Hand's End: Technology and the Limits of Nature

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Hand's End offers a radical new look at technology as the fundamental way in which we experience and define nature - the tool as humanity extended. Through history, says David Rothenberg, our view of the natural world has changed continually according to the new ways society has invented to use it. Tools extend our presence in the world while reconfiguring nature according to human understanding. As we extend the hand in different ways, we perceive anew whatever we touch. It changes, and so do we. According to ...
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Overview

Hand's End offers a radical new look at technology as the fundamental way in which we experience and define nature - the tool as humanity extended. Through history, says David Rothenberg, our view of the natural world has changed continually according to the new ways society has invented to use it. Tools extend our presence in the world while reconfiguring nature according to human understanding. As we extend the hand in different ways, we perceive anew whatever we touch. It changes, and so do we. According to this subtle and original theory, the natural world cannot be meaningfully opposed to human civilization. Instead, we need to consider how many meanings nature has had in various periods and see it as a changing reflection of our perceived role in the world. This new perspective has profound consequences for both philosophy and ecology, which Rothenberg proceeds to elucidate by examining human inventions from the water wheel to the nuclear bomb and considering the ultimate goal each seems poised to reach. The discussion builds on previous theories of technology, including those of Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Marx, Heidegger, Mumford, and McLuhan. Once we are aware of the limits of technology, Rothenberg argues, we need to temper technical innovation with ideals not generally associated with the development of machinery. We can use technique, not to oppose and master the natural world but to make it our home. This work is certain to provoke wide discussion among philosophers and cultural historians, as well as environmentalists, architects, engineers, futurists, planners, and all those concerned with how technology can find a place within the very nature it threatens to destroy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520080546
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1993
  • Pages: 276

Meet the Author


David Rothenberg is Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in Science, Technology, and Society at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. His latest book, Wild Ideas, was published in 1995.
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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Preface: Latent Language
1 Unexpected Guile
Knowing through Making 1
Stir and Thrill 9
The Circle of Intent and Result 14
The Intention Moves 19
Relocating Infinity? 24
2 Extension's Order 28
Extensions of Action 31
Extensions of Thought 34
The Test 43
The Humanity Which Remains 46
3 Nature as Context 54
Aristotle Swims in Nature's River 56
Spinoza Sees End in Beginning 59
Bacon Turns Nature to Resource 66
Marx in So Many Mirrors 73
Heidegger Frames the Earth's Picture 79
The Myth and the Message 86
Artifice Diverts Nature in Time 105
4 Nature Is Made 108
Hands on the Lathe of Heaven 111
To Tear the Day to Shreds 115
Engines, Fuel for the Mind 122
The Machine Stops 128
Intricacy Looks at Silence 133
Viewing the Virtual 152
5 Before the End 162
Tools Unlovely to See 165
Reticent Destroyers 169
Between Utopia and Oblivion 175
Unwanted Heat 180
The Safety of Distance 186
6 Home and the World 192
The Tunnel under the Waterfall 194
Released to the Earth 195
The Pull of Opposites 199
Slicing the Strawberry 207
Blindness and Insight 210
Expression in Constraint 216
Humanity Extended 219
Notes 229
Bibliography 241
Index 253
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