«Technology and Being: A Discussion of Their Metaphysical Significance Theodore John Rivers Independent, Forest Hills, USA Email: ...»
mode initially is not dependent on anything, it is also not dependent on being, but is the result in which being is presented. Mode is not dependent on any preexisting condition thereof, whether technology or otherwise. Because it is a means of doing something, mode is both an effect of action, as well as a cause of other actions yet to occur. Mode is the manner how we create and change the world. It is the medium through which everything we do comes into being, including the being of technology. As we said above, mode is not predicated on anything, and because the means of doing anything concerns the performance of activities, in a sense a mode is a type of method.
Since method is a framework by which tasks may be completed, it is essentially concerned with improving those conditions that already exist. Although it usually concerns the same or similar manner of actions, which are derived from past actions, it may also relate to future ones. A method is dependent on human choices, and it demonstrates an engagement with the world that is conditioned by the choices already made that may also be projected into the future. Technology’s mode is progressive, which indicates that there can be an addition or a design of some type that will push technology in a new direction. Technology’s progressiveness infers that there will be improvements or advancements in the future when compared with the past. Even if this idea is not true in every case, it implies that the world will get better because of the use of technology. Despite its consequences, modernity is linked to the idea of progress that has been intensified with a perspective that is forwardly directed, historically related to Western civilization’s innate progressiveness that developed during the European Middle Ages and is ubiquitous in the modern world (Benz, 1966: pp. 123-127).
As a mode of being, technology conveys an underlying mechanism to its presence, even if that presence is as simple as flaking stones in order to make stone tools, or smelting ore in order to make metal. The mechanism of technology’s being is defined as soon as we act, which in turn leads to other applications that help to define future possibilities. In a sense, technology’s mode signifies more than a simple form for the performance of tasks;
it has become the embodiment of its entire bearing on the world, revealed in its being by means of the totality of energy, conception, and fulfillment of human creativity. At this point, we are not referring to the consequences of technology that we have mentioned elsewhere, but to the influence of technology in general.
If we understand mode as a way in which we express ourselves, then it lies at the foundation of human existence, making it similar in meaning to the description of human nature that allegedly concerns the essential aspects of human reality. Tied to our personality and linked to our humanity, technology as a mode of being is the way in which we present our being in the world. Because technology is essential to everything we do, we cannot be separated from its manifestations that show how we express ourselves in the world. Technology has become the dominant way in which we reveal being. Whether or not we reflect why we use technology as the means of doing anything, that is, as a mode of being, may be questionable, but we should be aware that when technology’s presence increases so does its influence. Any increase in the application of technology may or may not be for the better, but that is not the point. Rather, the point is technology’s continuous presence that has an influence on all our options.
4. Technology as a Manifestation of Being Technology is also a manifestation of being, and a manifestation is indicative of the presence of something. It is proof of the reality that something exists. The image seen by means of a television, the sound of a radio, and the communicative link between people by a phone, all reveal that televisions, radios, and phones demonstrate the reality of their technologies. Manifestation is the revelation of the facticity of an existent. Since technology is essential to everything we do, a simple look at the world around us will demonstrate its truth: in order to clean our teeth, we use the technology of toothbrushes and toothpaste; in order to store human knowledge, we use the technology of printed books and computerized memory; in order to travel far and near, we use the technology of automobiles, trains, ships, and airplanes. And the list of other activities in which technology enables us to act is nearly endless.
Neither the result of compulsion mandated by being, as proposed by Heidegger, nor by determinism presumably aligned to some transcendental realm, as proposed by Dessauer, technology is the result of free choice (Heidegger, 1977: pp. 11-16 and 25-33; Dessauer, 1933: pp. 50-66)4. The manifestation of this revelation is This conclusion that technology is the result of free choice is similar, in part, to Ellul’s understanding that technology is autonomous, at least in regard to values, but differs when he concludes that technology is self-determining, that its closed organization “permits it to be self-determinative independently of all human intervention” (Ellul, 1963: pp. 10-11).
T. J. Rivers
overwhelmingly apparent because the being of technology is brought into the world as a consequence of our own being. Because manifestation is proof of being, the manifestation of technology is the predominant means by which we relate to everything. Using an old term of metaphysics, technology may be perceived to be a new type of universality because it encompasses everything and embodies an inherent inclusiveness. Since manifestation concerns the unfolding of human reality, it discloses an openness to ourselves. A manifestation is an exposition of the workings of human ingenuity. Even in prehistory, the magnitude of technology’s influence was evident, but this influence has intensified greatly, both in technology and in its organization, since the industrial revolution (Pollard, 1981: pp. 85-87 and 142-148; Stearns, 1993: pp. 5-7 and 11).
From simple tools to sophisticated machinery, from agriculture to artificial intelligence, from metallurgy to nanotechnology, from everyday living to space exploration, technology dominates the world, but we should remember that this domination is the result of what we choose. Although it may be inaccurate to describe domination as deterministic, nevertheless, after the fact, it may seem to be true, or at least that is Heidegger’s conclusion referred to above. But the bases of all technologies are human beings who introduce into the world new and different phenomena that did not exist before.
Although the Greeks encouraged the study of being, they did not live in a culture that was predominantly technological. They gave themselves the opportunity to think about the nature of being and its relationship with the world because they were removed from what is now the ubiquity of technology. Nevertheless, an analysis of technology should point the way to its metaphysical foundation. It should demonstrate that in addition to the use of technology for human survival, it has become the main vehicle in which humanity acts and reacts with the world. Technology has become more than a formative way for our being in the world; it has been equated with the very expression of being itself, from the neurobiological analysis of our bodies to the astronomical analysis of the stars. We may conclude, therefore, that the being of humans and the being of the world are in a reciprocal relationship. This reciprocity indicates that the world, that is, the social context applicable within a cultural structure, is a creation of human ingenuity. The social context is natural because it is biologically derived, but the cultural structure is technological because it is superimposed upon it. This conclusion would infer that human society is a technological manifestation5.
If humans were not free to choose, not free to act, not free to bring change into the world, then technology would not exist. Not only is technology created by us, it is also intensified by its applications. What lies at the foundation to humanity and technology’s presence is ontological freedom, that is, both are based on an openness to being that is the wellspring from which everything we do originates. Freedom brings possibilities into actuality. In addition to natural conditions that influence the earth’s climate and weather, it is human activity that defines the world, as we know it. Notwithstanding, ontological freedom is both conditional and unconditional, that is, freedom is limited by the situations of the world that make it conditional, but because we cannot cease to be free, it is unconditional. Therefore, freedom is a paradox. It is within this paradox where all human creativity originates, of which technology is a major expression.
The essential characteristics of technology include its relationship to rationality, its demonstration of a process, and its embodiment of a method, all of which help to align technology with knowledge that in turn is used to create and change the world. For example, rationality allows us to confront the world as we interact with it. Its intended purpose is directed toward clearly defined goals that are derived from an openness to being. Above all, rationality allows us to make the best possible choice from a variety of choices. The idea that rationality is tied to ontological freedom is obvious, but before rationality can exist, freedom must preexist (Searle, 2001: pp.
22-24). Rationality, even technological rationality, is aligned to acting in certain ways that are thought to lead to purposeful activity. However, technology is more than applied knowledge or the practical applications of science. As described above, technology is the means in which humanity utilizes various types of phenomena (natural and artificial) to achieve some purpose.
Likewise, technology manifests a process in which one application leads to another. The accumulated effects If society is a description of a mutually shared association between individuals, this description does not explain either the notion of unity associated with these individuals or the result of cooperation evident in society. There must be some other mechanism in addition to social factors from which society originates. And it is the difficulty of identifying this mechanism that has led to many theories about the origin of society. More than biology, some type of interlocking association seems to define it. Regardless how we describe this association, society seems to reveal a technological affiliation. Therefore, the question remains that if society is a type of technology, it must be so by means of a practice, procedure, custom, or method, any one of which is originally the result of free choice. These ideas are merely preparatory to all types of social theories, from Comte to Martineau, from Weber to Durkheim, from Simmel to Parsons, and beyond. Reference should also be made to Ogburn, 1964: pp. 24-27.
T. J. Rivers
of technological innovations constitute a process that lends itself to knowing how to improve what is at hand by applying today’s innovations to tomorrow’s adaptations. Although process begins with inventions, it is innovations, not inventions, which extend the initial burst of creative inventive energy beyond their original intent.
Technology and the knowledge associated with it indicate an involvement of doing, that is, an engagement indicative of its presence.
As discussed above, technology embodies a method that is used for the fulfillment of its tasks. Its method is not only a characteristic of technology, but it is also the result of the combined effects of its other characteristics.
It serves as an artifice, and because a method is intended to improve the applications that already exist, it is indispensable to the underlying knowledge utilized by these applications. Nevertheless, technology does not innately possess only one method expressive of its being, but several. These methods allow technology to be introduced, and when applied, they facilitate the realization of possibilities.
All of these characteristics help us to understand the metaphysical background of technology. Since being lies at the foundation of what a thing is, it is the focal point of any metaphysical analysis that is related to its phenomena. Although phenomena are helpful in understanding the nature of being, they are auxiliary to being’s underlying presence. Technology is a bringing forth into being, but its bringing forth is an artificiality. This is to say that although technology is not ontologically essential, it is nonetheless the way in which we apply our being.
It does not originate in being, but from being’s application in the world. Since the mode of anything is aligned with its presence, mode as the nature of a thing projects what that thing is. When expressing this idea technologically, we can say that technology’s mode is evident in its manifestation, that is, its nature indicates its presence that is revealed through its applications.
Like ontological freedom, technology is paradoxical in relationship to being. In fact, anything that is described as ontological must in some way be indispensable to or be derived from being, but technology’s being must originate somewhere else. Although technology is conditioned by the same designation of presence, in which its products, or procedures, or organizations come into the world, it is not a condition of being. This is to say that although technology is dependent on being, it is not an attribute of it. As already discussed, technology is not the result of compulsion mandated by being (as introduced by Heidegger), nor by determinism aligned to some transcendental realm (as introduced by Dessauer), but the result of free expression. If we were compelled, we would not be responsible for anything we do. The same objection also pertains to determinism derived from some transcendental realm.