Heidegger challenge to us is to think efficient causality as being derived from a more primary sense of cause considered as final cause,min which the effects of cause are considered internal to cause itself. A proper understanding of causality will go on to give us access to the truth of technology.
He does this through an almost Hegelian argument, but first let us examine his example of the silver chalice:
For centuries philosophy has taught that there are four causes: (1) the causa materialis, the material, the matter out of which, for example, a silver chalice is made; (2) the causa formalis, the form, the shape into which the material enters; (3) the causa finalis, the end, for example, the sacrificial rite in relation to which the chalice required is determined as to its form and matter; (4) the causa efficiens, which brings about the effect that is the finished, actual chalice, in this instance, the silversmith.
Technology, as we moderns understand it, is caused by our implicit understanding of these four types of causality. He goes on to argue that underneath this implicit understanding, conceals a real cause of our understanding of causality, and thus, of technology. He makes an almost Hegelian argument, in that one of the species terms, one of the four categories of technology, actually comes to define the genus. If you do not go prying into the cause of our understanding of cause, the essence of technology will remain elusive.
The species term that he identifies as constituting the genus of our understanding of causality, is causa efficiens. This species term come genus, was given a sense of meaning that did not even belong to the greek sense of causality. Those who came after the greeks instead added this foreign non-greek sense to the understanding of cause. We moderns doubled down on this error, by making this foreign sense an essential term that comes to define causality, and as such, becomes implicit in our understanding of technology.
This foreign sense of cause, as we moderns understand it, is a Roman understanding of responsibility. Instead of an understanding of cause as an action of ‘effecting’, we come to understand cause as the delegation of responsibility. A cause is what is responsible for a given effect.
The chalice, give thanks to silver (the material that it is made from) and the form (the shape of the material), the chalice also gives thanks to the social context (the final end), however, we moderns do not hear this particular thanks. Instead we moderns fold this co-responsibility into the sense of the silversmith as efficient cause, as being solely responsible for the chalice. We moderns are in debt to material, formal, and final cause.
The efficient cause of the greeks is the site of appearance of the chalice, the becoming of the chalice, the event of chalice, with the co-responsibility of the three other causes. Heidegger asks what gives the ‘responsible play’ of co-responsibility? Again, in an almost Hegelian way, he suggests that one of the four causes becomes the genus, that which ensures that the play remains measured in order to avoid indebtedness. He elevates causa finalis to the rank of genus:
The principle characteristic of being responsible is this starting something on its way into arrival that being responsible is an occasioning or an inducing to go forward.
We have a shitty irresponsible modern sense of causality, that folds co-responsibility into human responsibility, and we have an open Greek sense of responsibility of cause that let’s itself appear. Heidegger calls this latter sense poiesis, the modern sense is now understood as the mere appearance of the latter sense as poises. If you like, poiesis brings forth the modern sense of cause, and thus of our modern sense of technology.
Heidegger divides poiesis in two, a natural poiesis, and a cultural poiesis. The difference between the two is that in nature, this bringing forth is internal to itself, is in itself, whereas in culture one thing risks not respecting the telos of another thing and imposes an occasioning upon it. Therefore, nature is the species term come genus, which Heidegger marks by anointing it as alethia, the Greek term for truth as revelation.