David Bentley Hart on Heidegger and the ‘evasion of the mystery of being’ in the west

“Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) –a morally problematic figure, admittedly, but not to be dismissed–was largely correct in thinking that the modern West excels at evading the mystery of being precisely because its governing myth is one of practical mastery. Ours is, he thought, the age of technology, in which ontological questions have been vigorously expelled from cultural consideration, replaced by questions of mere mechanistic force; for us, nature is now something “enframed” and defined by a particular disposition of the will, the drive toward dominion that reduces the world to a morally neutral “standing reserve” of resources entirely subject to our manipulation, exploitation, and ambition. Anything that does not fit within the frame of that picture is simply invisible to us. When the world is seen this way, even organic life–even where consciousness is present–must come to be regarded as just another kind of technology. This vision of things can accommodate the prospect of large areas of ignorance yet to be vanquished (every empire longs to discover new worlds to conquer), but no realm of ultimate mystery. Late modernity is thus a condition of willful spiritual deafness. Enframed, racked, reduced to machinery, nature cannot speak unless spoken to, and then her answers must be only yes, no, or obedient silence. She cannot address us in her own voice. And we certainly cannot hear whatever voice might attempt to speak to us through her” (David Bentley Hart, The Experience of God, pp. 311-312).

Francis Bacon

“Franicis Bacon (1561-1626) followed Machiavelli’s idea of conquering and controlling nature “for the relief of man’s estate.” He had a plan for the total reorganization and development of human knowledge. His chief concern was with the method for acquiring knowledge and for using it to increase human dignity and greatness, which he presented in The Great Insatauration (first part on Advancement of Learning and second part called Novum Organum) [Insatauration=restoration]. His restoration of mankind to “dominion over the universe” was to be based on “pure and uncorrupted natural knowledge” and not on moral or religious knowledge. The Novum Organum calls the four great impediments to learning (1) the Idols of the Tribe (distortions of sense perception to which all are subject), (2) Idols of the Cave (personal limitations and prejudices of individuals), (3) Idols of the Market Place (i.e. of misleading communications with others on account of the misleadingness of words), (4) Idols of the Theater (i.e. of dogmas, systems, and theories). To advert these he proposed the inductive method of deriving general laws (“simple natures” that are like an “alphabet of nature”) or principles from a number of particular instances (a posteriori). His methodical strategy intended for human beings to obey the laws of nature in order to conquer it (parendo vincere); the end of science is “the invention of principles to command nature in action” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).