For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry

by Borgmann, Albert (1987)


Blending social analysis and philosophy, Albert Borgmann maintains that technology creates a controlling pattern in our lives. This pattern, discernible even in such an inconspicuous action as switching on a stereo, has global effects: it sharply divides life into labor and leisure, it sustains the industrial democracies, and it fosters the view that the earth itself is a technological device. He argues that technology has served us as well in conquering hunger and disease, but that when we turn to it for richer experiences, it leads instead to a life dominated by effortless and thoughtless consumption. Borgmann does not reject technology but calls for public conversation about the nature of the good life. He counsels us to make room in a technological age for matters of ultimate concern—things and practices that engage us in their own right.

Key Passage

When Heidegger described the focusing power of the jug, he might have been thinking of a  rural setting where wine jugs embody in their material, form, and craft a long and local tradition; where at noon one goes down to the cellar to draw a jug of table wine whose vintage one knows well; where at the noon meal the wine is thoughtfully poured and gratefully received. Under such circumstances, there might be a gathering and disclosure of the fourfold, one that is for the most part understood and in the background and may come to the fore on festive occasions. But all of this seems as remote to most of us and as muted in its focusing power as the Parthenon or the Cathedral of Chartres. How can so simple a  thing as a jug provide that turning point in our relation to technology to which Heidegger is looking forward? Heidegger's proposal for a reform of technology is even more programmatic and terse than his analysis of technology. Both, however, are capable of fruitful development. (p.199)


Heidegger, Technology, Globalisation, Good Life, Contemporary Life


Technology, On Heidegger

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