Society, nature and the concept of technology
DOI link for Society, nature and the concept of technology
Society, nature and the concept of technology book
For many centuries, Western thought has been dominated by the idea that the mission of mankind is to achieve mastery over nature. The world of nature is commonly characterised by its opposition to the essential condition of humanity, whose purest expression is taken to be civil society. My starting point in this chapter is the observation that the meaning of ‘technology’, as currently understood in the West, is ﬁrmly ﬁxed within this polarity of society and nature. It is important to recognise from the outset, however, that terms such as society, nature and technology are far from mere labels, in themselves harbouring no moral, political or evaluative commitment. Of the concept of society, it has been observed that to use it is not to denote a thing but to make a claim (Wolf 1988: 757). Similarly, if we want to know what words like nature and technology mean, then rather than seeking some delimited set of phenomena in the world – as though one could point to them and say ‘There, that’s nature!’ or ‘that’s technology!’ – we should be trying to discover what sorts of claims are being made with these words, and whether they are justiﬁed. In the history of modern thought these claims have been concerned, above all, with the ultimate supremacy of human reason. Thus society is considered to be the mode of association of rational beings, nature the external world of things as it appears to the reasoning subject, and technology the means by which a rational understanding of that external world is turned to account for the beneﬁt of society.