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Technological Determinism, Scientific Reasoning, and Leslie White October 1, 2010

Posted by Christopher Donohue in History of the Human Sciences.
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For the French philosopher Jacques Ellul, the sum of technological accomplishments in contemporary civilization formed the “Technique,” which was the “new and specific milieu in which man is required to exist” and which replaced “nature.” This milieu was artificial, autonomous, self-determining, not directed towards any specific end but only established through specific means, and interconnected to such a degree that all of its elements are impervious to analysis by its constituent parts ( In Philosophy and Technology, ed. Carl Mitcham, Robert Mackey, 86.)

Leslie White (1900-1975)

Technology, according to Ellul, had become the all-pervasive material reality and rationality which defined the superstructure of contemporary society.  Culture or politics, according to Ellul, does not determine the growth and development of technology.  Rather, it is technology or technique which determines the culture or political life of a society.  Nor was the understanding of technology as autonomous rationality a concern of French philosophers.  German philosophers were as concerned with interaction of technology and human freedom and were as anxious to establish its roots in the philosophic and scientific thinking of the West.