The Question Concerning Technology

The work of the peasant does not challenge the soil of the field. In the sowing of the grain it places the seed in the keeping of the forces of growth and watches over its increase. But meanwhile even the cultivation of the field has come under the grip of another kind of setting-in-order, which sets upon [stellt] nature.14 It sets upon it in the sense of challenging it. Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry. Air is now set upon to yield nitrogen, the earth to yield ore, ore to yield uranium, for example; uranium is set upon to yield atomic energy, which can be released either for destruction or for peaceful use.

This setting-upon that challenges forth the energies of nature is an expediting [Fordern] , and in two ways. It expedites in that it unlocks and exposes. Yet that expediting is always itself directed from the beginning toward furthering something else, i.e., toward driving on to the maximum yield at the minimum expense. The coal that has been hauled out in some mining district has not been supplied in order that it may simply be present somewhere or other. It is stockpiled; that is, it is on call, ready to deliver the sun's warmth that is stored in it. The sun's warmth is challenged forth for heat, which in turn is ordered to deliver steam whose pressure turns the wheels that keep a factory running.

14. The verb stellen (to place or set) has a wide variety of uses. It can mean to put in place, to order, to arrange, to furnish or supply, and, in a military context, to challenge or engage. Here Heidegger sees the connotations of herausfordern (to challenge, to call forth, to demand out hither) as fundamentally determinative of the meaning of stellen, and this remains true throughout his ensuing discussion. The translation of stellen with "to set upon" is intended to carry this meaning. The connotations of setting in place and of supplying that lie within the word stellen remain strongly present in Heidegger's repeated use of the verb hereafter, however, since the "setting-upon" of which it speaks is inherently a setting in place so as to supply. Where these latter meanings come decisively to the fore, stellen has been translated with "to set" or "to set up," or, rarely, with "to supply."

Stellen embraces the meanings of a whole family of verbs : bestellen (to order, command; to set in order), vorstellen (to represent), sicherstellen (to secure), nachstellen (to entrap), verstellen (to block or disguise), herstellen (to produce, to set here), darstellen (to present or exhibit), and so on. In these verbs the various nuances within stellen are reinforced and made specific. All these meanings are gathered together in Heidegger's unique use of the word that is pivotal for him, Ge-stell (Enframing). Cf. pp. 19 ff. See also the opening paragraph of "The Turning," pp. 36-37.