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LCCP Working Seminar: Elements of ecotechnical existence in Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics (1935)

Thursday 8 December 2022
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

The seminar is dedicated to the work-in-progress of Leiden Centre for Continental Philosophy staff and doctoral students. The paper is sent in advance and discussed in the meeting.
The seminar is open to all.

The seminar program is available on centre for continental philosophy. If you want to participate, you can either send a mail to s.e.lindberg@phil.leidenuniv.nl or subscribe to the mailing list of LCCP, at the foot of the LCCP webpage.

Donovan Stewart

Elements of ecotechnical existence in Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics (1935)

A significant development in 20th and 21st century philosophy has been the reformulation of human existence as not a solely biological or spiritual phenomenon, but as being originally composed by technics. As developed in Derrida’s (1967) thinking of hetero-affection, Foucault’s (1976) history of the formation of bodies, Deleuze and Guattari’s (1980) thinking of machinic becoming, Haraway’s (1985) understanding of the “cyborg”, Stiegler’s (1994) philosophy of human originary technicity, Preciado’s (2000) formulation of the prosthetic formation of desire, and Agamben’s (2014) thinking of the techniques of the body; a paradoxical understanding of human life has been offered, as a being that is most essentially defined by its  relation with others, not only on a metaphysical or ethical register, but also a fully material one. Humans, at the very least, are essentially composed by the finite, historically contingent prostheses that are there before them, beginning with the languages within which they become themselves, have a world, and experience the earth. This understanding of a fundamentally technical human existence has helped develop theories of cultural specificity and sharing, memory, temporality, psycho-somatic well-being and suffering, and gender and sexuality, while also enriching the meaning of technicity itself, as being not only a matter of relating to specific artificial objects, but also, and perhaps firstly, describing constitutive relation itself, the finite manners or techniques, the how, of each singular co-composition.

This development of what I call, following Lindberg (2022), anthropotechnics, seems to have achieved a certain completion, or at least something akin to what Derrida (1964) describes in his Heidegger: The Question of Being and History, as an exhaustion, its “running out of breath”. And similarly to what Derrida there identifies as Heidegger’s “winded” existential anthropology that by the end of Being and Time (1927) had exhausted itself, and finds new breath in an earlier anteriority, a pre-anthropologic sense of auto-affection in the Kantbuch (1929), here too the thinking of technique faces an anthropo-logical limit that calls for some refreshment, perhaps now to come from an explicitly ecological form of alterity.

Appropriating from Nancy’s (1992, 1993, 1996) concept of ecotechnics, I present another sense of technicity, a “natural” technicity or organic articulation already to be found in the lineage traced above, and especially in Derrida’s thought cf. of Grammatology (1967), Life Death (1975), Geschlecht III (1985), The Beast and the Sovereign II (2003)––a thinking of the techniques of life that has also begun to be approached in contemporary new materialist theories and object orientated ontologies (Barad 2007, Bennet 2009, Grove 2019). I present a possible contribution to this thinking of ecotechnics from Heidegger’s Introduction to Metaphysics, which introduces my project more generally that seeks to demonstrate how much of Heidegger’s work can be understood to be animated with a thinking of the originary composition of technique and life. I first present observations from Nancy (1992, 1993) and Derrida (2003) which suggest that there is indeed another reading of Heidegger’s texts possible that would emphasise their notably ecological and technological inflections which are bound with a more expressly immanent style of thinking, as made more obvious by, without being restricted to, his texts that explicitly engage with the ancient Greek physis (and) techné. I then present two elements from the Introduction to Metaphysics (1935) that demonstrate this possibility: first, an understanding of archi-receptivity or a primary becoming-constituted of beings by their finite eco-technical milieux; and second, a thinking of the articulation of beings through a general technicity that arises in his thinking of physis techné. Such an appropriation of Heidegger’s thought not only can elude its hegemonic dogma, but also and perhaps more importantly, help refine and transform contemporary ecological and technological thought.

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