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«Technology and Being: A Discussion of Their Metaphysical Significance Theodore John Rivers Independent, Forest Hills, USA Email: ...»

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Advances in Historical Studies, 2015, 4, 43-50

Published Online March 2015 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/ahs


Technology and Being: A Discussion of

Their Metaphysical Significance

Theodore John Rivers

Independent, Forest Hills, USA

Email: trivers13@verizon.net

Received 7 January 2015; accepted 17 February 2015; published 30 March 2015

Copyright © 2015 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ Abstract This paper discusses the relationship between various metaphysical ideas associated with technology and the concept of being, notably in reference to the becoming of being, which is a description for change. And change influences technology in many ways when expressed through the mode and manifestation of its being. As a mode of being, technology is the means or manner by which we do anything. Consequently, mode is an effect of action as well as a cause for other actions yet to occur. As a manifestation of being, technology becomes the predominant way in which humanity presents itself to the world. Since we have aligned our being with technology, and have even on many occasions sublimated ourselves to it, it may be argued that our relationship with technology is simply a revelation of our desire to be.

Keywords Technology, Metaphysics

1. An Introduction to Metaphysics Apart from the traditional branches of metaphysics associated with theology, cosmology, and psychology, as founded by the ancient Greeks, metaphysics has also been subdivided by the late Scholastics in the sixteenth century and later popularized by Christian Wolff in the eighteenth century into two categories: general and special metaphysics. General metaphysics (or ontology) deals with the broad questions of being (being as being), abstracted as a discipline dealing with properties and principles that presumably support an underlying basis to everything from sub-atomic particles to galaxies. Comparatively, the metaphysics that concerns the world we live in is known as special metaphysics which deals with particular or individual realms of being, usually divided into three topics: God, nature, and humanity, although these topics are not equal. In a general sense, metaphysics is the link between all the areas of philosophy and their applications. Apart from a universal anHow to cite this paper: Rivers, T. J. (2015). Technology and Being: A Discussion of Their Metaphysical Significance. Advances in Historical Studies, 4, 43-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ahs.2015.41005 T. J. Rivers thropocentrism, we may say that the predominant metaphysical topic in the ancient world emphasized nature and how it came into being (cosmology); in the medieval world, God and the relationship with humanity (theology); and in the modern world, humanity and the relationship with nature (psychology). Needless to say, metaphysics has evolved since its inception and has changed because of contributions by later thinkers, an idea we should keep in mind when considering technology.

Although the applications of technology have changed over time, it should be apparent, even on the simplest reflection, that technology not only concerns humanity as its primary agent, but also makes change the vehicle by which this occurs. Yet, applications in themselves do not explain the importance of technology, since technology is more than the practical applications of science, which is a modern, although limited definition. It is the means in which humanity utilizes various types of phenomena (natural and artificial) to achieve some purpose.

(Arthur, 2009: pp. 29 and 50-51). It may be equated with a tool, machine, product, device, procedure, technique, method, organization, or rationale. Because the definition of technology is multifaceted, it may be described as a utilization mechanism. As a result, the more technology exerts a presence in the world, the more it acquires an influence. So much so, everything eventually becomes technologized, which is not an unusual statement at a time that has surrendered itself overwhelmingly to technology. Nevertheless, regardless of any moral implications, evidence must be presented if technology has any importance at all. If it is important, attempts should be made to indicate where this importance originates. And here is the essential question for our analysis: where does the being of technology in all its forms and expressions originate, and how does it relate to the world?

Because metaphysics deals with many concepts that relate to common human experience, it is a subject that has been used and abused since its inception (Pelletier, 1990: pp. 34-35)1. It may be used as a science of reality that corresponds to its original intent, but it may also be used as a worldview that is preparatory to religion. Even the description of being as a fundamental metaphysical term is ambiguous, and has been utilized, but not always defined, by many metaphysicians. Being may be defined as anything that is, which is a description of particular or individual things. Therefore, a being is a description for a distinct or distinguishable entity. All beings that do exist, but might not have existed, are contingent on the uncertainty of existence. A being that exists, but is not contingent on anything for its existence, would be a necessary being, and an example of a necessary being we call God or a god. But being may also be a definition of the underlying basis to anything, that is, being may not only define individual things, but also the essential nature to all things. Therefore, being in a limited sense relates to things that we can experience, but in an unlimited sense relates to the ground for everything that exists.

And herein lies the complexity of metaphysics.

Since being is the main topic of metaphysics, it is applicable as a description to objects, things, or existents that are represented by it2. Although being is the basis for properties or attributes, it is not a property in itself. It is not anything in its being except a presence. Before being came to be, there was no being, and after being is no more, there will be no being. Being that is not yet being or has lost being is described as not-being (or non-being), which is a description of contingency that something may exist or did exist. To state it simply, being—as a description for what is—is another way of describing the presence of something, which in reference to technology concerns its origin, and its relationship to humanity and the world.

2. The Becoming of Being as a Description for Change Metaphysics concerns what we can comprehend, or at the very least, proposes questions about the nature of things that seem to be comprehensible. The ancient topic of universality and particularity (or unity and plurality) so commonly associated with ancient Greek philosophy has been supplemented by topics that deal with the A concept may be defined as a mental representation, an ability, or a sense. Regardless of its definition, a concept lacks the ground of being because it denotes an absence of concrete reality. Its relationship with being is revealed when it moves a being to action. This argument may be offered as a criticism of Plato’s theory of forms in which perfect entities of imperfect earthly copies supposedly reside in an extraterrestrial realm detached from this world. The forms conceptualized by Plato became a basis for both physical bodies of real entities and spiritual entities (so-called immaterial substances). Hence, the argument concerning being as an equivalent of a body and being as a description of something bodiless goes back to Plato and the pre-Socratic philosophers. Whether or not a concept is innate or learned, we should agree that the nature of being that humans can know is limited to entities that are real, material, or present, a distinction that is relevant to the being of technology. In general, see Plato, Parmenides, 129a-135d, and Sophist, 246a-b.

There is a difference of interpretation regarding the definition of objects and things. An object, such as an apple, is a thing, but a thing, such as God, may not be an object. There is a greater difference of interpretation regarding people, since it may be concluded that whatever type of being relates to a person’s situation could be considered to be an object, such as another person, dead and living matter, tools, ideas, mathematics (concepts?), and the effects of imagination. This conclusion is highly suspect, and seems to beg the question, but a supporter of these kinds of objects is Jaspers, 1969: I, p. 47.

T. J. Rivers

transformation of metaphysics since the end of the Middle Ages. More than the distinction between general and special metaphysics that was popularized in the eighteenth century, metaphysics now concerns being’s sublimation to motivations rarely emphasized in the past, motivations that are linked to humanity’s innovative spirit, and especially to new ideas, new challenges, and new dangers associated with modernity, most notably with life characterized by a technological age. The driving force of modernity that centers on humanity’s role in the world has replaced antiquity’s pursuit of nature, and the medieval pursuit of theology. But it is also based on uncertainty about the meaning of being itself.

The coming into being, or becoming, is particularly relevant to metaphysics because it supplements the understanding of being that is. It is thought to be a process by which being may be the result, but traditionally becoming is perceived, from Parmenides to the present, as an inferior type of being because it is associated with change and not with permanence (or changelessness). Because becoming involves an act of engagement that manifests a process of doing, it allows becoming to lie at the threshold of being. Becoming signifies a blossoming into a presence that did not exist before. It signifies not only a coming into being, but also a modification of being that already exists. It is through this modification where technology is pertinent. Any activity by itself may not be an example of becoming, but it may be an example when it is affected by being, which is relevant to technology. Becoming implies imperfection, and imperfection presupposes attempts for improvement, regardless how they are achieved. Technology is built on these elementary ideas, at least initially, although many inventions and numerous innovations appeared without any practical effect, which seems to refute the myth that necessity is the mother of invention3.

Many things may be engaged in becoming if they change, such as flowing rivers, radiant stars, or human history. And history as we all know is defined by change, without which, it would not exist. It is also determined by time, the medium through which all human endeavors are revealed, regardless of how time’s variants may be assessed. Although humanity is analyzed by metaphysics and revealed through history, it is also defined by the world that limits human choices. Because of time, the being of human beings is tied to a perception of the world’s temporality. The question remains whether or not becoming is impacted by the passage of time, that is, whether the past and the future are real designations of time that have an influence on present time and the latter’s relationship to being, rather than time variants signifying no more than arbitrary labels of a space-time continuum (Smart, 1963: pp. 132-142). But despite the interpretation of time’s variants, it is becoming that has made technology important because it is both a cause for the transformation of the world that is evident in numerous ways as well as an effect of everything that follows.

Technology as a cause means that it is the agent by and through which a result is made. Since a cause may be defined as the motivation or purpose for doing something, it is projected into its effect that brings change into the world. Technology is the primary vehicle in which this change occurs. Such a phenomenon leaves a lasting impression of the changes that technology brings, that is, the more technology influences the world, the greater is its presence, and the greater is its presence, the more it influences the world. We make this observation knowing full well that technology is never neutral in its impact. It is either positive or negative depending on its application. And because of the non-neutrality of technology, there are some technologies that are controversial, especially in regard to nuclear technologies, in which positive applications concern nuclear energy whose use would eliminate the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (greenhouse effect), and whose negative applications concern thermonuclear weapons, dirty bombs, and nuclear waste. Both the positive and negative applications of nuclear technologies changed the world and introduced new thresholds for the future. Similarly, any technology may be used reasonably or abused, but only research and experimentation over a long period of time would reveal its long-term consequences. The relationship between technology’s presence and its influence, as discussed above, indicates that technology is both a mode and a manifestation of its being (Rivers, 2013: pp.


3. Technology as a Mode of Being Mode may be defined as a means of doing something, a manner of acting, a way of positing existence, a form or variety of a thing, or a demonstration of the individualization of a being, to name a few of its definitions. Since An invention may be defined as the creation of anything that did not exist before, and in order to have an effect on changing conditions an innovation may be defined as an invention newly applied. Although in many cases, necessity preceded invention, not every invention is the result of necessity. Two inventions that preceded necessity were the wheel and the automobile.

T. J. Rivers

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