The Will to Technology and the Culture of Nihilism: Heidegger, Nietzsche and Marx

Chapter 1
[1] Hannah Arendt, The Life of the Mind, New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1978, p. 50.

Chapter 4
[1] Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude, translated by William McNell and Nicholas Walker, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1995; The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, translated and with an introduction by William Lovitt, New York: Harper and Row, 1977; An Introduction to Metaphysics, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1987; Discourse on Thinking, translated by John M. Anderson and E. Hans Freund, New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1969; Being and Time, translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson, San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1962.

[2] Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, Volumes III and IV, “The Will to Power as Knowledge and as Metaphysics,”and “Nihilism,” San Francisco: Harper, 1987.

[3] “Enframing means the gathering together of that setting-upon which sets upon man, i.e., challenges him forth, to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve. Enframing means that way of revealing which holds sway in the essence of modern technology and which is itself nothing technological.” Ibid., The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, p. 20.

[4] Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking, p.45.

[5] Ibid., pp.54-55. “But if we explicitly and continuously heed the fact that such hidden meaning touches us everywhere in the world of technology, we stand at once within the realm of that which hides from us, and hides itself just in approaching us. That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery. I call the comportment which enables us to keep open to the meaning hidden in technology, openness to the mystery.”

[6]Ibid., p. 55. “What could be the ground for the new autochthony? Perhaps the answer we are looking for lies at hand; so near that that we all too easily overlook it. For the way to what is near is always the longest and thus the hardest for humans. This way is the way of meditative thinking.”

[7] Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, p.4. “Likewise, the essence of technology is by no means anything technological. Thus we shall never experience our relationship to the essence of technology so long as we merely conceive and push forward the technological, put up with it, or evade it.”

[8] Ibid., “The Age of the World Picture,” pp. 115-154.

[9] Ibid., Discourse on Thinking, p.52.

[10] Ibid., “Yet it is not that the world is becoming entirely technical which is really uncanny. Far more uncanny is our being unprepared for this transformation, our inability to confront meditatively what is really dawning in this age.”

[11] Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. In this text, Heidegger provides the theory of completed nihilism: its fundamental attunement—“profound boredom;” its method—the disciplinary practices of bio-genetics; its dominant cultural sign—terminal drifting towards generalized “indifference.”

[12] See in particular, Heidegger’s reflections on the historical destiny of the German ‘folk,’ in his Die Selbstbehauptung der deutschen Universitat, ‘Rektoratsrede,’ Breslau: W.G. Korn, 1933.

[13] Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, “The Word of Nietzsche,” p.102. “In the willing of this will, however, there comes upon man the condition that he concomitantly will the conditions, the requirements, of such a willing. That means: to posit values and to ascribe worth to everything in keeping with values. In such a manner does value determine all that is in its Being.”

[14] Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche, “The Will to Power,” p.197. Beyond the question of technology, Heidegger argues that the will to will that is the essence of technological destining always requires that human and non-human nature be reduced to the function of “standing-reserve.” Thus, for example, in Nietzsche, Heidegger describes the essential movement of the will to power as gathering into itself means for the ‘preservation’ of power. “Therefore, enhancement of power is at the same time in itself the preservation of power.” In is in this sense that Heidegger describes the technical condition of human subjectivity as “standing-reserve” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, p. 23. In his essay, “On the Question of Being,” Heidegger notes: “The reduction that can be ascertained within beings rests on the production of being, namely, on the unfolding of the will to power into the unconditional will to will,” Pathmarks, p. 312.

[15] Martin Heidegger, Basic Writings, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” pp. 140-212. For Heidegger, the importance of art in the technological milieu was precisely to open the question of technology to a different form of interpretation, not only the logic of “calculability” but also the revelation of poetry.

[16] Martin Heidegger, Pathways, p.258. “Homelessness so understood consists in the abandonment of beings by being. Homelessness is the symptom of the oblivion of being. Because of it the truth of being remains unthought.”

[17] Ibid; “What is Metaphysics,” p.93. “Being held out into the nothing—as Dasein is—on the ground of concealed anxiety makes the human being a lieutenant of the nothing.”

[18] Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, p.44.

[19] Ibid., p.100. In “The Word of Nietzsche,” Heidegger draws the conclusion from technological objectification as destiny: “Man, within the subjectness belonging to whatever is, rises up into the subjectivity of his essence. Man enters into insurrection. The world changes into object. In this revolutionary objectifying of everything that is, the earth, that which first of all must be put at the disposal of representing and setting forth, moves into the midst of human positing and analyzing. The earth can show itself only as an object of assault, an assault that, in human willing, establishes itself as unconditional objectification.”

[20]Ibid., p.48.

[21] Martin Heidegger, “The Turning,” in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, p.41.

[22] Martin Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, p.162. “Profound boredom, its being left empty, means being delivered over to beings’ telling refusal of themselves as a whole. It is thus emptiness as a whole.” Intensifying Nietzsche’s admonition that man has grown tired of himself, Heidegger asks: “Has man in the end become boring to himself?—as the question in which we ready ourselves for a fundamental attunement of our Dasein.” (FCM, p. 161.)

[23] Writing of the “grounding-attunement,” Heidegger states: “In the first beginning: deep wonder. In another beginning: deep foreboding.” Martin Heidegger, Contributions to Philosophy (From Enowning), translated by Parvis Emad and Kenneth Maly, Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999. (p.15).

[24] Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, p.20.

[25] Ibid., p.17.

[26] Ibid., p.16.

[27]Ibid. pp.34-35. For Heidegger, the alternative to technology as calculative reasoning lies in a vision of technology that has withdrawn into forgetfulness, namely that once “the poeisis of the fine arts was also called techne.”

[28] Ibid., pp.20-21. “Enframing means the gathering together of the setting-upon which sets upon man, i.e. challenges him forth, to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve. Enframing means that way of revealing which holds sway in the essence of modern technology and which is itself nothing technological.”

[29] Ibid.,p.33.

[30] Ibid., p.33.

[31] Ibid.,p.34.

[32] Heidegger, The End of Philosophy, p.100.

[33] Heidegger, Nietzsche, p.8. “In the thought of the will to power, Nietzsche anticipates the metaphysical ground of the consummation of the modern age. In the thought of the will to power, metaphysical thinking itself completes itself in advance. Nietzsche, the thinker of the thought of the will to power, is the last metaphysician of the west.” Or, as Heidegger argues concerning his general theorisation of completed metaphysics: “Technology is completed metaphysics. It contains the recollection of techne and, at the same time, the name makes it possible for the planetary factor of the completion of metaphysics and its dominance to be thought without reference to historiographically demonstrable changes…”The End of Philosophy, p. 93.

[34] Heidegger, The End of Philosophy.

[35] Ibid., p.92.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.,p.85.

[38] Ibid., p.100.

[39] Ibid., p.101.

[40] Ibid., p.102.

[41] Ibid.

[42] As Heidegger states: “The end of philosophy proves to be the triumph of the manipulable arrangement of a scientific-technological world and of the social order proper to this world. The end of philosophy means the beginning of the world civilization that is based upon Western European thinking.” Basic Writings, “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking,” p.435. the end of philosophy, then, as the beginning of a metaphysics of being that hovers around its own emptiness and on behalf of which it accelerates into the “incessant frenzy of rationalization’ and the ‘intoxicating quality of cybernetics.” (Ibid., p.449).

[43] Heidegger, The End of Philosophy, p. 102.

[44] Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, p.7.

[45] Ibid., p.163.

[46] Ibid., pp.163-64.

[47] Heidegger, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, p.7.

[48] Heidegger, “What Calls for Thinking,” Basic Writings, pp.381-382.

[49] Ibid., p.382.

[50] Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” Basic Writings, p. 197.

[51] Carl Nolte, San Francisco Chronicle, March 10, 2000.

Chapter 5
[1] Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, p. 161.

[2] Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, translated by Walter Kaufmann, New York: Vintage Books, 1989, p.61.

[3] Ibid. 57.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid. p.58.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., p.59.

[9] Ibid. p.66.

[10] Ibid., p.67.

[11] Ibid., p.65.

[12] Ibid., p.113.

[13] Ibid., p.84.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid., p.85.

[16] Ibid., p.87.

[17] Digital ressentiment is the hypermodern sensibility of the ‘last will:’ the restless will that would always prefer to “will nothingness rather than not will at all.” Nietzsche’s description of the last will is the essence of completed nihilism, that moment when the will turns into a haze of surplus positivist. The third essay of the Genealogy thus completes the thesis of Heidegger as the harbinger of completed nihilism, the thinker who extracts from Nietzsche’s concept of the last will the will to ‘profound boredom.’

[18] Nietzsche, Genealogy, p. 43.

[19] Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, p.

[20] Ibid., p.86.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, p. 153.

[24] Ibid., p.43.

[25] Ibid., p.191.

[26] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p.346.

[27] New York Times, June 23, 2000.

[28] William Gates, Business @The Speed of Thought: Using a Digital Nervous System, New York: Warner Books, 1999, p.23.

[29] Ibid.,p.37.

[30] Ibid.,p.7.

[31] Ibid.,p.15.

[32] Ibid.,pp.449-450.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, p.346.

Chapter 6
[1] Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, translated by Ben Fowkes, London: Penquin Books, 1976; Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy, translated with a foreword by Martin Nicolaus, London: Penquin Books, 1973.

[2] Karl Marx, Capital, p. 988.

[3] Ibid., Not simply the “doubled movement” of use-value and exchange-value as antinomic moments in the “circuit of circulation” of capitalist production, but also “objectified” and “living labor” as the mirror of the flesh necessary for the valorization of the process of capitalist value itself. See particularly Marx’s account of the circuit of (capitalist) circulation theorised in the form of the “Results of the Immediate Process of Production,” Capital, pp. 948-1084.

[4] Ibid p.

[5] Refusing the “value-form” at the center of the circuit of capitalist production the status of a referential finality, the language of capitalism as a “value-form” is the precise way in which virtuality displaces materialism as the code of capitalist production.

[6] While Marx argues that the “fetishism of the world of commodities arises from the peculiar social character of production which produces them,” he might also have noted that the fetishism of the world of production also results in the peculiar social character of the process of commodification, namely that commodities themselves are the legacy code for the “value-form” of capital and, consequently, the first (material) objects to disappear into virtualities. Capital, “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret,” pp. 163-177.

[7] Karl Marx, Grundrisse, “The Chapter on Money,” pp. 113-238.

[8] Heidegger’s theorisation of the essence of technology in the language of “enframing” and “appropriation” perfectly describes Marx’s analysis of the essence of capitalism as the alienation of surplus value. In this case, Marx’s concept of surplus-value is equivalent to Heidegger’s diagnosis of the “standing-reserve” as the alienated product of the process of technological production. What Heidegger thinks metaphysically in terms of the origins and consequences of calculability, Marx theorises economically. In each case, we are presented with the ascendant “value-form” of virtuality.

[9] “The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere. The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country.” Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, New York: W.W. Norton, 1988.

[9] For a full description of the virtual class in relation to the digital commodity-form, see Arthur Kroker and Michael A. Weinstein, Data Trash: The Theory of the Virtual Class, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.

[11] Marx, Grundrisse, p.253.

[12] The specific importance of the “Results of the Immediate Process of Production” is its analysis of the speed of the ‘circulating commodity’ as it exits the process of production and enters its definitive phase as the process of “value valorizing itself.” Marx, Capital, pp. 948-1084.

[13] For a further elaboration of the “ hinge experience,“ see Jean-Francois Lyotard, Duchamp’s Trans/Formers, trans. by I. McLeod, Venice, CA : The Lapis Press, 1990.

[14] Ibid., p. 965.

[15] Karl Maarx, Grundrisse, p. 253.

[16] Marx, Capital, p. 953.

[17] Marx’s theorisation of the process of capitalist realization begins with the thesis that “commodities are the first result of the immediate process of capitalist production.” Capital, p. 974.

[18] Ibid., p. 954.

[19] Ibid., p. 955.

[20] The Commodity can be a “universal, elementary value-form” because it represents the “immanent unity of use-value and exchange-value,” that is, the “immediate unity of labor and the valorization process.” Marx, Capital, p. 978.

[21] Ibid., p. 990.

[22] Ibid., p. 1008. For a discussion of Marx’s theory of the disciplinary production of labor, see the section in Capital that deals with the reduction of labor to a “quantum of value,” that is, “a specific mass of objectified labor, to suck in living labor in order to increase and sustain itself…Capital utilizes the worker, the worker does not utilize capital, and only articles which utilize the worker and hence possess independence, a consciousness of the will of their own in the capitalist, are capital.”

[23] Jean-Francois Loyotard. Economie Libidinale, Paris: Minuit, 1974.

[24] Jean Baudrillard, The Mirror of Production, translated by Mark Poster, St. Louis: Telos Press, 1975.

[25] Jean Baudrillard, Symbolic Exchange and Death, London: Sage, 1993, p.2.

[26] For a critical theorisation of the significance of the “rational terrorism of the code” as the third term that substitutes itself for the alternation of use-value and exchange-value in the immediate process of capitalist production, see Jean Baudrillard’s essay on “Marxism and the System of Political Economy” in The Mirror of Production, pp.111-167.

[27] “The functions fulfilled by the capitalist are no more than the functions of capital—viz. the valorization of value by absorbing living labor—executed consciously and willingly. The capitalist functions only as personified capital, capital as a person, just as the worker is no more than labor personified.” Marx, Capital, p. 989.

[28] Marx, Capital, P. 985.

[29] Ibid., p. 989.

[30] Ibid.

Chapter 7
[1] Sarah Boxer, The New York Times, April 15, 2001

Chapter 8
[1] Octavio Paz, “The Prisoner,” Early Poems: 1935-1955, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973, pp. 89-93.

[2] Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1982.

[3] Paul Virilio, Open Sky, trans. by Julie Rose, London: Verso Books, 1997.

[4] Sue Golding, The Eight Technologies of Otherness, London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

[5] Ibid., p.xii.

[6] Jim Robbins, The New York Times, March 2, 1999.

[7] James Weiser and John Seely Brown, “The Coming Age of Calm Technology, “ Xerox PARC, October 5, 1996, http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/acmfuture2endnote.htm. The paper is a revised version of Weiser and Brown, “Designing Calm Technology,” PowerGrid Journal V 1.01 (http://powergrid.electriciti.com/1.01 (July 1996)

[8] Ibid.,

[9] Ibid.,

[10] Ibid., This concept is elaborated in the section of the article titled, “Calm Technology.”

[11] Ibid., “(M)oving back and forth between the two” is theorised in the section of the paper titled “The Periphery.”

[12] The technological possibility of transforming the ocular practice of “centering and periphery” into a brilliant design concept is further elaborated in the section titled “Three Signs of Calm Technology.”

[13] Jean-Francois Lyotard, Duchamp’s Trans/Formers, trans. by I. McLeod, Venice, CA : The Lapis Press, 1990.

[14] Ibid; pp. 27-28.

[15] Michael D. West, CEO, Advanced Cell Technology as reported in The New York Times. For a fuller account of the technological project of Advanced Cell Technology, see http://www.advancedcell.com/

[16] “Molecular Breeding.” The New York Times, April, 1999.

[17] Ibid.,

[18] Ibid.,

Chapter 9
[1] Bill Joy, Wired Magazine 8.04, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” April 2000.

[2] Jean Baudrillard, The Vital Illusion

[3] Ibid