The great 20th century philosopher Martin Heidegger had his birthday on the 26th of September. Not a jubilee. However, I decided to write a short note about the importance of a thinker (who said about himself that he would be understood, perhaps in three hundred years) for our time, more precisely, the current situation of a pandemic, the development and exit from which will determine at least the near future our civilization.Heidegger predicted the end of the twentieth century, immersion in a state of empty noise, meaninglessness. He said that technology did not bring the world closer, but made it “close”, that is, maximally alienated from its truth while maintaining formal contact of everything with everyone.
Heidegger argued that the stronger and faster the spring of progress unfolds, the more the world becomes like a picture. All things of this world turn into numb objects, and the person himself becomes such an object. Technology turns into a powerful force that challenges humans. The challenge is twofold.
On the one hand, this is the temptation to succumb to technology, to become a part of it and, thus, to finally lose human essence. And just look at global trends: an unconditional, all-encompassing belief that not only human problems can be completely solved with the help of technology, but the human essence itself can be radically “improved” by it.
According to Heidegger, this is oblivion of both thinking and of being itself, which opens only in the gap between things and phenomena – and this gap is going to be eliminated by technology. Let’s look at the coronavirus pandemic through the optics of the Heidegger’s point of view.
Through the brave streams of victorious statistics, mass vaccinations, reality is inexorably revealed in its invincibility – and a person is no less defenseless against the virus than a century ago, during the Spanish flu pandemic.
“A person becomes blind to the closest one”: Heidegger very accurately pointed to the amazing blindness of most modern people – not to see reality point-blank, replacing it with a dense impenetrable cocoon of statistical data and virtual images.
Technique and technologies are plunging modern civilization deeper and deeper into a viscous trance dream-darkness. And thinking itself and the need to think as the core of human nature are almost completely forgotten.
But there is also another side of the coin. Technique is able to reveal to the limit everything inauthentic in human existence, what Heidegger called the almost untranslatable word Das Man – an impersonal pronoun, a person in the neuter gender, a kind of it.
And that’s because technology can create a situation of catastrophic choice – when a person cannot coexist with it in his inauthenticity. With its unconditional blind faith in science and technology.
With aggressive oblivion of thinking, which has become so total that even oblivion itself is no longer realized. And then – perhaps – there will be a chance to appear to a person in his true essence – i.e. as a kind of event in which and through which infinite being is revealed into the world of frozen existence. A chance for a different mindset.