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Why There are No Philosopher Kings July 16, 2009

Posted by Dwight Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts, Philosophy.
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The best evidence suggests that planet earth is about to become a tinder box traversed by raging fires, unpredictable storms, melting icecaps, surging oceans, and massive shifts in farming-friendly climates.

What should we do?

There are lots of proposals for technological solutions on the table some of which are close to implementation such as solar energy, wind energy, bio-fuels, etc. These are all technologically feasible—they simply need market mechanisms in place to create demand and discourage use of fossil fuels, more efficient transmission technologies, and a greater sense of urgency and political will.

What is James Garvey’s solution? He says to read Heidegger:

He [Heidegger]argues that we are all enmeshed in a technological way of life — our problems, activities, agendas and so on happen in a social world where everything is regarded as a standing reserve, a stockpile.  (If you work in Human Resources, you’re part of the trouble.)  We see our problems as technological problems, and our solutions are technological too.  It’s all we can see because we’re stuck in the world we’ve thought ourselves into.  He tells us that we can maybe get out again by reflection on the senses in which we are enveloped by technology, instead of further attempts to save ourselves from it with yet more of it.  We can look to art, he says, and maybe build an aesthetic outlook into our way of life.  We can think of the mountain as beautiful, not simply as a source of coal.  There’s a sense in which this sort of thing can save us like no space mirror can.

Huh? Isn’t that like telling someone trapped in a burning building that we should never have discovered fire? Its a nice thought, sympathetic even, but not very helpful.

I have always enjoyed Heidegger’s essay on technology and agree that we are far too focused on the instrumental value of things. Heidegger is probably right that by viewing the world as a resource we fail to acknowledge and appreciate other forms of value.

But human beings are not going to give up on technology, nor should we. That horse left the barn a long time ago and would entail suffering on a massive scale. And ruminating about aesthetics just isn’t going to help reverse global warming.

Which is easier? Creating sources of energy that do not burn fossil fuels or convincing 6.7 billion people (many of whom have never heard of global warming and wouldn’t believe it if they did)  to change the way they look at mountains?

We can acknowledge Heidegger’s insight without thinking he is making policy proposals.

And we should strive to keep all Heideggerians away from positions of power.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

or Visit the Website: www.revivingliberalism.com