Ellul, J.: "On the Aims of a Philosophy of Technology"

Ellul, J. (2003). On the Aims of a Philosophy of Technology. In R. Scharff & V. Dusek (Eds.), Philosophy of technology (pp. 182-186). Malden,  MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Author's Preface to the French Edition of The Technological Society [1954]

What author is not doing:

  • not describing various techniques which make up technological society
  • not a +/- balance sheet of what has been accomplished by means of techniques/ compare advantages or disadvantages
  • not making ethical or aesthetic judgments on technique

Author's goal: "to present, by means of a comprehensive analysis, a concrete ad fundemental interpretation of technique" (182).

Note to the Reader [1963]

attempts definition of technique: "the totality of methods rationally arrived at and having absolute efficiency (for a given stage of development) in every field of human activity" (182).

"Technique is not an isolated fact in society (as the term technology would lead us to believe) but is related to every factor in the life of modern man; it affects social facts as well as all others" (183).

Author's Foreword to the Revised American Edition [1964]

Defends against charges of pessimism.

"rigorous determinism"--seems no effective individual action: argues from sociological standpoint, individual does not here and now exert influence. Simply describing technique as a sociological reality. Technological civilization conditions (determines?) us.

"fatalism"? claims stating a "probable evolution" (184). Factors could change, e.g., general war eradicating society, collectivie uprising against tech world, divine intervention (184).

Stresses that in a sociological analysis, however, does not consider these possibilities-- forecast of sorts.

Does not provide solutions. Argues that in present situation not a beginning of a solution, it may be even dishonest to suggest. Does not make a judgment, rather, job is to set stage.

Does not perceive freedom as "immutable fact graven in nature and on the heart of man" (185). Freedom is to him dynamic, without meaning unless related to necessity.

"In the modern world, the most dangerous form of determinism is the technological phenomenon. It is not a question of getting rid of it, but, by an act of freedom, of transcending it" (186).

"At the beginning fo this foreward I stated that this book has a purpose. That purpose is to arouse the reader to an awareness of technological necessity and what it means. It is a call to the sleeper to awake" (186).