Chapter 16: Technology, value and faith in inclusive ends

The long detour into the “foundation” of technological ethics (reconsidered as the grounding of a method) has been a necessary step in relating the question concerning technology to the question of values, but it needs to be brought back to its point of origin.  Specifically, Chapter 14 began with a discussion of what “piety” might mean in a Heideggerian context, and then it turned to a consideration of what a foundation for ethics light look like in that same context.   Once that Heideggerian foundation was rejected as inadequate on both practical (certain unanswerable questions arise) and principled (it denies the agency necessary for any ethics) grounds, discussion then turned to the question of what a grounding for ethics in an “immanent” source might look like, one in which a method insures the objectivity of moral truths, even as those truths are individual with respect the circumstances under which they arise (Chapter 15).   Now it is time to turn to the nature of that immanent source itself; that is, it is time to examine in some detail what an immanent grounding for ethics means, once the method of ethics has been established.  Only with this clarified sense of “grounding” in place can the true dangers of the Heideggerian “piety” be seen, along with the offsetting benefits of pragmatic faith.  This examination as a means to that end can be facilitated through a series of questions designed to bring the critical issues to light.

First and most importantly, if ethics is primarily a matter of a method of balancing goods or bads in specific situations  instead of applying rules derived in an argument from a foundation, then whence these goods and bads about which ethics judges?  That is, what is the source, or stimulus, as it were, of ethical inquiry, and how does this source relate to technology, specifically with respect to the distinction between presumptive goods and rational goods—or again, between mere liking something as good and appraising it as a real, more enduring good?   Second, and similarly, if ethics is not derived from God, Being or some apriori Moral Order, how does it arise out of strictly human affairs—essentially, what is meant by an immanent grounding, as the term has been adopted?  In other words, if not God, Being, or the Moral Order, what is the source of ideal ends, and how do they relate to the real conditions out of which they emerge?   Third and finally, how do these ideals come together  in a unified way to guide moral or ethical reasoning when it comes to uses of technology; that is, what directs technology in its ethical uses, and what uses among others are, strictly speaking, ethical  or not?  What is the wherefore of technology taken in its moral dimensions, and how does this wherefore relate to the traditional notions like God or the Heideggerian idea of Being?  Taken together, the answers to these three sets of questions constitutes an “immanent grounding” for technological ethics, in that it asks the why and wherefore of moral reasoning when it comes to the question concerning technology, and with it comes a rejection of piety in favor of a rational faith.

Discussion begins with the first set of questions by noting again what has already been noted in passing—that technology emerges out of human needs and wants; that it is a means to the end of making good in some way—of fulfilling—some kind of want or disturbance, the making good of which is valued in some way.  This statement is so obvious it should support itself without argument, but a few examples of the most basic of technologies establish the point.  Since human beings lack fangs and claws, for instance, first sharp stones were used to cut meat and skin animals, then stones were specifically sharpened for the same and other purposes. Since human beings lack protective fur, animal skins and eventually plant fibers where used to cover the body and protect it from the elements.  To the extent that the power and reach of the human body is limited, weapons were derived for killing animals and each other.  Take any technological means one like, whether it be a device or skill, and some want or disturbance or need is being fulfilled in some way, all the way up to the computer making good the inability to do complex computations unaided and cell phones making good the inability to communicate from a distance over time and space.  Any technology one could point to indicates some lack, want, or disturbance for which the technology itself is a means of rectifying in some way.   Important distinctions can be made within the broader point, to be sure, but for the purposes here, the general assertion holds.

Now, it almost goes without saying as well that rectifying wants, needs and desires is presumptively good; that is, the once the technological means is established for rectifying a disturbance or want of some kind, the rectification of that want is deemed “good,” or specifically, the object and the activity that achieves it is deemed as a good.  This is not to say, of course, that in a broader context of all needs and wants, it is good in the strict sense; that on reflection upon the known causal conditions and consequences of its use, is remains good (it can always on reflection and knowledge be re-qualified).  Rather, it is only to say that in the course of satisfaction rectifying a want or a need or a lack is presumptively deemed good because it ‘makes good’ the want or need, and by extension so is the means and ends of doing so, i.e. the act and object that satisfies.   Rather obviously, when hungry obtaining food is good—both the food itself and the means of obtainment.  When thirsty, water.  When cold, clothing or fire.  When battered by the elements, shelter.  Catalogue human wants and needs and desires any way one pleases (they can be basic biological needs or higher emotional desires) and both the means of satisfying them and the object of satisfaction itself are generally taken as presumptively good.  This presumption is part and parcel of both the object that rectifies the want or disturbance and the means of its rectification.

As obvious as the presumption of goodness is for both the object and means of satisfaction, it is equally obvious that this presumption can be challenged, that the presumption is not permanent or fixed in any way—that it can be and is challenged in the normal course of events.   While “food” itself as a class certainly retains its status as a good in general so long as hunger exists, specific foods presumptively good because they satisfy hunger in specific cases can be appraised upon eating as harmful or bad (or, of course, affirmed as a good).  Water, itself a good in general so long as thirst and other needs exists, may be tainted in one source, thus the sense of good that attaches is qualified to include specific conditions.  Clothing, while itself a good, admits of degrees of goodness for different situations—and so on and so forth, such that any presumptive good can and eventually must be assessed and distinguished as either simply presumptively or on reflection actually good, with “actually” referring to an assessment of the presumption in terms of the causal conditions of its emergence and the consequences following its use.  Again, important distinctions follow this basic point, but the general principle holds for presumption and assessment on the whole.

These simple, almost tautological, observations have clear implications for the relationship between technology and value, for they show that values—as the presumption of goodness or badness—and technology—as the means for obtaining presumptive goods—have a common root in the same disturbance or lack.  As Dewey observed, “valuation takes place only when there is something the matter; when there is some trouble to be done away with, some need, lack, or privation to be made good, some conflict of tendencies to be resolved by means of changing existing conditions.”  [1]  Technology, more than anything else, is the changing of existing conditions to rectify the matter; aside from unmediated human action, it is the sole means for doing so.  To flesh out the relationship in some detail, one—technology—provides the means for achieving some end, for rectifying a situations, and the other—a valued—provides the potentially “moral” (as it were) purpose and context for deploying that technology.  In other words, some sense of goodness is evoked in achieving technological ends, even as the technological means itself is also good precisely in so far as it is the means of obtaining the valued end itself.  This means technology and values are mutually reciprocal, representing as they do the mutual reciprocity between means and ends, and this mutuality creates in effect indelible relationship between technology and values.  In so far as technology emerges to achieve some valued end, and in so far as ends are valued, technological means and valued goods (be they actual objects or the notion of “goods” in general) are more or less one of apiece (two sides of the same coin, as it were) existing in mutual interplay, an interplay with a common source in a want or disturbance or privation of some kind.  At the very source of both evaluation and technology, then, values come into mutual interplay with both the means of obtaining them and their eventual attainment, making it inevitable that questions concerning technology invoke and encroach up questions concerning value, and vice versa.  This is not to say that the invocation and encroachment is ethically significant in every technological application, only that it is always potentially so; that there is no strict apriori demarcation between morally significant and non-significant technologies in principle, though for all practical purposes  moral implications of many technologies in some contexts can be ignored.

This mutual interplay—this reciprocity—between technology and values has already been indicated through a few simple (and one not so simple) examples, but it now needs to be developed in more detail—that is, it remains to be shown how this mutual interplay of values and technology bears on specifically ethical questions in the use of technology, specifically on how presumptively good ends become established good ends toward which technologies aim.  Once so established, these goods themselves become a source of guiding ideals, and then building on this source there arises the idea of a unity of these inclusive ideals toward which the moral life in general strives, a striving both realized and made possible by technology taken in the broadest sense.  The nature of this interplay and its role in producing ideals is disarmingly simple, and it can be illuminated in a series of orderly steps.

As already cited,[2] Dewey makes a useful distinction between prizing and appraisal—between mere liking in its own right and rational evaluation per se—and this distinction makes possible the difference between presumptive goods and established, more enduring goods, i.e. it makes possible the difference between those goods that are simply taken as the goods that they are simply because they satisfy a want or need, and those that are maintained and valued as good within an understanding of the causal conditions under which the need or want is satisfied, and the consequences obtaining from that satisfaction.   For instance, consider the case of sweets.  Sweets as food may be valued as presumptively good because they satisfy a ‘sweet tooth,’ as it were.  That is, taken simply as the “goods” that they are, sweets are valued precisely for the properties that makes them so satisfying, their sweetness.   In an incontrovertible way, taken simply as a fact, the liking of sweets is what it is, and it is what it is because it satisfies a want or need—in short, it is presumed good because it makes good a want or disturbance.  But the example is chosen precisely because it shows how through continued use, any valuation can be challenged.  On satisfying the sweet tooth all the time, to excess, say, certain consequences arise.  One becomes obese; one develops diabetes; overall health declines as sweet foods are substituted for healthy foods, and so forth.  Examination into the causes of having ‘a sweet tooth’ ensues.  The casual context of craving sweets may become understood, just as the health consequences of indulging it are staked out.  Those consequences are adverse, so the presumptive good “sweets” changes.  It becomes a qualified good to include occasional indulgence when the desire arises, but not constant indulgence every time it does—and so on and so forth.   In this process of rational evaluation—in this process of appraisal over mere liking—the causal conditions under which the want or disturbance arises is examined with respect to the consequences of satisfying the disturbance, and in this evaluation a more establish, well-understood enduring good is established.  In this example, the craving for sugars may be recognized as a basic biological need, so the want or disturbance is validated as ‘real,’ just as the consequences of living amidst plenty of sweet foods is appreciated—to wit, it becomes good to moderate the intake of sweets, despite the craving to eat them whenever they are available.  Sweets are taken as good, but only if, not good as such.  This example could be multiplied almost indefinitely to apply to all presumptive goods because through continued use they cannot but be appraised “with respect to their serviceability and needfulness” in general—with “in general” referring to appreciation of the causal condition under which presumptive goods emerge, and the consequences of maintaining the presumption.  Liking is distinguishable from appraisal precisely to the extent that norms governing how one should be taken as such arise, i.e. to the extent that statements about how the good ought to be evaluated arise from an assessment of what the good is.

With this distinction between presumptive and established goods in place the role of norms—of “ought statements”—again comes to the fore, this time with explicit reference to the question of whether statements about what ought to occur can be derived from a statement of the causal conditions and consequences of an occurrence.  Returning to the example of consuming sweets, once the adverse consequences of satisfying a ‘sweet tooth’ every time it arises are appreciated, and once the causes of having a ‘sweet tooth’ are appreciated in terms of the metabolic needs of the human body, certain ought statements—certain norms—inevitably follow.  If one wants to remain healthy, one should eat sweets in moderation, with “moderation” being specifiable empirically in knowledge about dietary needs.  If one wants to become obese, an opposite ought follows.  What one wants to attain, i.e. the end-in-view toward which behavior aims, is certainly relative; one is as free to want to become obese as to stay healthy, so long as one embraces the consequences of either.[3]  But as for this example so for general principle: once an end-in-view is obtained, certain norms or imperatives and or oughts—whatever term one choses—follow from an assessment of causal conditions and consequences as an empirical matter of adjusting means towards that end.  Eating too many sweets causes obesity; obesity causes diabetes; if one want to remain healthy, it follows from these causes and consequences ‘eat sweets in moderation,’ if at all.  In effect, norms only emerge from an appreciating the causal conditions and consequences of adjusting means toward ends, such that far from being a “fallacy,” deriving an ought from an is represents the only rational source for these norms.  Absent derivation in statements of empirical fact, there is simply no basis for a norm having anything useful to do with how people behave, or what they strive for in that behavior.  Ought statements cannot but follow from is statements so long as ends-in-view are maintained.

So ought statements derive primarily, if not exclusively, from is statements once ends-in-view are established, but now discussion turns to those ends-in-view themselves.  How, it can be asked, do they arise, and how, specifically, do ends-in-view  relate to the question of ends and means—i.e. to the question of adjusting one to the other in order to achieve an end?  Additionally, what about the status of ideals as ends in view? If norms themselves arise from appraising presumptive goods in terms of causal condition and consequences that is itself the empirical assessment of adjusting means toward ends, then  how do ideals arise from norms?  These questions bear on the second set of questions governing an immanent grounding for technological ethics, so they are discussed in turn now.

First, the nature of ends-in-view and their role in the reciprocity of ends and means.

That ends and means exist on a reciprocal continuum should require little argument, since it is “simply impossible to have an end-in-view or to anticipate the consequences of any proposed line of action save on the basis of some, however slight, consideration of the means by which it can be brought into existence.”[4]  In other words, as Dewey stressed,” propositions in which things (acts and materials) are appraised as means enter necessarily into desires and interests that determine end-values,”[5] and vice versa.  This reciprocal appraisal occur to such an extent that the end, “as an actual consequence” or an “existing outcome” is minimally “the interaction of the conditions that bring it to pass,”[6] even as it is appreciated as the product of these interactions.  This point should be so uncontroversial that a representative example should suffice as an argument.

Consider again the example of driving to a friend’s house when the friend lives on the other side of a windy, mountainous road.  It is as unarguable in this example that one desires to reach the end-in-view (arriving at the house) as it is that the suitability of the means determines, in some sense, the very desirability of going there in the first place.  For instance, on a clear day with good road conditions and a reliable car, it may occur to one to go over for a visit—or in any case, assume one wants to go over for a visit for some reason, so long as there is adequate time.  Under these stipulations, it may be that the desire arises precisely because the means of fulfilling it are so appropriate, but surely whether one continues to want to go there depends on some assessment of the conditions.  For instance, on a wintry day in white out conditions with a unreliable two-wheel drive car, one may not even want to visit in the first place, presumably on the grounds that the means of attaining the end (the visit) simply aren’t worth the trouble.  Of it one wants to visit, they will find themselves wishing conditions were otherwise so that visiting would be easier—and so forth.  Now, subjectively speaking, one may still wish visit if the conditions were otherwise, but in the real conditions that constitute the barrier to going, one may no longer want to go regardless of the wish things were otherwise, and her desires and interests turn instead to other things to do.  This sort of rational appraisal of ends in terms of the desirability of the means of achieving them is so common its behavioral consequences can almost go unnoticed.  Nevertheless, practically speaking it belongs to the desirability of any end some appreciation of the means for obtaining it, even when one wishes conditions were otherwise so that the desired end could still be attained (for note, wishing conditions were otherwise so that the end-in-view can be retained is ipso facto a consideration of them means for attaining it, to wit, wanting them to be suitable for its attainment).  In any case, for virtually any end one might imagine some appreciation of the real conditions and operations that are the means for attaining it occurs.  There is simply no other way to form desirable ends-in-view, save those that remain mere wishes and fancies for what could be the case, were the existential barriers to attaining them otherwise (but again, mere recognition that these conditions need to be otherwise is an appreciation of reciprocity of means and ends).

So ends-in-view and means co-exist in a continuum, but how do these ends relate to ideals—ideals being something considered desirable in any condition, or perhaps better stated, desirable as such, regardless of the conditions which actually obtain.  How are, it can be asked, are ideals formed, and how does this formation relate to real conditions.  Once again, an example is the best way to approach these questions.

Consider the village where infanticide is practiced because there are not enough resources to feed all the children born; where if all children, especially resource intensive unhealthy children, live, then more children are put at risk because of the diminished resources.  Assume that infanticide has been practiced for as long as anyone can remember, but assume as well that one season, there is an abundance of resources.  Some unhealthy children are left to die, but come the next year in retrospect it turns out that none really had to, for there is still a surplus at hand.  Assume further that this surplus continues for a while, reliably, thus it comes to be anticipated, resulting in one year all children are cared for, even a few unhealthy ones.  Never mind how this change comes about; just assume that it does; and since it does the village feels it is better off that when letting some born children die.  At this point, an ideal could be formed.  Times are good for the village, better than anyone can remember, even in stories.  All children live, all families are happy.  The prosperity could easily come to be desirable in-itself, as it were; it could become valued irrespective of the actual conditions in which it arise because, though under these conditions, it is deemed so good.  At this point, the norms that emerge within this prosperity could become the standard against which village norms in general are measured, even and especially when existential pressures on these norms because of degrading conditions (say the abundant resources go back to their usual scarcity) compel compromises hearkening back to the old ways.  Instead of simply accepting the fact that infanticide must be practiced again, these villagers who have created ideals about how life ought to be recognize that instead of altering norms to fit conditions—the usual derivation of a ought from an is—conditions instead can be adjusted to fit to norms.  In other words, recurring to the “naturalistic fallacy”, statements about how the world out to be dictate efforts to structure the way the world is, such that instead of changing the norms from the ideal, this ideal is thought desirable enough to adopt conditions to suit it.  In this way, ideals come to guide behavior.  Instead of simply deriving an ought from an is, an ought comes to guide manipulation of existential conditions to that desirable oughts follow—the ideal, in short, becomes the end-in-view.  In this case, not practicing infanticide would be that toward which the village strives, perhaps redoubling its efforts to attain the conditions under which letting all children live was the best balance of goods and bad.  In any case, the recognition of preferred ends irrespective of the conditions in which those preferred ends de-facto emerged is the source of all ethical ideals.  As ideals, they become the template against which actual conditions, as means, become tolerable or not.

Analytically speaking, then, positing ideals in effect reverses the logic of deriving an ought from an is.  Instead of the norm following from the conditions for which it is appropriate as an adjustment of means toward ends, the ends themselves are valued more than the existing means, such that efforts are made to change the existing conditions and develop appropriate means, not change the norm following from actual, existing conditions.

This derivation of ideals from norms suited to real conditions solves some longstanding problems of how to relate the ideal to the real, and vice versa, not the least of which is an immanent source for ideals in the first place, perhaps the most intractable of those longstanding problems.  For if ideals emerge as modeled norms under specific conditions such that the norm governs future changeable conditions, not the conditions governing the norm, the problem of how to relate the ideal to the real is solved by the very sources of ideals in the first place.  Of course, it can be observed, that ideals relate to real conditions, otherwise they could have no status as ideals.  But with equal force, ideals relate to the conditions under which the ideal emerges, i.e. to the existential states of the world under which the norm was appropriate, not to the actual conditions that happen to obtain.  Furthermore, the relation of the ideal to the real is quite readily specific by this existential-cum-normative origin, in that the ideal guides inquiry into the means of modifying actual conditions so that the normative ideal is the appropriate adjustment of means to ends, and vice versa.  Recurring to the driving example, “ideal” road conditions, car, and driver skill afford a norm of how one ought to drive (in point of fact, it would specify a permissible range of ways to drive), and this norm could be taken to be ideal, such that when the actual conditions are not such that the ideal is possible, efforts are made to return the road conditions, the car, and the driver skill to their “ideal” state.  In this way, ideals are both derivate of the real conditions under which they emerge, even as they become the end-in-view for modifying conditions to suit the ideal.  Under this conception of ideals as end-in-view derived from the most desirable norms under the condition in which they obtain, there is simply no problem of how to relate the real to the ideal because the two are never separated in the first place.  Ideals are simply norms considered preferable under any actual condition, and actual conditions are taken as something that can be recovered so that the ideal is aptly suitable.  In short, instead deriving the ought from the is, the is is modified so that the desired ought obtains.

Clearly with this functional derivation for both the “reality” and applicability of ideals (here ethical ideals could be inserted), there is simply no need to posit as their source any transcendent God, Being, or otherwise rational moral order existing antecedently to their genesis and realization in everyday human affairs.  In other words, ideals as ‘hypostatized’ norms, as it were, valued in their own right irrespective of actual conditions, yet emerging from real conditions at some point, simply does away with any need for justification outside the immanent sphere in which they occur.  For consider, if an ought follows naturally from an is when ends-in-view obtain, and if an ideal is an ought thought desirable regardless of the actual conditions which happen to prevail (it is sought ‘for-its-own-sake’), and if an ideal then becomes an end-in-view such that what is gets restructured to make the desired ought appropriate, then ideals are both rational and self-justifying—or better stated, their rational origin means they need no justification in a source external to their use.  Under this conception of the ideal and the real, there is no need for God or Being or an apriori moral order for justifying ethical ideals, for simply put, their functional origin and consequent applicability is all the justification they need.  Ideals work, and they work precisely because they were derived to do work.  God, Being, and the rational moral order are thus nothing but affectations and pseudo-explanations for their otherwise perfectly serviceable pragmatic vocation.

With ethical ideals in place as norms sought for their intrinsic value, i.e. meeting the ethical norm is deemed especially worthwhile, regardless of the actual circumstance implying a less desirable norm, the role for technology in meeting ideals is all but obvious, for if an ideal becomes an end-in-view such that actual conditions are modified to afford the desired ideal, then technology is the principle means for modifying these conditions; technology is the primary means used to transform them into the conditions under which the ethical ideal can be realized—or to put it another way, to transform them such that the desired ought can be derived from the is.  For technology more than any other human vocation is geared toward modifying existing conditions to realize a good or to suit a purpose, making it an ideal candidate—if not the sole candidate, broadly conceived—for realizing ethical ideals.  In this way, ideals guide the use of technology, even as technology becomes the means for realizing ethical ideals, and working together as reciprocal aspects of the same vocation—the pursuit of the moral life—ethical ideals and technology show once again how the question concerning technology is at once the question concerning values.  Not only do values and technology share a common source (in disturbance or lack); they direct to a common aim.  Ethical ideals guide the use of technology in the pursuit of a moral life, even as technology realizes, challenges or invokes—intended or not—some scheme of valuation.  Technology is this ideally suited for adapting circumstance to conform to ethical ideals when circumstance would otherwise require another, less suitable norm to be realized in its place.

This is not to say, for sure, that most, much less all, uses of technology explicitly aim at an ethical ideal.  Nor is it to say the all uses of technology should so aim.  It is merely to say that in so far as both technology and values emerge from a common source in lack, need, desire or want (i.e. a disturbance in them of some kind), technology can’t but be used except within a context of presumptive goods, such that questions regarding how these goods ought to be valued arise.  For the most part, these questions established versus presumptive goods don’t arise while using daily technologies, so rooted are they in the presumption that using them achieves some good end (otherwise, they would not be used).  But in many cases, the questions do arise, particularly when realizing one good threatens in some way the realization of another (as was the case with the example of building a dam or a water wheel).  In any case, the arrival of these questions or not raises the issue addressed by the third set of questions indicated above, namely, how do the ethical ideals directing individual technologies, when they explicitly direct them, come together in a unified way to guide moral or ethical reasoning in the use of technology in general?  That is, is there some unifying sense to the inclusive ends (the ethical ideals) that emerge from using technologies to make some kind of life possible, however vaguely and unarticulated the direction for that life might be.  In short, is there a Good towards which all goods aim—an ideal of the good life somehow implicit in a realized state of technological development?  If so, how has this unifying idea of inclusive ends been conceived?

It is not often observed that any given technological state of a society implies some notion of the good life.  Technologies of all kinds, be they material instruments, social institutions, or human skills, aim to make good some lack or disturbance, and therefore they realize a value of some kind.  Clearly, technologies meeting the basic human needs of food, shelter, clothing, and social cohesion all aim at ‘universally’ presumptive goods; taken individually, food, shelter, clothing and social cohesion are all taken as good, and taken together, meeting the needs of all four is deemed a necessary condition of the good life.  Additionally, technologies that enhance these basic goods in some way collaterally enhance the overall “good” in society—at least that is their aim, though in execution of course, they can inadvertently bring about harms.  Conceived in the elemental role in realizing some value, technologies taken individually make actual the attainments of some presumptive good, even as taken together they work in concert toward some unifying conception of what a good life can be.

It is not important to go too far afield into the details of how this implied good life is realized in any given society’s state of technological development.  As a simple indicator it will just be mentioned that the Greeks may have been the first to realize it, suggesting as they did that once the certain material needs were met (and these were met through various technologies), the good life—the ideal life proper—was possible.  Contemporary America society is not so explicit in either its conception or exploration of the good life, but explicitly considered or not, some notion of it both emerges from and directs contemporary uses of technology.  Vaccines are common place; good health care is valued as basic to a good, secure life; it is a basic good that consumer goods are plentiful and affordable—and so on and so forth, such that values converge into some inarticulate umbrella conception what a good life is.  While what this inarticulate conception might be for any given society at a given point in time is both important and interesting, the details are less important than establishing the basic point: in any given state of technological development, some notion of the good life—“good” taken here also to include a moral life—is possible, if not explicitly articulated, and this possibility follows almost tautologically from the reciprocal relationship and mutual interplay between technology and values, and their joint role in making moral progress possible.[7]

It is postulated here that since any given state of technological development makes possible some realization of a “good life,” the moral possibilities of a society are inextricably linked to technological development.  In other words, technology provides a moral frontier, as it were, meaning that what is moral—i.e. what ought to be done—derives as much from what can be done as it does from any posited ideal.   This moral frontier made possible by technology follows in one respect from the fact that the only rational place to derive an ought is from the states of the world that in fact exist, once an end-in-view obtains.  It merely adds now that technology, as a principle of means toward ends generally, makes possible—being the means—achieving an ethical end, as a subclass of any end made possible by technology.   To make this admittedly abstract idea concrete, consider the role of the car in the driving example to the friend’s house.  As a ‘factual state of the world’—an is—the car is a technology that interacts with other factual states of the world to accomplish the ends of reaching a destination in less time that on foot—or by horse, etc.  Thus the car is a technological advancement, and as such it opens a frontier of possible behavior, in this case driving to a friend’s house, instead of getting there by some other means.  All that is postulated here is that this frontier of possible behavior opened by technology is potentially, at least, moral; that minimally, it can have some moral implications, and that maximally that it makes possible others.  As instrumental in realizing values, technology inevitably partakes of the means of making good explicitly ethical values—for instance, extending the case of cars, consider ambulances as first responders, an ideal form of behavior made possible by technology.  Technologies, as implying values, have potential moral implications, and as part of the is-structure from which moral imperatives derive, technology as means in general provides the means in particular to be moral or not.  In short, in so far as technology is universal; that is, in so far as it is the means of realizing values and presumed goods, technology open the frontier for moral behavior.  If without technology no good can be realized, and if realizing goods is necessary for the moral life, technology as making possible the realization of goods equally makes possible the realization of a truly moral life.  Or so it is postulated here—a moral frontier made possible by technology.

The idea of technology making possible a moral frontier can be illustrated by considering again the infanticide example.  It has already been shown that under some circumstance (certainly unfortunate ones, by any decent lights), infanticide can be the best balance of goods and bads in a situation.  It has also been shown that changes those circumstances and infanticide becomes immoral, that a new way one ought to treat all born infants emerges from the condition that are, if the good of children and the good of the community are ends-in-view.  Finally, it was suggested that ethical ideal can emerge, such that instead of deriving a appropriate ought from the circumstance and ends that obtain, one can seek to modify circumstance so that a preferred ought derives—so that a desired ought follows from the is.    Technology alone, of course, is a—if not the—principle means of adjusting those circumstance, so in this respect along technology opens a moral frontier.  In the case of the village practicing infanticide, if keeping all children alive did eventually become an idea, then the principle problem would be acquiring enough resources so that the ideal could be realized, an technology (absent charity from others or nature) is the sole means for obtaining them.  Under the stipulation of this example, the acquiring the technology to obtain more resources amounts to making possible realizing the ethical ideal of keeping all children alive, and in that respect, for this community, technology both moves and makes possible the moral frontier.  Once the technological means are in place to situate the actual circumstances such that the desired ought follows from the conditions that exist, with the proper ends-in-view in place a more moral life becomes possible.  As indicated before, this new moral life constitutes real moral progress, and it is added now that by implication, technology is a principle—if not the principle—means of making that kind of moral progress possible.

Saying technology makes moral progress possible—i.e. technology offering and making possible a moral frontier—is not to say that all moral progress is due solely, of even principally, to technology.  Minimally, of course, moral reasoning takes place; moral reasoning is the true intellectual advancement that makes moral progress like overcoming infanticide possible.  But technology, as the principle way of adjusting means towards ends generally, is the principle means of moving the moral frontier; it is the principle means by which moral progress becomes possible, which by implication raises an important question.  First, does this mean that is takes a new technology to move the moral frontier, or does re-purposing existing technologies suffice?  And if technology is the means of moving it—i.e. a means of moral progress, then what is the end-in-view?  If technology makes possible a moral frontier, how is that moral frontier understood in intellectual terms?  How is “the good” towards which technology aims as a means conceived, and once conceived, how does it guide the use of technology?  These question, the final in the set of three guiding this chapter, are taken up in due order.

First and foremost, to say that technology makes possible a moral frontier, moves the moral frontier, and makes moral progress possible is not to say that moral progress depends on new technologies.  Far from it.  While by the stipulations of the infanticide example almost certainly new technologies of acquiring resources would be necessary for the moral advancement that makes infanticide immoral for that society, the example was also considered such that re-allocation of existing technologies takes place.  For recall that in one variation, moral error was found when a “technological error” occurred.  That is, in allocating a substantial portion of resources to priestly sacrifice—itself a social technology of sorts insuring social cohesion—the society demonstrated a profound ignorance of the natural world, and in so far as this ignorance guides the use of their technology, replacing it with actual insight into the futility of sacrifice (at least as far as its ostensible purposes goes) amounts to re-purposes existing technologies toward other ends, not creating new ones.  In any case, while a new technology can open a new possibility on the moral frontier, it is neither necessary nor sufficient to do so.  It is not necessary in so far as possibilities can be opened up by the more intelligent allocation of existing technologies, and it is it not sufficient in that any new technology requires intelligent allocation toward the end of opening up a new possibility—and the intelligent allocation, the end-in-view, is what chiefly opens the frontier.  In other words, technology alone is never sufficient to change the moral frontier, much less new technology, for technology must be guided by the insight and intelligent direction that can only come from moral reasoning.

Second, the idea that moral reasoning is required to utilize a technology, new or otherwise, to move the moral frontier suggests that moral reasoning, not technology itself, provides the ends-in-view that are both ethical in their own right and guideposts for the uses of technology in their other capacities.  In other words, an intellectual component—the end-in-view—is necessary for moving the moral needle, as it were, and this intellectual component can only be supplied by moral reasoning.  This moral reasoning acts in two ways to determine both the realization of ideals and values through technology and the development of new values and ideals.  In the first place, moral reasoning is the principle means by which presumptive goods are examined in order to transform them into enduring, rational goods, and in the second place, moral reasoning is the sole reliable way to allocate efforts towards those goods such that the goods and bads in a given situation are balanced—in other words, to allocate them so that an ethical decision is made.  Moral reasoning thus examines old ends-in-view to assess their continued suitability in changing circumstances, even as it determines new ideal ends that are desirable whatever the circumstances, thereby indicating a need to let these new ideals guide technology in the adjustment of those circumstances so that the ideal can be realized.  In this way, moral reason—itself a subset of rationality in general—secures the ends-in-view toward which technology in the pursuit of a good live strives.  These ends-in-view are both examined and secured by the intelligent application of the best available methods of investigation, and as the product of those investigations, they supply the intellectual component to the ideal of an intelligently directed life.

Third and finally, this idea of intelligently directing life toward an idea of the Good raises a unique issue, one addressed endlessly by philosophers and those of religious faith, namely, whence this direction?  That is, absent certain knowledge of the destination that is The Good Life, how can one chart a course in that direction—or stated more abstractly, absent a specified ideal pregnant with all the details of what that Good Life is, how can one ever hope to realize it within the contingencies of actual life?  Put another way, without an ideal template toward which to strive, how can real conditions be adjusted to meet it, especially if the causal conditions between the real adjustments and the ideal ends remain unknown?  To put the matter in traditional terms, without piety toward the ideals laid down by God or Being, or without rational apprehension of the ideal moral life, one universal to all circumstance, how can commerce with the real world in which we live be intelligently directed toward The Satisfying End?  Without a known and immutable ideal, how can the vagaries of the real be judged adequate or not to its realization?

That the very way of posing this question is suspect should be evident from what that has preceded this far.  That is, it has been asserted that moral knowledge, while objective, remains individual and probable.  It has also been asserted there is no apriori certainty that a moral decision is right, and that there can exist more than one means to the same moral end, with no independent, apriori overarching criteria to decide between them.  Finally, it has been asserted that absent consensus on these ends (and on other elements of ethical decision making), the underlying problem addressed by moral theory remains, namely, how to compel or not conformity to an ethical norm, one taken as objective in one context but perhaps not in another, or more tellingly, even if objective in another not yet accepted as such.  Taken together, these three points stress the contingency of all moral reasoning, and as such the quest for certainty underlying the above set of questions is suspect in its very nature.  Why even ask, it might be asked in turn, for an Ideal of the Good Life, one against which all approximations can be ascertained?  Why even desire such certainty, if the ends-in-view toward which ethics aims remain in a distinct sense presumptive, even after established by the best methods and knowledge available (for new circumstances and contingence always arise, thus requiring new investigation into even established goods).  If such probability and contingency pervades the moral reasoning we have—if indeed it pervades the very notion of scientific rationality itself—then why look in the ethical uses of technology for certain direction, a certain destination, and a clear means of arriving there?  Why not be suspicious on its face of what this quest for certain direction asks for?

These questions are rhetorical, but never the less they have teeth, and they bite right to the heart of the matter: whence the direction for a good life if God, Being or the apriori rational moral order cannot provide it—and it is reasserted here without argument that they cannot.[8]  If there is no Good Life as such as an immutable ideal guaranteed by God or Being or the Moral Order, one towards which humanity can strive; if there are only multiple good lives to be had by making the best of existing circumstances, then whence intelligent direction toward these good lives?  How is this direction to be charted, if not toward some fixed, determinate, ideal end, one that can be known ahead of time and striven for—one against which progress can be judged as successive approximations?

The question is best answered by first specifying in detail what is at stake, for from there, the question virtually answers itself.

Underlying the arguments for an ethics founded on God, Being, or The Moral Order is the assumption that in order to be true, moral decisions must conform in some way to an antecedent reality, be that reality the revealed truth ordained by God, the deliverances of Being to a dependent Dasein, or moral truth  subtended by some form of moral realism, be it the reality of natural law, the reality of revealed religion, or again, as in Heidegger’s case, some unspecified relationship to the reality of Being itself.  In other words, in founding ethics on God, Being, or The Moral Order, it assumed that the truth of moral claims—their objectivity, as it were—depends on factors external and antecedent to the deliberation and decision, in much the same way that nature, as external and antecedent to the methods of knowing, insures the objectivity of scientific knowledge.   The ways in which this external reality are apprehended vary with the nature of the reality that provides the foundation, but in all cases, the reality of the foundation subtends the veracity of the moral decision in much the same way that the reality of the object before a mirror subtends the veracity of the image seen on it.  So long as the object itself is real, and so long as the method of reflecting it is reliable, so too then the description of the object is real as well.   In this way, moral truths, it is assumed, are more or less like these “descriptions” in a mirror from within a human apprehension reflecting the properties of the order reflected upon, but in any case, that which is reflected in moral judgment is the antecedent reality both subtending and assuring any objectivity or truth to the decision.  So long as the moral order is real, coming to know it means coming to reflect its ideal properties despite the contingent and real circumstances under which it is made, and so long as these reflected properties mirror the nature of the antecedent reality, moral judgment is sound.  This assumption is so basic, so unchallenged except by hard-nosed relativists, that it hardly registers in moral theory as the assumption that is it.  What could be more natural, it is assumed, than to think what is judged is real only in so far as it conforms to and mirrors the reality of that about which judgment is made.

A second assumption underling most attempts to found moral theory on God, Being, or The Moral Order—whatever the antecedent reality posed—is that in order to be objective, moral judgment must also be certain, not probable. [9] In other words, certain knowledge of the antecedent moral order, not probable knowledge, guarantees the objectivity of moral judgment, and absent this guarantee, virtually anything goes (hence the literary worry, if God is dead, everything is permissible).  Although certainty is mostly the bailiwick of universalist moral philosophers, it is also the presumed foil against which the relativists argue, and for their part, religious moralists never seem to doubt that the truths of revelation are certain, and therefore moral judgment following from them are certain as well.  In the cases where it prevails, moral judgment, it is assumed, must be certain in order to be objective, just as in order to be objective it must conform to some external and antecedent reality.  However moral certainty is derived, its absence means that moral judgment is merely subjective and hence relative and non-binding.  Thus certainty as much as conformity to an antecedent reality is necessary in order for moral judgments to be true.

These two assumptions by no means qualify all positions within moral debate, for there is almost as much diversity in moral theory as there are moral theorists. But as trends they are prevalent, and they characterize most, if not all, arguments deriving the truth of morality from God, Being, and The Moral Order.  Moral judgment, under these assumptions, is deemed objective and binding only in so far as it conforms to some form of antecedent moral reality, and this conformity itself is only binding in so far as moral reality known in the corresponding mirroring is also known for certain.  Absent these two stipulations, objective moral judgment is deemed either impossible, or perhaps worse, arbitrary.

Now it should come as no surprise that both of these assumptions can be challenged, for they have already been challenged by the substance of these last two Chapters, and they have been challenged in two ways.

In the first place, moral judgment has been shown to be both individual and objective, and this objectivity, such as it has been asserted, has had nothing to do with conformity to any kind of antecedent moral order.  Instead, the objectivity of moral judgment has been found in its method, and in so far as that method is applied using empirical matters the “objectivity” of which cannot reasonably be questioned, the result of ethical deliberation—the final judgment, as it were—is objective as well.  In other words, despite being specific to a given situation under a given set of circumstances, once judged in light of a common end-in-view, the balance of goods and bads achieved in moral judgment is an objectively valid balance, despite being specific to the situation out of which it arises.  Nothing in the characterization relies on conformity to an antecedent moral order.  In fact, the entire characterization of moral judgment as both individual and objective because of its method amounts to an attempt to ground that judgment irrespective of any mirroring conformity to an antecedent order.  For taken as argued, what can moral judgment be said to “mirror” or “conform to” when it emerges out of a particular situation via a method instead of preceding that situation per se, as though moral truth were waiting in the wings only to be known and applied to the details in such a way that the particulars are subsumed and given their moral meaning.   In the characterization of moral judgment thus far, no such subsumption occurs because moral meaning emerges from the particularity of a moral ambiguous situation, not precedes it waiting to give that situation its moral meaning.  In any case, successful or not, the argument here that moral judgment is both individual and objective doesn’t rely in any way on an antecedently existing moral order to which judgment must conform, stating as it does that the balance of goods and bads achieved in a given situation in effect creates moral order.  More could be said on this creative aspect of moral explanations, but that would take the point made here too far field.

In the second place, moral judgment has been characterized as probable, not certain, meaning that moral judgment, far from being fixed and immutable for all situations in which the same moral dilemma arises, is instead only a presumptive balance of goods and bads always subject to revision in light of new information, new ends-in-view, and new circumstances.  In other words, for instance, any one decision whether to respect nature one way while meeting the needs of the community in another is subject to revision both in a new situation and in the original one, for down the road new information or unforeseen consequences may entail that cast new light on the original decision, such that it proves to have been the wrong one—a wrongness only brought to light through these unforeseen (and in some cases unforeseeable) information and consequences.   Because moral judgment is both individual and objective for a given situation; because it is not a matter of subsuming a particular situation under a universal rule the certainty of which is somehow waiting in the wings prior to the decision; moral judgment can only be probable.   How the moral principles are applied to the facts of the case may have been misguided.  Not all the facts of the case may have been known.  Perhaps some unanticipated consequences occur, ones not even foreseeable using the best information at hand at the time of the decision, one that retrospectively shows that A, not B, was the right balance.  All these possibilities conspire to render even the best moral judgment probable, not certain, and in this respect they share status with even the best scientific judgments we have, for those two are subject to the same conspiracies against any claim to immutable, permanent universality, one that might ostensibly conform to some immutable antecedent order somehow known with certainty.  The probability of moral judgment is no more a defect than is the probability of natural science.  Sharing a common method, both aspire to explanations that render problematic situations more clear, more manageable, and more useful for practical affairs.  As implied throughout this essay and only brought to light here, certainty in these affairs is not necessary, thankfully, because it’s not possible either.  Like with science, moral theory uses a reliable method to create the best explanations possible, given the proven explanations already obtained, just in the case of ethical decision making these explanations balance the goods and bads of a particular situation instead of solve in terms of natural process particular problems of how an observed event occurs in nature along with other not directly observed events.   The lack of immutability and certainty in moral judgment should be no more troubling in ethics than it is in science, though for some reason it is, relativistic menace not withstanding.[10]

With these two lines of criticism in place, it is relatively easy to see how positing God, Being, or The Moral Order as the apriori source of valid moral claims conflates the problem of justifying the end-in-view for moral striving—i.e. The Good Life, The Moral Truth—with the problem of establishing rational, enduring goods from presumptive goods in a continuous process of intelligent criticism, the outcome of which is never guaranteed.  For in the former case, God, Being, or The Moral order is taken as the antecedent reality subsuming the unity of all goods, whereas in the latter case presumptive goods are transformed into established goods under the idea of a moral ideal, that ideal being the unity of inclusive ends, despite their real individuality.  As an ideal unity, the unity of inclusive ends means that in an ideal order, all presumptive goods will have been rationally established.  That is, they will be known in terms of the causal conditions from which they emerge and the consequences of maintaining them, such that the causal conditions for their emergence can be actually achieved through existing technology or prospective achieved pending new technology, even as the consequences of these technologies are known in terms of the impacts they have on the realization of various goods with respect to each other.  In other words, where goods collide, under the unity of inclusive ends, moral reconciliation is possible, and as an ideal, this possibility requires for its realization modification of existing means and conditions through technology, be that technology instruments, institutions, or human skills.  Contrary to positing an antecedently existing God, Being , or The Moral Order as the source of justification for the truth this ethical ideal, the unity of inclusive ends gains its “reality” only from its consequent realization in real conditions.  Before that realization, it is only an idea, not a reality to be imitated and conformed to.  In effect, the unity of inclusive ends as the end-in-view for all moral striving—metaphorically as “God,” “Being,” or “The Moral Order”—reverses the priority of taking either “source” as the antecedent arbiter of morality and instead sees it as a consequent end.  As an end, the idea of an inclusive unity makes the moral order into something possible, not already actual; it makes it something to be prospectively achieved by transforming presumptive goods into rational, enduring goods, not something guaranteed prior to its achievement, requiring only approximation through technological progress, as though that progress can be measured against some pre-existing moral template.  In terms of direction, then, the unity of inclusive ends is forward looking in terms of a moral order than can exist, not backward looking to an order that does exist, one that because of this antecedent existence exists ‘again’ through human ingenuity, so long as this antecedent reality is kept in view.  With this forward looking view, functionally speaking the unity of inclusive ends as idea avoids conflating the possibility of a moral order gained through intelligent criticism with the actuality of one existing prior to all efforts, and therefore this criticism requires faith in possibility, not antecedent knowledge of reality.  In short, faith in inclusive ends as an idea replaces knowledge of an existing moral order as a guarantee, and in this way, faith, fortified by knowledge gained along the way, guides the transformation of presumptive goods into rational, enduring goods, without assurance in advance of what their reconciliation will look like.  For faith in an inclusive end the progress of intelligent criticism is its own justification; therefore the needs for a justifying source—be it God, Being, of The Moral Order—simply falls away.

With the idea of faith in inclusive ends as the guide for establishing a moral life through the means of technology, the idea of an immanent grounding for technological ethics—the guiding idea of this Chapter—is nearly complete.  All that remains to do is wrap up the thread of discussion answering the three sets of questions the indicate what this grounding looks like, then tie that discussion to the closing remarks Heidegger leaves at the end of “The Question Concerning Technology,” namely, “piety” before Being as the solution to the problem technology represents.

First, it was seen in Chapter 13 that “the question concerning technology” ultimately boils down to the question of values, not the question of Being, and in Chapter 14 Heidegger’s conflation of normative with substantive inquiry was fleshed out terms of the underlying issue latent in his essay, a latency that was turned into an explicit, underlying problem, namely the problem of providing a “foundation”—in this essay, a grounding—for ethics or values (Chapter 15).  Once complete, this grounding of ethics in a reliable method for solving moral problems led naturally to a deepening of the question concerning technology into the question of values, thus strengthening the connection between technology and values in the pursuit of an ethical life.  The source of ethical ideals was advanced, and their functional role in guiding the technological transformation of existing conditions was addressed, until finally the idea of the unity of inclusive ends was posited as the ‘final’ end-in-view for technological ethics, with faith, not knowledge, as its means.   Taken together these themes summarize the argument of this Part, leading up to this point.

Second, with respect to the immanent grounding of ethics specifically, three sets of questions guided the discussion, the answers to which amount to the grounding.  At the outset, the common source of both ethical inquiry and technological innovation was observed: some disturbance or lack in a want or need or desire arises, and technology provides the means for ‘making good’ that disturbance even as that rectification is deemed presumptively good.  This presumption, it was noted, can always be—and eventually always is—challenged, leading to a question: if a presumptive good can be transformed into a rational, established good, when from the norm insuring its arrival do ideal emerge?  Ideals, it was said, emerge from taking as preferred for its own sake some established good, hypostatizing it, as it were, out of the conditions in which it actually occurs and positing at desirable in whatever the conditions, such the changing conditions to make the good possible takes the place of finding the normative good that arises from existing condition.  In this way, the idea of ideal ends arises, leading to the final question: if these ideal ends are possible, how to they relate to one another?  God, Being and The Moral order as traditional ways of justifying these ideals in an antecedent reality was then contrasted with the idea of a prospective unity of inclusive ends in a consequent accomplishment, and as the means to this consequent accomplished faith was substituted for knowledge—a faith fortified by knowledge of real moral progress, to be sure, but not one with assurances in advance of what direction to take, or what the ultimate end will look like, once that direction is taken.  In essence, then, this grounding of technological ethics in a method for solving moral problems emerging from practical life is “immanent” in so far as no supernatural or non-human source has been posited.  In other words, technology and values both emerge from and operate within the human domain, not the divine or supernatural domains, and in this sense technology and values have been made intelligible in terms of their native abode, as opposed to drawing sanction or direction for them from somewhere or something beyond it (Being, God, or The Moral Order, for instance).  How this immanent abode is not the chauvinism Heideggerians fear will be discussed in the conclusion.  For now it will only be observed that despite their differences, the Heideggerian grounding of ethics or technology in an “ontology” of Being and the immanent grounding of both in “the human abode”[11] more or less end in the same place, just with Dewey’s “faith in inclusive ends” replacing Heidegger’s “piety before Being.”  By way of conclusion to this Part, the difference between these two admittedly similar notions will now be discussed, then some concluding remarks on this essay as a whole will be offered.

“Piety” before Being versus “faith” in inclusive ends

In Chapter 13, piety in the Heideggerian context was obliquely been distinguished from “piety” in its traditional religious sense by noting that for Heidegger, piety involves questioning Being in the form a new kind of thinking, either to understand more fully the meaning of its disclosure or to hope for a new one, whereas traditional religious “piety” requires not questioning the basic articles of faith—in effect, in Heideggerian terms, piety in the religious sense means not questioning and thinking per se.  To be sure, it might be a question for the religiously pious how the articles of faith apply to pre-Christian life; one might even question these articles in the sense that reconciling them with events or outcomes requires re-thinking their meaning.   But despite this limited applicability of questioning and thinking, proper piety toward articles of faith requires taking them as they are, obediently, unquestioningly, without thinking per se as the means to attain them.   Instead, the objects of faith are more or less self-attained (and they are certainly self-justifying), such that, tautologically, one should have piety toward the articles of faith, and one has faith in those articles when they are piously—i.e. obediently—observed.   In any case, however traditional religious piety is fleshed out (and theology is rife with attempts to do so), traditional religious thought differs from the Heideggerian “piety” in these sense that the essence of the latter is to question Being in a unique kind of thinking in order to be disclosed its truth, while the formers is to accept the truth of revelation without questioning.  Where Heidegger would say “questioning is the piety of thought,” then, the traditionally religious would respond “unquestioning obedience is the piety of faith.”

Now, as different as these two mantras are in the surface, it can reasonably be asked: is this a difference that matters when it comes to the question concerning technology?  In other words, does “piety,” as a questioning of the meaning of Being differ substantively from unquestioning obedience to the articles of faith when it comes to the role either might have as a guide to how technology might or might not be used—or in more Heidegger terms, how the essence of technology might manifest itself to Dasein, even be Dasein?  Clearly to question Being for its new disclosure invokes a very different stance than accepting from God for His current revelation, but operatively, i.e. in how people are to act with respect to technology, is this stance all that different?  When the rubber really hits the road and technology must be directed toward ends not just compatible with human survival but ideally conducive to human flourishing, is Heideggerian piety all that different than religious piety?  This question can be examined in several steps.

First, for all the apparent stress on questioning and thinking, Heideggerian piety implies its own sense of unquestioning obedience, one at least as fundamental as the obedience required by the faithful before dictates laid down by God.  For Heidegger, in order to fulfill its own essence, humanity must heed the call of Being; it must accept its disclosure, otherwise it cannot even be Dasein, meaning it cannot even live a fully human life.  For humanity, a life without “obedience” to Being—a life without binding itself to how Being discloses itself—means something like madness or an impoverished animal or vegetative state, one where access to what makes one truly human is in advance foreclosed.   As already shown,[12] under these terms humanity has no real choice; it has no real choice but to obey Being, to unquestioningly accept its disclosure as the disclosure it is, regardless of the questioning and thinking permitted after the fact in order to determine the meaning of that disclosure.  For recall: for Heidegger, in so far as a human being is Dasein, Being is always already understood, i.e. it is “accepted” and “obeyed,” thus questioning and thinking Being is simply bringing to clarity this far more fundamental acceptance and being bound.  In any case, at the basis of Heideggerian piety as questioning and thinking lays a fundamental obedience to Being that is not only accepted without question: this acceptance in turn serves as the condition for the possibility of thinking and questioning Being in the first place.  Without this prior acceptance, Dasein would not even be Dasein who understands Being, and therefore there would be no “Being” to question.  Only because of a prior act of unquestioning obedience can Dasein, i.e. human beings, come to piously question Being in thinking.   This sense of prior obedience to Being makes Heideggerian “piety” as unquestioning at its root as any faithful obedience before God.  Dasein must obey Being even to become Dasein, even before a question of Being can be posed.

Second, this common stress on prior obedience makes questioning and thinking Being the ontological equivalent of traditional religious prayer, not just thinking per se, thus adding a second dimension to the deeper similarity between the two notions of “piety.”  For consider: once the disclosure of Being is accepted for what it is—however primordial and unarticulated that acceptance must be—questioning and thinking Being after this fact is an almost perfect analogy to praying to God for guidance on what the unquestioningly accepts articles of faith mean.  For the religiously faithful, how the articles of faith can be reconciled with events and outcomes of everyday life may require clarification; it may require insight, as it were, into God’s plan; and prayer, as a submitting questioning before God’s plan, asks precisely for this direction and clarification, for its meaning.  And so it is with the question of Being.  For Heidegger, Being has fundamentally disclosed itself to the human being who has become Dasein; as such it is always already understood and accepted in some inarticulate way.  Thinking Being, then, is questioning the meaning of Being’s disclosure; it is questioning the meaning of Being, not the acceptance of disclosure as such.  Just as the religious pious might pray to God for clarity and insight into the meaning of his revelation, so the pious philosopher thinks Being in order to gain clarity and insight into the meaning of its disclosure.  To be sure, for Heidegger philosophical piety acts as the condition for the possibility of religious piety—as discussed already he makes this priority clear in “Letter on ‘Humanism’;”[13] therefore thinking subtend prayer.  But the very fact that it acts as “the condition for the possibility of” means the two “pieties” run on parallel tacks (otherwise one could not be the condition for the other).   Because of a common stress on an apriori acceptance and obedience (be it before Being or before God), the “piety of thinking” in the Heideggerian sense amounts to a philosophically clarified vocation of prayer, one that asks for the meaning of what is disclosed, thus deepening the connection with religious piety, despite its ostensible difference.

Third and finally, “piety” in both the Heideggerian and religious sense presupposes a transformation of human existence based on an apriori acceptance and obedience, one that makes possible an authentically human destiny, and in this respect too the two pieties are more similar than different.  For Christians, faith transforms pre-Christian life into a life informed by piety; once one accepts the truth of Christ, one’s everyday existence is transformed into one lived under the grace of God, one that accepts God’s plan and obeys God’s dictates, as best as that plan and those dictates can be divined in prayer.  For Heidegger, the transformation is analogous, even as it goes arguably even deeper, for before one can even be a Christian, one must first be Dasein—in other words, one must first accept the disclosure of Being and thus transform mere human existence into a life lived, however unknowingly, in the “light” Being provides.  Where and how this most fundamental acceptance takes place is certainly debatable, and as far as it goes, Heidegger only supposed its existence without ever spelling out how or when it occurs.  But in the most fundamental way possible, human life as mere animal or vegetative existence is transformed somehow by becoming Dasein, by becoming a unique form of life in the natural world, one informed by an understanding of Being and an acceptance of its disclosure.  Again, it is neither here nor there that for Heidegger, the transformation from human existence into Dasein serves as the condition for the possibility of the transformation from a pre-Christian to a Christian life—as it surely does, given the ontological priority he asserts for Being over God.  That one presupposes the other only testifies to their parallel importance.  “Piety” in Heideggerian thought is as fundamentally transformative—if not more so—for human existence as “piety” in Christian religious thought, for both transformations are grounded in an apriori acceptance and obedience that acts as “the condition for the possibility of.”  In Heidegger’s case, the transformative power is ascribed to Being; for traditional religion, to God.

In these three respects, then, Heideggerian piety is more like religious piety than different, despite the ostensible emphasis on questioning and thinking in piety before Being versus unquestioning acceptance in piety before God.  At their root, “piety” in both senses is equally unquestioning, accepting, and obedient, with the sole difference laying in what they are acceptant of and obedient to—God for the religious and Being for the thinker.    Add to this that Being according to Heidegger has a minimal sense of agency—it reveals or conceals itself according to its ‘will’—and the parallel is nearly complete.  While different in theory, in practice Being for Heidegger amounts to an ontologically clarified notion of God, minus the ascription of attributes (like omnipotence, omniscience, etc.).  Thus the thinker beseeches Being for the meaning of its disclosure, the thinker reticently awaits the disclosure that he can never compel, and the thinker’s relationship to Being is so unique that he cannot “presume to claim that he is even remotely capable” of actually thinking it, “even as a prelude” to doing so. [14]  What more could any religiously pious say of the devotion to God and the effort to understand His will?  For all its secular emphasis, once the meaning of the question of Being is seen as clarifying to its ontological roots the meaning of authentic “religion,” Heidegger’s piety before Being is deeply religious, priority of Being notwithstanding.

This comparison between Heideggerian and traditional religious piety has not been made without an underlying point, and that point, stated simply, is that both Heideggerian and religious piety share a single, unifying theme—a faith or a belief in, or a recourse to, as it were, the supernatural.  To be sure, the sense “supernatural” subscribable to Being in Heidegger’s thought is quite different than the sense of “supernatural” operative in traditional religion, but like with the underlying unquestioning acceptance and obedience in both pieties, a common root sense of “supernatural” to subtends both vocations.  This common sense will be examined now, first with respect to the sense of supernatural in Heidegger, then with respect to what that sense has in common with traditional religion.

Two clear indicators of the supernatural status of Being comes in Heidegger’s “Letter on ‘Humanism’”, where a comparison between human beings (as Dasein) and animals is mentioned, and in his 1929-30 lecture course The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, where the contrast between animal and human life (again, as Dasein) is discussed in detail.  In both works, Heidegger describes the relationship between human beings and the rest of nature in general, and the relationship between human beings and “life” or animal nature in particular; in both works, the human being as Dasein—as the sole entity that stands in ‘the clearing that is the truth of Being’—is Dasein by virtue of the supernatural status of Being, once “supernatural” is understood in an authentically Heideggerian way.

Regarding the relationship of human beings to animal nature in general, in the “Letter on ‘Humanism’” Heidegger writes:  “In any case living creatures are as they are without standing outside their being as such and within the truth of Being, preserving in such standing the essential nature of their being. Of all the beings that are, presumably the most difficult to think about are living creatures, because on the one hand they are in a certain way most closely akin to us, and on the other they are at the same time separated from our ek-sistent essence by an abyss.”[15]  Elaborating on this separation by an “abyss”, Heidegger adds: “it might also seem as though the essence of divinity is closer to us than what is so alien in other living creatures, closer, namely, in an essential distance that, however distant, is nonetheless more familiar to our ek-sistent essence than is our scarcely conceivable, abysmal bodily kinship with the beast.”[16]

Now, three points stand out in these passages: the relationship of human beings to the “divine,” closeness of that relationship in us relative to our own kinship with animals, and the abyss separating human from animal life.  Taken together, Heidegger clearly intends that whatever is natural in human beings—that is, whatever human beings share with nature as a species evolved within it—that shared nature is entirely offset, as it were, by Dasein’s unique access to something super-natural, i.e. to something beyond or outside of nature, something that exists—or as he prefers, ek-sists—over and above it.  That existence above or beyond nature is the ek-sistence of Dasein, as he calls it, and ek-sistence of Dasein is the ek-sistence of Being: it is the disclosure of the truth of Being in which human beings uniquely stand, one by virtue of which they are an un-natural species, a species existing beyond or above or outside of nature.  In fact, this standing is the un-naturalness of human beings.  The stresses here are intentional.  For Heidegger, by virtue of what makes us most human, human beings stand ‘over and against nature,’ or ‘outside’ of nature—whatever the appropriate phrase; they ek-sist supra-naturally or super-naturally, and this supra- or super-natural ek-sistence is Being itself.  Only through disclosure from a super- or supra-natural Being is the human being supra-natural Dasein, for acceptance of or obedience to our natural kinship with the rest of nature is not enough to make us truly human.   However the relationship of human bodily nature is to be conceived, any shared essence (assuming such a thing is possible) with another natural species—a sharing itself declared an “abysmal bodily kinship”—is entirely offset so far as being human goes by an “abyss” of difference.  Into this abyss pours, as it were, the super-natural essence of Being itself.  It is by virtue of the super- or supra- natural divine that human beings are most authentically human, not by conformity to its natural essence, i.e. what is shares with nature, as a part of nature itself.  Dasein-Being-ek-sistence as conceptually one-of-apiece is the supernatural existence in humanity, taken together they set human life apart from natural processes by an “abyss” of essence that can (presumably) never be crossed, at least not by anything in common with animal life.  In short, Being indelibly separates human from animal nature.

Although he never uses the phrase “abyss” of essence separating human beings from animal life, Heidegger none the less pre-delineated this basic idea in his 1929-30 lectures, The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics.  In that course he elaborated in considerable detail what this “abyss” of difference entails.  Using the guiding phrases ‘the animal is poor in the world’ whereas the human being, as Dasein, is ‘world-forming,’ Heidegger explained how animals, who do not live in the light of the disclosure of Being, differ from human beings, who do.  The details of this difference are not as important here as is the fundamental feature driving it: the human being’s ability to understand beings-as-beings through an “unveiling of the Being of beings”[17] separates him entirely from the animal world from which he might—indeed must in some sense—draw a natural kinship.  What this kinship might be is entirely unimportant in the lecture course, for the world-forming character of the human being that receives the disclosure of Being separates humanity from the natural world by a veritable “abyss,” and this abyss is, once again, the super- or supra-natural nature of Being itself.  The human being is supra-natural by virtue of the disclosure of the Being that ek-sists outside and beyond all nature.  Though not stated as such, in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, this Being can only be supernatural, for what else could separate humanity as Dasein from nature so decisively, placing it so over and above or beyond nature, such that later this difference will be called an “abyss” of essence?

To be sure, the sense of “supernatural” derived from the “Letter on ‘Humanism’” and already operative in The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics is not “supernatural” in the sense of a ghostly, immaterial being that haunts or inhabits some un-natural realm.  The supernatural quality of Being has nothing in common with such transpositions ‘beyond’ or ‘outside’ of nature, for those transpositions are themselves simply analogs to natural beings, just with substantiality in the material sense removed.  Nor is Being “supernatural” in Heidegger like an entity existing in a divine realm that is beyond or outside nature (as the entire universe), as God is sometimes conceived—as an omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent being, as opposed to a so-qualified presence beyond our ability to see, at least directly (again, because divine presence is “supernatural”).  Instead of these traditional senses of “supernatural,” Heidegger’s Being is supernatural in a much more literal sense: it is “super-” or “supra-“ natural in that it is the condition for the possibility of what is super- or supra- natural in human beings, namely, human beings as Dasein.  This follows more from common use than any syllogism one might construct, for if the Dasein is the supernatural in human beings; if being Dasein is access to the “divine,” as it were, and the disclosure of Being is that divinity; and finally, if that divinity separates humanity from being natural by an “abyss” of difference, then Being cannot but be supernatural in its own right.  Nothing but a supernatural agency or presence or disclosure (or absence or withdrawal, as the case may be) could evoke such supernatural tendencies, unless Heidegger would say—which he most emphatically wouldn’t—that animals, by virtue of their animality, have privileged access to Being.  Since he in another place takes Rilke to task for precisely this error (as he sees it),[18] Heidegger’s Being cannot but be something outside, beyond, or over-and-above nature.  As a faithful Heideggerian might point out, the understanding of Being is the condition for the possibility of understanding nature as nature, and since the understanding of Being is the apriori disclosure of Being to Dasein, it cannot be a natural phenomenon.  Like Dasein’s ek-sistence that separates human beings from their natural existence, Being, as the possibility of that ek-sistence, is also separated from nature, i.e. it is supernatural.  The supernaturality of Being—however uniquely conceived—is simply the only way to reconcile it with the super- or supra- naturality of Dasein, its ek-sistence, and the disclosure of Being on which that ek-sistence depends.

So much for the unique sense in which Being is for Heidegger, literally, supernatural.  How then does this sense of supernatural relate to the sense of “supernatural” in traditional concepts of God, and what are the consequences of this underlying kinship, if any?

Simply put, Heideggerian Being and religion’s God share a sense of “supernatural” in that both Being and God exist supra-naturally as both ‘the condition for the possibility of’ nature as such and as that which separates human beings from whatever natural existence it might have.  Beyond this rather literal understanding of the term, the two notions have little in common, unless it is also the tendency of both God and Being to offer ‘revelations’ (what Heidegger calls “mittences” or “disclosures”) of itself, sometimes more fully than others.  Fleshing out some other possible points of comparison, like God’s omnipresence, his omnipotence, and his omniscience, Being for Heidegger, for instance, is “omnipresent” only in a very restricted since, in that understanding it—i.e. understanding its apriori disclosures—is the condition for the possibility of human beings understanding or relating to anything at all.  Despite this hemi-demi “omnipresence”, however, its sense is limited to human beings relating to beings, not to beings like animals relating to each other, or themselves, much less in things of the universe relating to each other.  Similarly, Being could also be loosely considered “omnipotent” but in an ontological sense, in that again it is ‘the condition for the possibility of’ all ontologies, especially those that would take a region of beings as a region and discover its properties (as with science).  But this omnipotence is again only relative to the human role in the disclosure of Being, not to any power on the part of Being itself to act on actual existence of things, especially in the sense creating the universe, i.e. in the sense of being the creator of all beings.  Finally, although there is no sense in which Being itself might be called “omniscient,” it does once again inform every attempt of human being to know, so in a strict sense it is omnipresent in all knowledge, especially in that knowledge that seeks to know itself.  But these weak and tentative parallels aside, the main way in which “supernatural” is attributable to both Being and God is that both exist—or rather ek-sist—outside and beyond or over and above nature, both as the condition for the possibility of the disclosure of natural things, and as that which creates an “abyss” of separation between human beings and those natural things.  Both God and Being are supernatural in that both account for what is supernatural in humanity, but this limited common sense is just enough to carry consequences for how the “question concerning technology” can be posed.

Regarding these consequences, it has already been noted that the question of Being and the question of God as sources for ethics share unanswerable practical questions that make both unsuitable as a foundation; that both require asking questions for which there are no known means of answering.  That point is reiterated here as an objection—as the objection—to either as a guide for answering “the question concerning technology.”  As they stand, as appeals to the supernatural, both the question of Being and the question of God run afoul on the same reef of evidence that all appeals to the supernatural share, to wit: whence this access, if it lies above and beyond all known powers of ascertainment, “known powers” referring to those so effective in generating knowledge of natural and human affairs, the only affairs of which we can be said to have reliable, verifiable knowledge?  In other words, whence and wherefore knowledge of the supernatural, if the “supernatural” is above and beyond all means of knowing?   Almost by definition the only reply is something like a stipulation along the following lines, namely: “belief, surpassing logical basis and warrant, works out through its own operation its own fulfilling evidence”[19] —a stipulation that is almost by equal definition intolerable for any publically negotiated exchange on how any question of public policy might be settled, including and perhaps especially those governing the ethical uses of technology.  At the end of the day one is forced to ask of this stipulation: if ‘the operation of its own fulfilling evidence’ is to be the basis of technological values; if recourse to the supernatural requires such a basis, how can replacing knowledge with such piety ever work to adapt means to ends, an adaptation that by definition requires appeal to evidence beyond the mere scope of re-affirming in an unquestioning way the desirability end-in-view, or ostensible means to obtain it?  If piety toward the supernatural is put in the place of knowledge of means toward ends, or of ends themselves, how will the adjustment of means toward those ends ever occur, and perhaps more to the point, how will the ends themselves ever be adjusted once their implications are discovered, implications that requires re-appraisal of what those ends might mean?  Fixing ends in the apprehension of the supernatural might secure them in an immutable reality, thus giving them a sanction in proportion to their sanctity.  But this sanctity comes at the price of fixing ends outside the scope of rational purview, even as it makes inexplicable the adjustment of known means toward those ends.  Whatever form it takes, be it piety toward supernatural Being or piety toward supernatural God, recourse to the supernatural as the source of values and the means of direction toward them requires replacing public knowledge with a form of personal dogmatism, and since there is no dialectical reply to this preference, only a pragmatic counter-arguments is offered here.   What, it might be asked, is gained by outsourcing values for guiding the use of technology to a supernatural God or Being, and does this gain from this outsourcing offset the necessary sacrifice of rational appraisal?  To put the matter another way, does the outsourcing solve the underlying practical problem that must in any case be solved, regardless of where or how ideals and ends-in-view are sanctified?

As a first approximate answer to this question, recall that ‘hypostatizing’ particularly desirable norms and turning them into ideals the conditions for which technology is the means of achievement does away with any need for appeal to a transcendent God, Being, or a Moral Order anteceding the existence of these ideals in natural human association.[20]  For if ideals emerge out of these associations; if ideals are these associations rationally deemed good; then why replace their natural origin—or more generally, their human origin—beyond the natural world and into the supernatural one?  What, in other words, is gained by positing a supernatural sanction for values, and what it might be asked, is the price of this gain?  As Dewey once noted, traditionally “idealizations of things characteristic of natural association” have been “projected into a supernatural realm for safe keeping and sanction,”[21] but despite this sanctity and safekeeping, “the values given supernatural locus [remain] in fact products of an idealizing imagination that has laid hold of natural goods,”[22] goods that have themselves been rationally re-appraised from presumptive goods into established, more enduring goods.  Given that this is the case, i.e. given their natural origin and final application in human affairs, why, it can be asked, not simply jettison the “sanction” and “safe-keeping” function of the supernatural and simply “rest the case upon what is verifiable and concentrate energy and thought upon its full realization?”[23]  In other words, if the security and sanction of values into the supernatural is bought at the price of losing both the rational adjustment of means to ends as their realization and the rational re-appraisal of those ends themselves in light of successful adjustment or not, why not secure and sanction those values in a more direct way—to wit, the rational appraisal and adjustment itself through which they inevitably take their meaning anyway.  In short, if the actual realization values requires rational adjustment of means to ends and rational re-appraisal of ends themselves, why not simply remove values from the inflexible dogmatism of supernatural origin and sanction—one posited out of ignorance anyway—and place them back into the public space of rational deliberation from which they both emerge and find their destiny.  For as noted, the underlying problem remains the same.[24]  That is, the underlying problem of consensus on values, means and ends-in-view is the same whether those ends are derived from some private revelation of the supernatural  (God, Being, or The Moral Order) or from the publically negotiated space of reasons, one that appraises natural associations and presumptive goods in the contexts in which they occur.  In short, since the underlying problem is the same, pragmatically speaking why not simply focus on where the problem lays—rationally appraising presumptive goods as goods held in common, the technological means for the realization of which lays either ready to hand or in the works of the imagination?   This transposing of the question amounts to the pragmatic reply to the dialectically unanswerable position of the dogmatist who claims access to the supernatural as the ultimate arbiter and sanction of values.  If human beings living together are forced into rational deliberation toward consensus anyway—and in democratic societies this is always the case—then why not jettison the principle barrier to that consensus, the appeal to the supernatural, in favor of what is evident and verifiable?  Why not put faith in this consensus on inclusive ends (ideals) in place of piety toward the supernatural when piety toward the supernatural, since not shared, is the principle source of the lack of consensus—and even where it is shared the principle problem of consensus recurs anyway (for all parties can claim privileged access to the self-justifying evidence of supernatural, absent any appeal to evidence otherwise)?  Under the practical problems humanity faces in the use of technology and the realization of a good life, there is simply no need for the supernatural, and where piety toward it exists the practical need for consensus is both principally blocked and recurs in full anyway.  The pragmatic argument for rational faith in inclusive ends over piety toward the supernatural rests on this unavoidable human aporia.  Since the problem of consensus on inclusive ends recurs in any case, pragmatism simply focuses on the principle means of solving the problem—the very means pious appeal to the supernatural both pre-supposes and forecloses in advance.

With this pragmatic argument in mind, faith in inclusive ends can be said to differ from pious appeals to the supernatural in three important ways, all of which bear on the answer to the question technology raises.  That is, all three bear in the principle goal of this essay—to assess Heidegger’s solution to the problem of technology in terms most favorable to the Heideggerian way of asking the questions.

First, pragmatic faith differs from religious or Heideggerian piety both as a faith and in the inclusivity of its ideal ends.  Specifically, as a faith the former requires no recourse to a simultaneously self-evident yet non-verifiable kind of belief, whether that belief involves God, Being, or The Moral Order; yet it remains a “faith” (not a piety) because it posits the presumptive consensus on these ends.  That is, it posits their unity as ideal to be realized, not one guaranteed in advance by some antecedent source.  Furthermore, the ends of pragmatic faith are inclusive in the sense that they include in them both a statement of their origin in rationally appraised associations or goods and a statement of their ultimate consummation in natural, human affairs, with technology as the means toward realizing the values implicit in these affairs.  As such, faith in inclusive ends takes place entirely within what Dewey called “the human abode”[25]—i.e. the intersection, as it were, of humanity as a natural species with unique forms of human value and association, values and associations never quite divorceable from their origin in the natural world, without being reducible to them either.  To put the matter in terms already discussed, where Heidegger stresses an “abyss” of separation between humanity and nature, Dewey stresses a continuity with a qualitative difference, one ascertainable though proven methods of scientific inquiry, as opposed to one being unapproachable by all but the most esoteric, quasi-religious forms of “thinking.”   So with respect to faith in reliable forms of knowing, pragmatic faith differs from Heideggerian piety in the inclusivity of its ends, even as considered final knowledge of these ends to be merely presumptive—the potential fruit of long effort, not a guarantee in advance.

Second, while piety and faith share in common a sense of reverence before or heedfulness of the unknown, the former stipulates that what is piously held can never be truly known through existing methods of inquiry, whereas the later suggests that the object of faith is knowable through current, reliable methods; thus despite being presently unknown, the object of faith remains realizable by existing, reliable means.  In this respect, piety and faith differ on the role to be played by existing ways of knowing in realizing their respective ends—for faith, realization of practical values through intelligent deliberation, for piety, clarification of the meaning of Being through “thinking.”  To put the pivotal difference another way, where Heidegger would carve out a role for philosophical thinking so unique it defies all known cannons of evidence, deliberation, and rationality, even as it subtends and gives those canons their ultimate legitimacy and meaning, Dewey would limit philosophy to clarification of the meanings implicit in other, more reliable forms of knowing—in effect, pragmatic faith philosophy gives up its role as an arbiter or model of authentic thinking and assumes the far more modest role of a “liaison officer” who makes “reciprocally intelligible” the results various efforts to ‘think,’ wherever that thinking (i.e. knowing) occurs in other fields.[26]  In short, pragmatic faith does not assign to philosophy any privileged status with respect to Truth or Being, as the “piety of thinking” does.  Instead it ecumenically deploys what recourses it retains toward clarifying and reconciling the diversified accomplishments in other, more reliable forms of knowing.   So where faith and piety share a respect for the unknown, they differ as opposites with respect to whether the unknown can ever be known as such, as opposed to merely approached in a “thinking” that nevertheless abrogates to itself the highest of all possible high offices.

Third and lastly—and perhaps most controversially, despite its importance—the politics implied in both pragmatic faith and pious thinking differ as starkly as the respective offices each assigns to itself as a kind of “knowing” or “thinking”—even as, almost certainly, these self-assigned offices influence the respective politics.  Specifically, as indicated already,[27] where Heideggerian piety implies prophets of Being autocratically dispensing Being’s disclosures to a massively unthinking public destined to realize its essence in these disclosures (hence no doubt his real political affiliations), Deweyian faith implies rational deliberators trading reasons in a common effort to think toward a consensus that all concerned can live with (hence no doubt his real political affiliations as well).  Necessary implications or not, these stated politics between these two thinkers could not be more different, with faith in inclusive ends as democratic and piety toward Being as autocratic.  If philosophy is to inform forms of social ordering even as forms of social order reciprocally informs philosophy, then the contrasts between pragmatic faith and Heideggerian piety bear directly on the kinds of political organization through which technology as a means might or might not achieve a good life—a good life itself conceived in no small part in terms of the political orderings thought to achieve it.  Controversially or not, with respect to the question concerning technology the respective politics of Deweyian “faith” and Heideggerian “piety” assume the center stage, for no technology can serves as a means to a good life absent some form of political ordering in which that good life is realized.  In fact, it might be said that in so far as the question concerning technology is the question concerning values, and in so far as the question of values raises questions of social ordering, the question concerning technology implies the a question concerning politics.  In any case, both Heidegger and Dewey assigned to philosophy a political office, and that assignment differed as dictatorship and democracy.

With these three points of contrast in mind, the true pitfalls and dangers of Heideggerian piety can be seen in their proper light, and in this light the Heideggerian solution to the problem of technology can be rejected in favor of pragmatic faith.   For as has been shown in this Part, Heidegger confuses “the question concerning technology” with a normative comparison of two kinds of technology, and in this confusion he only obscures the underlying problem that technology poses, namely, that it is both the means for realizing and the principle challenge to values.  In other words, the question concerning technology is not at all the question of Being, as Heidegger maintains; it is the question of values, and as a the question of values the problem of technology raises issues both more fundamental and more encompassing than ontology.  Instead of ontology, the question concerning technology lead to ethics, and specifically to the ethical frontiers that technology opens up.  Heideggerian “piety” before Being entirely misses these ethical frontiers, and in place of rational deliberation about them he would consign humanity to a “questioning” and “thinking” of “Being” that is as inscrutable as it is devoted to supernatural means.  In place of this piety, faith in inclusive ends has been offered.  As a remedy to the problem technology poses, faith in inclusive ends both finds ideals in human affairs and destines them to that office, thereby putting in human hands the means to use technology toward the end of a good life.  In short order, then, faith in inclusive ends turns Heidegger on his head and puts technology back into its proper light.  Contra Heidegger and the obscurantism of Being, technology is a human vocation, not Being’s bestowed essence; the essence of technology, such as it is, is entirely in human hands, not in Being’s; and in human hands it can be guided by a faith in the ideal ends to which it can be put, not by a piety that would only hope—if even that—for technology to change itself and thereby save humanity from a life of enslavement to its essence.   To bring the beginning of this Part together with the end, Heidegger’s denial of this faith, coupled with his unerring errors on science and technology, renders the ‘path of thinking’ taken in “The Question Concerning Technology” not only superfluous and pointless but optimally stupid as well.  Most likely a more focused obscurantism of the underlying problems raised by technology isn’t even possible, but in any case one does not exist, and as such Heidegger’s so-called “essential thinking” on technology should be entirely rejected.    Simply put, there is nothing worth preserving on the path he takes, and at best walking it can serve as an instructive foil for addressing the real problems the journey obscures.  That, at least, is the approach taken in this essay, however effective that turns out to be.   To conclude this Part, faith in inclusive ends is the best response to the problem of technology, not the piety of thinking Being.


[1] Dewey, Theory of Valuation, p. 221.

[2] See notes

[3] Yet even this relative freedom is qualified by causal conditions and consequences, for while one is as free as one can be to become obese and develop diabetes, untreated diabetes will kill, so if that freedom is to be exercised, one not only ought but must seek treatment, otherwise there will be no freedom to speak of to exercise.  That his is not so with health as an end in view—that maintaining heath preserves the very freedom one exercises—suggest a way to evaluate even “relative” ends-in-view in terms of causes and consequences.

[4] Theory of Evaluation, 222.

[5] 222

[6] 216

[7] This later point—making moral progress possible—is implied in the infanticide example, an implication that is worked out shortly.  For now, it can simply be pointed out that in so far as technology makes the realization of values possible, and in so far as values dictate ethical decision making, technology too will influence the possibilities of making ethical decisions.

[8] These three options are rejected on pp. ,  one for insurmountable practical questions (God), one in principle (Being), and the last because even possessing it leaves the underlying problem it purports to solve untouched (apriori rational order).

[9] The is no reason to believe any quest for certainty, for instance, animates Heidegger’s attempt to ground ethics in the thinking of Being, but certainly religious moral philosophers think certainty is an attribute of moral judgment derived from a moral order provided by God.  The same could be said for most proponents of natural law and natural right: judgements following from apprehending that antecedent order are objective and certainly so, otherwise the unwelcome specter of relativism creeps back in.

[10] Again, it is interesting to see the parallel problems and concerns generated by the common fallacies underlying of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and those governing the debate between moral universalists and moral relativists as described here.  Both debates—paradigms versus objectivity in science and universalism versus relativism in morals—turn on the same revolt against a set of assumptions that genuine knowledge involves certain, immutable conformity to some kind of antecedent reality. Ditch both assumptions in both debates and then describe accurately what science and moral theory actually do, and the “problems”, such as they are, disappear.  Dewey did this for science in The Quest for Certainty and Logic: The Theory of Inquiry.  Drawing the implication from those works and from Chapter X of Experience and Judgement and Theory of Valuation in its entirety, the same is attempted here for moral theory.

[11] Dewey, A Common Faith, Chapter 3

[12] See pp. . It could be noted here that perhaps the “choice” God gives to humanity is less forced than the choice Heidegger gives vis-à-vis Being and Dasein, since under the freedom God grants, human beings can—at least under some doctrines—live a prosperous life in this world, even if everlasting life in the next amounts to damnation.  Whether the choice from God (either eternal bliss or eternal damnation) is substantively different than the choice from Being (either Dasein or madness or mere animality) is left for the reader to decide.

[13] See p.

[14] What is Called Thinking, 146.

[15] LH 248

[16] ibid

[17] FCM 352 and ff.

[18] See “What are Poets For?,” where he says in effect that Rilke is not a ‘poet of Being’—a poet for “desperate times”—because he thinks animals looks into the ‘openness of Being’ more purely and uninhibitedly than human beings.

[19] Dewey, “Belief and Existences”, p.

[20] See pp. above

[21] Dewey, A Common Faith, p. 73

[22] Ibid 70.

[23] Ibid 72.

[24] See pp above

[25] Dewey, A Common Faith, Chapter 3.

[26] Dewey, Experience and Nature, p.


[27] See note x and pp.