HEIDEGGER: Everything functions. That is exactly what is uncanny. Everything functions and the functioning drives us further and further to more functioning, and technology tears people away and uproots them from the earth more and more. I don’t know if you are scared; I was certainly scared when I recently saw the photographs of the earth taken from the moon. We don’t need an atom bomb at all; the uprooting of human beings is already taking place. We only have purely technological conditions left. It is no longer an earth on which human beings live today. I recently had a long conversation with René Char in Provence – as you know, the poet and Resistance fighter. Rocket bases are being built in Provence, and the country is being devastated in an incredible way. The poet, who certainly cannot be suspected of sentimentality or a glorification of the idyllic, said to me that the uprooting of human beings which is going on now is the end if thinking and poetry do not acquire nonviolent power once again.
SPIEGEL: Now, we must say that although we prefer to be here on earth, and we probably will not have to leave it during our life-time, who knows whether it is human beings’ destiny to be on this earth? It is conceivable that human beings have no destiny at all. But at any rate a possibility for human beings could be seen in that they reach out from this earth to other planets. It will certainly not happen for a long time. But where is it written that human beings’ place is here?
HEIDEGGER: From our human experience and history, at least as far as I am informed, I know that everything essential and great has only emerged when human beings had a home and were rooted in a tradition. Today’s literature is, for instance, largely destructive.
SPIEGEL: We are bothered by the word destructive here because the word nihilistic received a very broad context of meaning precisely through you and your philosophy. It astonishes us to hear the word destructive in connection with literature you could or ought to see as a part of this nihilism.
HEIDEGGER: I would like to say that the literature I meant is not nihilistic in the way that I defined nihilism.
SPIEGEL: You apparently see, so you have expressed it, a world movement that either brings about or has already brought about the absolute technological state?
HEIDEGGER: Yes! But it is precisely the technological state that least corresponds to the world and society determined by the essence of technology. The technological state would be the most obsequious and blind servant in the face of the power of technology.
SPIEGEL: Fine. But now the question of course poses itself: Can the individual still influence this network of inevitabilities at all, or can philosophy influence it, or can they both influence it together in that philosophy leads one individual or several individuals to a certain action?
HEIDEGGER: Those questions bring us back to the beginning of our conversation. If I may answer quickly and perhaps somewhat vehemently, but from long reflection: Philosophy will not be able to bring about a direct change of the present state of the world. This is true not only of philosophy but of all merely human meditations and endeavors. Only a god can still save us. I think the only possibility of salvation left to us is to prepare readiness, through thinking and poetry, for the appearance of the god or for the absence of the god during the decline; so that we do not, simply put, die meaningless deaths, but that when we decline, we decline in the face of the absent god.