«Technology and Being: A Discussion of Their Metaphysical Significance Theodore John Rivers Independent, Forest Hills, USA Email: ...»
As far as the world is concerned, it is us who are its makers. The world, which is to be distinguished from nature, exists because we do, that is, the world is the result of our presence. If we like or dislike the world we find ourselves in, it is because people have made it that way. Because the world is expressive of the human condition that is defined through ontological freedom, it presents itself as a fact, and it is this fact that is the cause of the world’s reality. The latter is merely a reflection of what we do with being. The present reflects the facts that are grounded in being, and from which reality is made evident. Therefore, reality mimics the facticity of the world that ontological freedom creates, and that in turn enables freedom to be exercised in making the world. Ontological freedom that is connected to the relativity of change will still exist regardless of the conditions of the world, and when the world changes, the exercise of freedom changes with it.
Within the context of ontological freedom that has given reality to the world, technology‘s applications may be equated with many conditions, which include circumstance, production, innovation, ingenuity, and progress, any one of which is indicative of technology’s manifestation of being, but the primary importance of technology is its ability to change the world, which assumes that changes are for the better. Because being is shaped and modified by the world, the engagement of technology is always concerned with doing, but the doing of anything is secondary to the primary status of being, which means that for anything to be, it must be involved with doing.
In regard to technology, its being is dependent on the development or fulfillment of its becoming. Technology is not fixed by time, but uses time to change. It has come into existence because it is not set by time, which enables technology to be projected into the future. Since we have aligned our being with technology, we can say that any action undertaken by means of technology is essentially our desire to be.
5. Technology and the Becoming of Being The becoming of being deals with more than a concern about desire. It deals with the conditions that repeatedly manifest themselves from the presence of being itself. Etymologically, the verb to become means to be made, to
spring forth, to come into existence, or to come to be, and it acquires a special significance when referring to humans. We may speak about other beings becoming, such as butterflies pupating or seeds germinating, but they lack an awareness that makes existence pertinent, conditions that are perceptive to being in general, either by way of a sensitivity to change, or by means of a consciousness of a transformation. Although other beings mature because they grow older, or continue because they propagate, or adapt because they evolve, in what sense do they become? In what sense do these other beings manifest a coming into being in relationship to being itself?
It is with an understanding of being engaged with life’s conditions that there is becoming. If being as being is static, then the becoming of being is dynamic. If the becoming of being transforms itself into being, then it must give itself to it. Therefore, it is with being as an end in itself that becoming has meaning. And the nature of becoming is evident through the modification of ourselves that is reflective of our efforts, laid out from beginning to end by means of our doing. Action is the means by which being is revealed, since our doing of anything, as we mentioned above, is essentially our desire to be.
If we were to disregard the fundamental ideas of metaphysics as established by the ancient Greeks, we could devise a new (although some might say an inaccurate) interpretation of being. If we accept the ideas of the Greeks that being’s permanence can only be associated with some type of first cause that is unchanging, immutable, and eternal, then change must be associated with an inferior type of being. If the permanence of being is considered to be its only perception, then all other perceptions must be denied as true. Such an interpretation ignores the place of becoming within being itself. If we affirm the necessity of humanity for the creation of the world, then we must support the importance of becoming. And it is with becoming that desires are projected.
But becoming must not be confused with technology’s being or the being of technical objects. It is true to conclude that humanity’s becoming is the way in which humans express themselves, but it is not true to conclude that technology and technical objects have their own becoming innate to themselves. Humans become, but technology and technical objects do not. When technology and technical objects change because of human effort, either because they have been improved or replaced, it is humanity that is the agency of change. Although technology is the object, humanity is the subject6.
Regardless how we define desire, we should all agree that a desire concerns an action or feeling, whether or not it is rational. Although there may be no good reason to act if there is no desire, a desire is the result of a person’s whole being, not a mental state that produces action or is intended to produce it. There might be other causes for actions in addition to desire, but we are not concerned about desires that are pursued exclusively for themselves. If a desire is wanted for itself, then it becomes an end in itself; but if it is wanted for what it can do, then it becomes the means to an end. And technology, at least in its modern version, emphasizes means over ends.
In general, to desire anything is a wish to acquire what we do not have. Consequently, we may say that desire is noted for its lack of being. Because it is the desire to make all manner of things through our effort, it is our choices, decisions, and applications of technology that make anything evident. Whether planned theoretically or enacted practically, technology always demonstrates a relationship with the world. The desire to apply and facilitate technology reveals the type of world we expect to have, but technology’s presence is far more extensive than we might assume because its use by methodical or material means has influenced all our options. It has become the principal means by which we create, manipulate, and change the world.
6. Conclusion It is well known that we have sublimated our being to technology. In fact, it is not so much that technology is equated with our being, but the reverse: our being is equated with technology. Regardless of how we interpret being, it is apparent that we have submitted to an artificiality of our own making. Whenever and however we express our being, we do so by means of technology. This conclusion is obvious, especially when we consider Although our being potentially contains within itself whoever we will become, it is a misunderstanding to extend this ability to technical objects. Therefore, it is inaccurate to conclude that technical objects in any way are involved in their own becoming, which is a conclusion of Simondon, 1958: p. 20 (“L’objet technique est ce qui n’est pas antérieur à son devenir, mais présent à chaque étape de ce devenir”), which he later (pp. 155-156) attributes not to the actualization of virtual realities, but to the potentialities of the system from which technology springs forth. To which we should add that if humans are not the creators of technology, how could technical objects, which are human creations, be the creators of themselves? Simondon’s conclusion is parallel to Heidegger’s interpretation of “ready-to-hand” (zuhanden in German), which confuses the usefulness of a thing (an object) with its presence, that is, whatever a thing is said to be “ready-to-hand” is simply a description for a thing existing so that it may be ready to be used. Contrary to Heidegger, “ready-to-hand” must follow, not precede being. See Harman, 2002: pp. 180-189.
T. J. Rivers
that technology is essential to human survival, but human reality would not exist without technology. Like ontological freedom, technology is in a paradoxical relationship with being. It is dependent on being in order to be brought into the world, and is even a manifestation of it, but it is not essential to being’s maintenance. Technology is a result of being, but it is not a quality, attribute, or property of it. Although it is the result of being’s application, it does not originate within being itself. We may extend this interpretation to humanity because the latter is characterized by uncertainty, indecision, unpredictability, even ignorance, to say nothing of mistrust and disbelief.
We should also note the relationship between knowledge and/or action and being. Simply stated, in order to know or do anything, we first have to be. And the being we can become will always surpass what we can know or do. Our being is an indication of who we have become, but since we are continually engaged in the act of becoming, we are incomplete until we have finished the process, that is, until we have achieved an essence, which may be defined as the ground to existence (Avicenna), or simply the totality of an individual existence (Sartre).
Although becoming is a process to which being is subject, it is now through technology that we are involved in this process. The result is an artificiality that dominates humanity, an artificiality that does more than struggle with nature. It is an artificiality that struggles with itself.
Fundamentally, in order for our being to be and in order for us to modify our natural tendencies, even those that create and innovate technology, we have to will the being we wish to be. Like any other desire, technology is indicative of this will. And what is any will in the first place if it does not describe a desire to be? We can answer this question by saying that the will as the driving force of a person must will itself in order to be. The will to be is really the will’s ability to will itself, which is similar to Nietzsche’s will to power in which the will’s ability to have more will is the means that intensifies being. Technology has become the means to the will to power. Whether or not this will makes technology good or evil, whether or not it has beneficial or harmful consequences, whether or not it is applied carefully or recklessly does not displace the importance of technology within the realm of being. The world as we know it has been transformed. Whether we like it or not, the metaphysical significance of being is now revealed through technology.
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