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Proceedings of the XXII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 48, 2008

Philosophy of Technology

Vladimir Davchev
Pages 5-23

Technological Civilization
Civilization of Existential Absurdity

One of the 20th century's most popular non-realistic genre is absurd. The root "absurd," connotes something that does not follow the roots of logic. Existence is fragmented, pointless. There is no truth so the search for truth is abandoned in Absurdist works. Language is reduced to a bantering game where words obfuscate rather elucidate the truth. Action moves outside of the realm of causality to chaos. Absurdists minimalize the sense of place. Characters are forced to move in an incomprehensible, void-like realm. Danish philosopher Sїren Kierkegaard was the first to use the term "absurd" in its modern context. His application of the term related it to, what he considered, the incomprehensibility and unjustifiability of Christianity. Existentialist philosophers such as the Frenchman, Jean-Paul Sartre and the German, Martin Heidegger propagated use of the terms in their work. In the philosophical world of the novel, Albert Camus employed absurdism to portray the difference between man's intent and the resultant chaos he encounters. In modern civilization man is posited as the subject of knowledge in science and technology, animating the utopian projects of industrial civilization, and culminating in great urban conglomerates, as in the sealed universe of commodities which constitutes the omnipresent mall. Technique, defined as the ensemble of means, is the driving force of social development, more important than the ends it is supposed to serve. Unfortunately, technique became an end in itself and the society is organized around it. Of course, we are all aware that we need a certain changes to subdue technique, but I think it is now too late to change the course of technique. However, technique is frequently pictured as the only hope for a better future and the only means of making the world more humane. And that is the sort of statement that French philosopher Jacques Ellul calls the technological bluff. Technology is a discourse on techniques: therefore, the bluff lies not in the failure of techniques as such but in presenting them in a falsely optimistic light. The author formulated in 1954 two laws of technical progress: first, it is irreversible: second, it advances by a geometric progression. Thus, a computer revolution changes nothing in the nature of technical progress, although products are new. This progress is hampered not by internal mechanisms, but by maladaptation of the social body to it, since society is rooted in the past and constantly refers to it. On the other hand, technique is future oriented and discards as valueless everything that cannot be incorporated into the web of techniques.

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