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Martin Heidegger

The Question Concerning Technology

1954

[…]

It remains the case, then, that the sciences are not in a position at any time to represent themselves to themselves, to set them­ selves before themselves, by means of their theory and through the modes of procedure belonging to theory.

If it is entirely denied to science scientifically to arrive at its own essence, then the sciences are utterly incapable of gaining access to that which is not to be gotten around holding sway in their essence.

Here something disturbing manifests itself. That which in the sciences is not at any time to be gotten around-nature, man, history, language–is, as that which is not to be gotten around [Unumgängliche], intractable and inaccessible [unzugänglich] for the sciences and through the sciences.

Only when we also pay heed to this inaccessibility of that which is not to be gotten around does that state of affairs come into view which holds complete sway throughout the essence of science.

But why do we call that which is inaccessible and not to be gotten around the inconspicuous [unscheinbare] state of affairs?

The inconspicuous does not strike us as strange. It may be seen, yet without being particularly heeded. Does the state of affairs shown us in the essence of science remain unnoticed only be­ cause we think too little and too seldom on the essence of science? That scarcely anyone could justifiably maintain. On the contrary, many evidences speak for the fact that, not only through physics but through all the sciences, there moves a strange restiveness. Before this, however, in past centuries of intellectual and scien­tific history in the West, attempts to delimit and define the essence of science have made themselves felt again and again. The passionate and incessant troubling over this is therefore above all a fundamental characteristic of modern times. How, then, could that state of affairs remain unheeded? Today we speak of “the crisis at the foundations” of the sciences. That crisis, in fact, touches only the fundamental concepts of the individual sciences. It is in no way a crisis of science as such. Today science goes its way more securely than ever before.

That which is inaccessible and not to be gotten around, which holds sway throughout the sciences and in that way renders their essence enigmatic, is, however, something far more, i.e., some­ thing essentially other, than a mere unsureness in the providing of fundamental concepts by means of which at any given time an area is placed in association with the sciences. Thus the res­tiveness in the sciences extends far beyond the mere precarious­ ness of their fundamental concepts. We are restive in the sciences and yet cannot say for what reason or to what end, despite multi­farious discussions about the sciences. Today we philosophize about the sciences from the most diverse standpoints. Through such philosophical efforts, we fall in with the self-exhibiting that is everywhere being attempted by the sciences themselves in the form of synthetic resumes and through the recounting of the history of science.

But for all that, what is inaccessible and not to be gotten around remains in inconspicuousness. Therefore the inconspicu­ousness of the state of affairs cannot lie only in the fact that it does not astound us and that we do not notice it. The incon­spicuousness of the state of affairs, its failure to shine forth, is grounded rather in the fact that it, of itself, does not come to appearance. The fact that that which is inaccessible and not to be gotten around is continually passed over depends on it itself as such. Inasmuch as such inconspicuousness is a fundamental characteristic of the aforementioned state of affairs itself, the latter is defined adequately only when we say:

The state of affairs that holds sway throughout the essence of science, i.e., throughout the theory of the real, is that which is inaccessible and not to be gotten around, which is constantly passed over.

The inconspicuous state of affairs conceals itself in the sciences. But it does not lie in them as an apple lies in a basket. Rather we must say: The sciences, for their part, lie in the incon­spicuous state of affairs as the river lies in its source.

Our aim was to point to that state of affairs, in order that it itself might beckon us into the region from out of which stems the essence of science.


Posted: March 2019
Category: Essays

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