Honors Program

[Honors-in-Discipline (Choose below)], Honors in Philosophy

Date of Award


Thesis Professor(s)

Leslie MacAvoy

Thesis Professor Department

Philosophy and Humanities

Thesis Reader(s)

Keith Green, Stephen Fritz


In my thesis, I examine the relationship between modern technology and human autonomy from the philosophical perspective of Martin Heidegger. He argues that the essence of modern technology is the Gestell. Often translated as ‘enframing,’ the Gestell is a mode of revealing, or understanding, being, in which all beings are revealed as, or understood as, raw materials. By revealing all beings as raw materials, we eventually understand ourselves as raw materials. I argue that this undermines human autonomy, but, unlike Andrew Feenberg, I do not believe this process is irreversible from Heidegger’s perspective. I articulate the meaning of the Gestell as an historical claim and how it challenges human autonomy, but may never absolutely eradicate it. Contra Feenberg’s interpretation, I argue that Heidegger’s ontology, including the Gestell, provides a crucial ground for understanding how we might salvage autonomy in a culture increasingly dominated by modern technology. Specifically, by drawing on Heidegger’s conception of Gelassenheit, I suggest that salvaging human autonomy requires a calm acceptance and opening up to the challenge of modern technology. This is not, as Feenberg suggests, a passive acceptance of the eradication of human autonomy. Rather, this is the ontological ground that provides us with the possibility of salvaging autonomy. By opening us up to the essence of modern technology, we understand the contingency of the Gestell, its essentially ambiguous nature, and are granted with the freedom to subordinate its reign to other human values and modes of understanding being.


East Tennessee State University

Document Type

Honors Thesis - Open Access

Creative Commons License

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