Mr. Kalb has suggested, that in the liberal understanding of the world, “rationality” determines the way in which one must think about things in a liberal society. “Rationality” therefore becomes a criterion for both the mode of discourse and the content of discourse within a liberal society.
No objective criteria exist to determine what “rationality” is in any ahistorical sense. So, for our purposes, we can specify that liberalism provides a definitive understanding of “rationality,” that is, liberalism prescribes the “correct way to think about things” in our world before a discussion even begins.
Thus, the liberal notion of “rationality” determines, in advance: 1. what may be discussed, that is, literally what exists; and, 2. how the “what exists” may be thought about.
Therefore, the liberal notion of rationality determines what exists in the world and how we are to think about what exists in the world.
In this connection, I ran across this discussion of technology by the philosopher Iain Thompson, in which he addresses Heidegger’s conception of technology as ontological; that is, in this formulation, technology is not merely instrumental, it actually determines what exists and how we are to think about what exists. It establishes a field of intelligibility within which all moderns live and think.
“What exactly is Heideggers understanding of the essence of technology? Heidegger most famous claim, that the essence of technology is nothing technological, may not initially seem to be of much help. But as I explained in our earlier debate, essence is an important term of art for Heidegger, a term which he painstakingly explains in his famous 1955 essay on The Question Concerning Technology. Drawing on these careful remarks, I argued that:
Heideggers paradoxical-sounding claim that the essence of technology is nothing technological does not mean [as Feenberg contends] that technology leaves no room for reflexivity (p. 207). Heidegger is really expressing the paradox of the measure; height is not high, treeness is not itself a tree, and the essence of technology is nothing technological. To understand the essence of technology, Heidegger says, we cannot think of essence the way we have been doing since Plato (as what permanently endures), for that makes it seem as if by the (essence of) technology we mean some mythological abstraction. We need, rather, to think of essence as a verb, as the way in which things essence or remain in play. The essence of technology thus means the way in which intelligibility happens for us these days, that is, as what Heidegger calls enframing (the historical mode of revealing in which things show up only as resources to be optimized).
In short, the referent of the phrase the essence of technology is our current constellation of intelligibility, which Heidegger calls enframing (das Gestell).
According to Heidegger, enframing is grounded in our metaphysical understanding of what-is, an ontotheology transmitted to us by Nietzsche. In Heideggers history of Being, the great metaphysicians articulate and disseminate an understanding of what beings are, and in so doing establish the most basic conceptual parameters and standards of legitimacy for each historical epoch of intelligibility. These metaphysicians ontotheologies function historically like self-fulfilling prophecies, reshaping intelligibility from the ground up. Nietzsche, on Heideggers reading, understood the totality of what-is as eternally recurring will-to-power, an unending disaggregation and reaggregation of forces without purpose or goal. Now, our Western cultures unthinking reliance on this nihilistic Nietzschean ontotheology is leading us to transform all beings, ourselves included, into resources to be optimized and disposed of with maximal efficiency. I explained in my earlier piece that,
Within our current technological constellation of intelligibility, only what is calculable in advance counts as being. This technological understanding of being produces a calculative thinking which quantifies all qualitative relations, reducing all entities to bivalent, programmable information, digitized data, which increasingly enters into what Baudrillard calls a state of pure circulation. As this historical transformation of beings into resources becomes more pervasive, it increasingly eludes our critical gaze; indeed, we come to treat even ourselves in the terms underlying our technological refashioning of the world: no longer as conscious subjects in an objective world but merely as resources to be optimized, ordered, and enhanced with maximal efficiency (whether cosmetically, psychopharmacologically, genetically, or even cybernetically).”
In this excerpt, we find the claim that technology—instrumental rationalism—is really a definition of what exists; it is ontological. And, the crux is that in the modern age we have turned this understanding upon ourselves, and become objects of our own technological understanding.
Why have we done this? Because modern “rationality” provides no other way to think about anything, including ourselves. “Rationality” defines the field of intelligibility. Anything outside of this predetermined field of intelligibility is literally fantasy or non-sense, perhaps mental illness.