Minecraft and Heidegger

The foremost imagery that I associate with the later Heidegger’s analysis of technology is the Mine. A place where the logic of “challenging” nature, measuring the resources available, the most efficient ways to mine, the instrumental value of the stones, thus seeing everything as a “standing reserve” to be used and exhausted, “enframing” nature in such a way as to bound it rather than reveal something of it, contribute to it, or give it.

Two further points of Heidegger’s argument:

  1. This logic of technology is distinctly modern. Techne, in the ancient sense, was part of poesis, a way of revealing and contributing and being responsible for Being. (See, for example, our admiration for true “craftsmanship” as distinct from stuff that are just produced and used.)
  2. Technology can reveal because it is a form of knowing-how, a certain embodied unreflexive knowledge that relies on a direct relationship between the individual and the world. (See Glenn Gould playing piano, or, again, the making of beautiful crafts item.)
  3. We have forgotten this aspect of technology because of a mistaken understanding of causality as “efficient cause”, in contrast with Aristotle’s four causes, which, in its primal meaning, is a certain contributing, a being responsible for, a letting be, and a giving.

Now, my thoughts before we return to minecraft

  • Can we not see the logic of standing reserve in the modern obsession with “formal logic”? That there are certain forms of valid arguments that can be classified, organized, listed out?
  • Doesn’t the use of bullet points and lists (a rather modern invention) enframe thinking? It isolates each thought-‘particle’ (another of these word, along with the idea of ‘individuals’—things that are indivisible and isolated, like the Leibnizian monad), and severs it from the thought-stream.
  • Can we not connect Arendt, here, back to Heidegger through her discussion of the modern lost of “world” in the reversal of the vita activa, privileging labor, now, over making (the realm of the techne) and acting? The threat of modern technology, then, is the destruction of the world that is revealed and given to us through techne—the world of Van Gohn’s Shoes that Heidegger analyzed in the Origin of the Work of Art, or just the sense of the world that endures (which, incidentally, Heidegger links with essence with the German word fortgawahren, meaning, literally, “to grant permenaently”. So perhaps along with the advent of modern technology our grasp of any essence is at threat also?—would make sense thinking in relation to Sartre, Beauvoir, Butler et al.) in items that we inherit from our parents and grandparents.

I digress. Now back to minecraft.

It is all well and good for one to engage in abstract analysis of different Greek terms, as Heidegger did, but the problem often comes when philosophers are asked to give examples. They are often not convincing, and even outright contradicts their point, since they are not the hippest, the ones most in touch with reality, out of everyone. But Minecraft (enduringly popular), I must say, has to be an irrefutable example of the logic of modern technology. The constant digging, the constant urge to change maps after one has been “explored”, the use of standardized formula to make different materials, the lack of the need to engage with the game to enjoy it (some have tole me that it is just like doodling), and the world of equal boxes. This is the logic of modern technology that engulfs us. As Marxists would say, ideology is everywhere. We cannot see it only because it is the norm, like the fish who asks, “what is water?”

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