The Heidegger's Concept of Globalization: Autonomy and Independence

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Global connectivity is higher now than at any other point in history. The international space station is currently home to astronauts from a diverse group of countries working together to advance man’s knowledge of the physical world. Yet Martin Heidegger, perhaps one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century, considered the images taken from space as the first step for man to disconnect himself from Earth, rather than to relish in the interconnectivity of that globe (Lazier, 2011). The computer age has revamped the relevance of this anxiety as the internet now connects millions of people with one another, without any concerns for geographic distance. The purpose of this essay is to discuss this and other modern changes to globalism using the philosophy described by Martin Heidegger. It uses these questions about globalism to examine the possibility of an authentic Being-with-others in the modern technological landscape.

Heidegger offer’s a broad definition of technology, stating first in the thirties that “this name includes all the areas of beings… objectified nature, the business of culture, manufactured politics, and the gloss of ideals overlaying everything” (Heidegger, 2003: 93). On a similar note, he argues two decades later that technology can be defined “by various identifiable traits such as functionalization, systematic improvement, automation, bureaucratization, [and] communications” (Heidegger, 2002: 52). Thus, from Heidegger’s perspective, technology is any creation of many that makes him less dependent on natural and human resources. His writings focused predominantly on the technology of production, since his definition of the phenomenon includes any environment or tool that forces nature to appear in an unnatural manner that can be more easily manipulated. Since Heidegger was most interesting in forming a clear definition of Being, his philosophical inquiry delves primarily into the role of technology in achieving authentic Being. Heidegger’s statements on technology seem to reveal that he was not as concerned with technology completely replacing Being, but that it would rather dominate the conversation on Being so that it prevents man from comprehending alternative forms of transcendence.

The “Earthrise” era began with the earliest photographs brought back to Earth from the Apollo space missions, showing a floating blue marble moving through the vast void of space. It reaffirmed the assertion by Copernicus that Earth is not the center of the universe but rather a small, almost insignificant body in an expansive cosmos. Prior to the new era, the concepts of a “global economy,” “global environment,” and “global humanity” could have never existed. These novel concepts confirmed Heidegger’s claim that the purpose of the modern era was to form a global picture and to define man’s place in that new framework (Lazier, 2011). Heidegger’s ideas remain relevant in the age of technology because they focus on man’s ability to transcend being-in-the-world and whether computers make this more or less likely to happen. According to Heidegger, the age of globalism results in a greater disconnect between man and nature since man no longer seems to think he needs nature to survive (Lindberg, 2015). A global perspective, from this opinion, decreases the ability to provide an authentic Being-with-others.

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The development of space-faring technology, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality have produced an ontological crisis, as predicted by Heidegger. According to Miko Joronen, “in globalization the world is ontologically understood as a picture in which everything becomes gathered together as a reserve to be ordered and challenged by anthropocentric will and value-creation” (2008: 596). This argument recognizes the alterations to the global consciousness about man’s place in the universe as triggered by his newfound ability to break his planetary bonds yet acknowledges that a planetary frame of reference cannot break the tendency to anthropomorphize the universe. The answer to ontological questions will still be dominated by cultural systems for valuation. For this reason, a globally-based value system can never function properly as it asserts that local and regional variations in judgment are not important in this new age of technology. A global perspective can easily gloss over these differences as inconsequential in favor a more uniform system that is easier to classifying but a far cry from reality. Whitney Bauman (2011) instead suggests that we work toward a planetary rather than global perspective that enhances rather than hides the natural variations between groups of people as they search for the answers to their ontological questions, such as the meaning of their existence and their place in the universe.

While many of Heidegger’s views on the advent and implementation of technological developments into peoples’ daily lives expressed his anxiety about the disconnect he predicted man would feel with the natural world, he still recognized some of the benefits it provided. He suggests that is perhaps this disconnect that will enable man to eventually discover an authentic Being (Mickevičius, 2018), like the proverbial “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” In his essay titled “Principle of Identity,” Heidegger argues: “What we experience in the frame as the constellation of Being and man through the modern world of technology is a prelude to what is called the event of appropriation” (Heidegger, 2002: 36-37). With this proclamation, Heidegger is suggesting that, to avoid the pitfalls of detachment that can be triggered by technological advancements, man instead needs to actively design technology that in stead fosters greater integration and interaction with other people and with the natural world.

Global technology offers the possibility of a “power-free” existence, though its current machinations have left man powerless to the machinations of the global capitalist machine. Globalism has thus transformed the world into a singular resource which capitalist have sought to use up in the manner they deem most efficient. An uncritical acceptance of this reality can easily lead to an ontological crisis at a global scale, based on Heidegger’s conceptualization of Being (Joronen, 2011). This crisis can best be demonstrated by a current trend in the rise of existential migrants who seek self-actualization in a foreign land rather than improved economic or social conditions (Madison, 2006). Using a similar form of inquiry, Uta Jaenicke contends that a psychoanalysis of dreams will show how a global consciousness is altering individual reactions to certain situations away from what a culture would deem a “normal” response. Globalization therefore allows people to transcend the bounds of their local geographies and move past their characteristic cultural traits.

Unfortunately, unless man acknowledges the need for equity and autonomy, globalization and technological advancement can lead to an extreme concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the few and pose as a direct threat to democratization (Dallmayr, 2002). The goals of Western modernity have thus been revealed to value conformity over individuality which seeks to spread modern technology as a form of social control (Dallmayr, 2004). The concept of an international world seems to disappear under these principles of globalization, since local interpretations of language and concepts are no longer important from a global perspective. This is unfortunate since the quest for meaning, through interpretation, forms the foundation of all ontological quandaries (Hellmann, 2017). It was precisely this existential crisis that Heidegger sought to warn against.

The question remains, can an authentic Being-with-others still exist in an increasingly technologized and globalized world? If globalism continues to be conceptualized as a mask for individual, local, and regional differences, the technological age that has allowed it to happen will only make it harder for man to understand what it means to Be. Yet, as Heidegger notes, man may still be able to experience a slingshot effect in which the pull away from authenticity will eventually result in a sudden acceleration back toward an individualized existence. The act of Being will then be redefined to accommodate changes in technology and adapt to a more global lifestyle, provided it is not forced to conform to a single concept of perfect existence. Only by reaching this stage will man be able to answer the ontological questions about his place in an expanding cosmos.

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