collected under that word, since each trait indicates a negation of something considered valuable, e.g., security, purpose, community. However to merely gather the many negative trends under "nihilism" would accomplish little. They resist unified explanation; the term "nihilism" succumbs to ambiguity. The negative traits of our age then appear as discrete and unrelated. In contrast, the positive characterization of our age seems unambiguous. Technology has proven itself as the spectacularly successful systematic effort at problem-solving. Given a neatly circumscribed problem-- technology solves it. However as the destructive potential of technology becomes more and more evident, as the efficient solving of isolated problems is seen to issue in the threat of large scale catastrophe, the positive characterization of technology must be questioned. Yet the destructive capacity of technology is not enough to establish a solid link between technology and nihilism. Nihilism seems at first glance to be subjective, an attitude, while technology seems to be objective, a methodology. However perhaps this distinction is illusory; perhaps nihilism is the human response to an objective situation and technology conceals its relationship to values and human subjectivity. Could it be that nihilism is really a perceptive glance into technology which, in turn, is in fact pervaded by a basically nihilistic world-view? If this is the case, then technology can be fully understood only by grasping its underlying nihilism and nihilism can be adequately grasped only when it is encountered within technology. Such a train of thought opens us to Martin Heidegger's synthesis of the concepts of nihilism and technology. It is a radical and comprehensive synthesis according to which technology is the final phase of nihilism. Examining the historical development of Western metaphysics beginning in pre-Socratic Greece, Heidegger traces the development of nihilism which culminates in the modern age of technology. There are several books and numerous articles which have explicated Heidegger's concepts of nihilism and technology within the context of his philosophy. However, this dissertation will go further and focus on the relationship between Heidegger's conceptions of nihilism and technology and significant non-Heideggerian analyses of the same phenomena. The need for this effort stems from the nature of Heidegger's thought: on the one hand, Heidegger's thesis is provocative and, if correct, of decisive importance for an understanding of nihilism; but, on the other hand, Heidegger's terminology and his manner of philosophizing tend to engender an esoteric sense which removes them from everyday concerns and experiences. Furthermore, Heidegger has persistently pursued his own path of thinking, giving little attention to opposing views or contemporary authors. The primary goal of this study is to advance the understanding of nihilism. In pursuit of this goal, the central contribution of the dissertation is a critique of selected documents from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which reveals an essential strain of nihilism--as it is conceived by Heidegger. This critique throws light both on these documents and on Heidegger's conception of nihilism, ultimately leading to a perspective which is a supplement of Heidegger's conception. The first chapter is an historical sketch of the concept of nihilism as it has been used in literature and philosophy from the concept's inception to the present; the purpose of this chapter is to provide an orientation for the subsequent study. The second chapter discusses the history of Western metaphysics in such a way as to illustrate the historical basis of Heidegger's conception of nihilism. Chapter III further explicates the Heideggerian concept of nihilism, which is then used as the basis of a critique of two classic literary expressions of nihilism (Turgenev's Fathers and Sons and Dostoevsky's The Possessed) and two major philosophical works (A. J. Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic and J. P. Sartre1s Being and Nothingness). This critique establishes the following; 1) these documents are essentially related by a common strain of nihilism; 2) the Heideggerian perspective provides depth and radicality of interpretation, i.e., it reveals presuppositions, shortcomings, developments and connections that are otherwise concealed; 3) this critique supplements the Heideggerian perspective by developing nihilistic traits to which Heidegger's own writing have only alluded. Guided by Heidegger's thought and the need for a more objective orientation than that of Chapter I II, the fourth chapter turns to technology and surveys current philosophical conceptions of it in order to provide the setting for further discussion. The fifth chapter explicates Heidegger's concept of technology as the final phase of nihilism. In the light of the Heideggerian concept of technology, Chapter VI is a critique of two comprehensive works on technology (J. K. Galbraith's The New Industrial State and H. Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man), which reveals the inadequacy of these non-Heideggerian analyses of technology2 while extending and confirming the Heideggerian into areas to which it has, at best, only alluded. The final chapter summarizes and defends the Heideggerian position, indicating its strengths and weaknesses and the ways in which the critique of the non-Heideggerian conceptions have complemented it. Thus the material under criticism is assessed as to the inadequacy of its insights into nihilism, within the general framework of Heidegger's thought. Finally, c6italn paths of fruitful development from both within and outside of Heidegger's philosophy are explored. The choice of documents for this critique has been made in accordance with several criteria. First an effort has been made to gather a variety of styles and positions in order to gain a spectrum of nihilism. To bring this variety into manageable limits, writings were selected which would explore three significant areas of nihilism: the psychological or the human response to nihilism (literary sources); the theoretical aspect (philosophy); and the socio-political realm (social science). Secondly, consideration was given to internal themes and characteristics of these writings with a view to their interrelationships. Thirdly, works were chosen which explicated the concepts of nihilism and technology, respectively. Lastly, consideration was given to the eminence of the writers chosen and to their independence from the thought of Heidegger.
Description:Photocopy of typescript.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1974.
Bibliography: leaves 141-145.
viii, 145 leaves
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Philosophy

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