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"Technology and Justice" by George Grant

One quote which summarizes the theme of Grant's book: "Take what you want;" said God, "take it, and pay for it." -- Spanish proverb (from preface

0) Three threads of thought or argument: (which play into his final argument on justice)
  • i) "technology" as the very essence of modern civilization, which has come to shape the very way we think and perceive, thus altering our "civilizational destiny";
  • ii) a comparison of our "technological civilization" to that of the Ancients (Greek and Christian chiefly).
  • iii) an analysis of the theoretical sources (cf. Nietzsche, Kant, Bacon) of this novel Age.

I) Grant's "technology": (characteristics)
  • i) Co-penetration of knowing and making.
  • ii) The belief that technology and technical knowledge are the means to universal liberty and equality.
  • iii) The impersonal objectification of nature, the natural world... and now human beings.
  • iv) A disinterest or disdain for forms of knowledge which aren't positivistic and don't contribute to making.
  • v) An exaltation of what is possible over what is given.

II) Grant's Ancient civilization: (mainly Platonic and Christian)
  • i) Knowledge/scientific knowledge separate from techne.
  • ii) An emphasis on embracing Otherness rather than seeking to control it.
  • iii) A de-emphasizatio of personal willfulness in one's relationship to the Other/the Given.

III) The sources of modernity: (cf. Kant, Nietzsche)
  • i) Kant's exaltation of the intellect/reason as the basis of morality and society.
  • ii) Nietzsche's dismissal of the noumenal order and embrace of the irrational will standing before the Abyss.
  • iii) Contractualism.
  • iv) Skepticism without trust.

Lack of trust (Descartes) --> technical science used to control and unravel nature (Bacon) --> technical results --> triumphalism --> Kant realizes the inability to "know" the noumenal order --> noumenal order dismissed --> contractualism begins to lose belief in "owing" to a "given" --> Nietzsche overturns rationalism and re-emphasizes the Will-to-Power through the technical fruits.

IV) What then does Grant think technology mean for justice?
  • i) The disbelief in out "owing" anything to a given (or even the very existence of a given order).
  • ii) The call for the dispassionate objectification of research subjects.
  • iii) The drive to radically alter the world and ourselves in search of "quality of life" (Nietzsche).
  • iv) The subjectivization of beauty, the ridicule of love of the Other, and the anthropocentrizing of "Good"...

V) ...Leads to:
  • i) A belief that justice is only the fulfillment of contracts between rational beings.
  • ii) That justice could only be something created by "Man" rather that something intrinsic to the cosmos.
  • iii) That "justice" becomes little more than the exercising of the ubermench's will, through technology, upon a pliable world for the sake of "quality of life".

i) Grant's concern with technology as fate.
ii) Concern with the quest for conquest of "human and non-human nature".
iii) His organizing thought: "Take what you want, said God, take it and pay for it", Spanish proverb (p.9).
iv) Thus, he explored the consequences (or price) of our discovery of this paradigm of knowledge.

*Chapter 1*
I) The word "technology", as opposed to "technique", captures the novelty of the age.
  • i) The co-penetration of knowing and making for the purposes of mastery (p.12).
  • ii) Versus the lack of such a desire in Greek, Chinese, and Sanskrit civilizations (p.13).
  • iii) The expectation that this mastery will bring about a world of free and equal people, without poverty or hunger (p.15)
  • iv) Plato's warning is now a forseeable reality, yet our response is to call upon to technology to fix things (p.15-16).

II) To meet the goals of modern society, and to curb its problems...
  • i) Technology is now called upon to master human nature in both developed and undeveloped countries (p.16).
  • ii) Yet the inclination is always to master others, rather than ourselves (p.16).
  • iii) Psychology and psychiatry are wedded to administration a law-enforcement (p.16-17).
  • iv) Biochemistry, in turn, justified by physics, is recruited by the social sciences.
  • v) ...all the while human betterment is the agreed-upon goal.

III) What is so novel?
  • i) In the eyes of moderns, it is the systematic application of reason for the creation of instruments for our use (p.17-19).
  • ii) A computer scientist: "The computer doesn't impose upon us the ways it should be used." (p.19)
  • iii) ... clearly a statement meant to alleviate public anxiety (p.20).
  • iv) ... but the manufacture of computers requires a certain type of society, inhabited by massive corporations, whose operation itself demands both the devices, and society, to be deployed in a fashion that enables the manufacture of *more* computers (p.21-23).
  • v) ... furthermore, computers are developed from within the new paradigm of knowledge which assumes a particular end in all makings (p.22-23).
  • vi) ... the existence of computers is a byproduct of our 'civilizational destiny' (p.22); those set of presuppositions about the world that are taken for granted.
  • vii) Why is it novel? Because the ease with which classification (pigeonholing) can be done in a sophisticated technological state increases the tempo of the homogenizing process (p.23). The car as an example of a "neutral" yet homogenizing technology.
  • viii) Because the modern argument concerning *justice* merely argues about which ideology will make the best use of technology for the emancipation of human kind (p.26).
  • ix) Because in our love of freedom, we think ourselves "free" from technology, yet are blind to the slavery required to bring it into being (p.27-29).
  • x) Because we have a difficult time condemning as "wrong" or "unjust" any action or technology which has no immediate problems or consequences (p.33). All objections cite "problems", but if we can't think of any...
  • xi) **Because the possible is exalted above what is** (p.34).

*Chapter II, Faith and the Multiversity*

I) The multiversity desires "objective" knowledge of "objects of study", as opposed to (p.35-57):
  • i) Erotic science; the love of the other in its otherness (p.38-40) (Darwin as example, p.63). The former disposition lends itself to self-centeredness, to the belief that our survival depends on our efforts alone, and a solipsistic disposition towards others, even in sexuality.
  • ii) ... this is Plato's mad, self-centered tyrant, who abhors true otherness. "Hell is other people" vs. "Hell is to be one's own" (p.39, 43).
  • iii) "Faith is the experience in which intelligence is enlightened by love" -- Weil (p.38) vs. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

II) Platonic v. Objectivist thought
  • i) While the "objective" reasoner attempts to maintain an emotional distance from the object of study, Plato stressed the need to love the other in order to hope to know it in its otherness, to accept its otherness and not destroy it.
  • ii) The beauty of the other/the given v. detachment from it.
  • iii) Love as a necessity for understanding v. Love as an obstruction to knowledge.

III) The Good and the Beautiful (p.40-41)
  • i) Whereas the Platonic understanding identified the Beautiful with the Good, and vice versa, the word Good has first been stripped (to ethical-good), and then replaced with Value.
  • ii) Beauty, of course, has been subjectivized into a quality bestowed upon an object by the beholder, rather than something intrinsic to the thing itself.

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