Law and Heidegger’s Question Concerning Technology: A Prolegomenon to Future Law Librarianship


Following World War II, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger offered one of the most potent criticisms of technology and modern life. His nightmare is a world whose essence has been reduced to the functional equivalent of “a giant gasoline station, an energy source for modern technology and industry. This relation of man to the world [is] in principle a technical one . . . . [It is] altogether alien to former ages and histories.” For Heidegger, the problem is not technology itself, but the technical mode of thinking that has accompanied it. Such a viewpoint of the world is a useful paradigm to consider humanity’s relationship to law in the current information environment, which is increasingly technical in Heidegger’s sense of the term.

Heidegger’s warning that a technical approach to thinking about the world obscures its true essence is directly applicable to the effects of current (as well as former) information technologies that provide access to law. While technology enhances accessibility and utility of law, technology also obscures law’s fundamental grounding in experience and language, thereby eviscerating its transformative power. The paper explains the nature of Heidegger’s criticisms of technology and modern life and examines the appropriateness of their application to the current information environment, especially in light of Heidegger’s early affiliation with Nazism and his subsequent denunciation of technologicism and “technological thinking.” The paper applies Heidegger’s criticisms to the modern legal information environment with particular reference to application of technology to subjugate the law to the status of an “information resource” devoted to various ends. Finally, the paper considers the implications for law librarianship in the current information environment.


Internet Law | Law and Society | Legal History | Legal Writing and Research

Date of this Version

January 2007