the age of the world picture

Heidegger has blown my mind. You see, the big question that has always most fascinated me is how do/did people — especially those who lived hundreds or thousands of years ago — see the world? What is/was their worldview? The nugget of Heidegger’s argument in this essay is that before the modern era, there was no awareness that there was a worldview or that there could be multiple worldviews. This is particularly relevant when many violent people want to roll the world back to medieval times.

I need to pull a better quote than the below.

The gigantic is rather that through which the quantitative becomes a special quality and thus a remarkable kind of greatness. Each historical age is not only great in a distinctive way in contrast to others; it also has, in each instance, its own concept of greatness. But as soon as the gigantic in planning and calculating and adjusting and making secure shifts over out of the quantitative and becomes a special quality, then what is gigantic, and what can seemingly always be calculated completely, becomes, precisely through this, incalculable. This becoming incalculable remains the invisible shadow that is cast around all things everywhere when man has been transformed into subiectum and the world into picture.

By means of this shadow the modern world extends itself out into a space withdrawn from representation and so lends to the incalculable the determinateness peculiar to it, as well as a historical uniqueness. This shadow, however, points to something else, which is denied to us of today to know. But man will never be able to experience and ponder this that is denied so long as he dawdles about in the mere negating of the age. The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and presumption, can bring about nothing in itself other than self-deception and blindness in relation to the historical moment. [emphasis mine]

Man will know, i.e., carefully safeguard into its truth, that which is incalculable, only in creative questioning and shaping out of the power of genuine reflection. Reflection transports the man of the future into that “between” in which he belongs to Being and yet remains a stranger amid that which is. Holderlin knew of this. His poem, which bears the superscription “To the Germans,” closes:

How narrowly bounded is our lifetime,
We see and count the number of our years.
But have the years of nations
Been seen by mortal eye?

If your soul throbs in longing
Over its own time, mourning, then
You linger on the cold shore
Among your own and never know them. *

From a reading for my history of media class. There were several more striking sections — and I’m sorry if this fragment is incomprehensible for most of you — but it’s time for bed.

* Martin Heidegger, “The Age of the World Picture” (from The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays [New York: Harper & Row, 1977], rpt. in Timothy Druckery, ed., Electronic Culture: Technology and Visual Representation [New York: Aperture, 1996])

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