Friday, April 24, 2009

Heidegger (2): Gewirk und Gewerk

"Science sets upon the real." (Marting Heidegger)

As I said in my last post, I like the way Heidegger builds his metaphysics out of the stuff of ordinary experience. He also develops his philosophy of science in this way, letting notions like "object" and "theory" emerge from reflection about the operations and procedures that constitute scientific research. The consequence of this, I want to argue, is that metaphysical reflection is always reflection upon the basis of our existence in craft.

In "The Age of the World Picture", Heidegger says that research is the means by which nature and history (material and social reality) are "set in place" (127), which, of course, is also what he says technology does. Lovitt's always helpful footnotes lead us to "Science and Reflection", which can be found in the same collection. Here Heidegger says:

[Science] orders [the real] into place to the end that at any given time the real will exhibit itself as an interacting network [Ge-wirk], i.e., in surveyable series of related causes. The real thus becomes surveyable and capable of being followed out in its sequences. The real becomes secured in its objectness. (167-8)

Now, Lovitt points out that Ge-wirk is intended to evoke Gewirk (no hyphen) which means "web, texture, weaving" in ordinary German. This interpretation of objectness in terms of a web or network of relations is, of course, a precursor of contemporary actor-network theories of scientific research. But I want to suggest another association, namely, the German notion of Gewerk. This word means "trade", and once also meant "craft". That is, the "security of objects" (shades of Foucault!) depends upon the "craft of research". The craft dimension of research, then, is a metaphysical responsibility. You are keeping the real "in place".

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