Thursday, November 24, 2011

Alienation as the instrumentalisation of the between

Ontological negativity (Herakleitos’ polemos), which in nature has the mediatory function of setting beings apart, is usurped by man with the creation of technology. Tools – “from the slingshot to the megaton bomb” (Adorno), but less dramatically also from the first clothing to houses and fences – allow man to ‘cushion’ himself against the inherent violence of reality and to redirect and channel that violence towards any object of his choosing. Thus the middle (“Mitte” in German) becomes a mere means (“Mittel”). This instrumentalisation of the violent in-between is the basis of man’s mastery over nature. It is also the basis of his alienation. By shielding himself against the ontological violence, man is cut off from the productive happening of the between. He is stunted in his growth towards full self-realization and consciousness, because he lacks the painful but ultimately productive encounter with the other. Thus alienated from the happening of the between, man is alienated from the other. The self starts to see the other not as his ally in the joint transcendence towards the Good but as his enemy tout court, as a threat to his (illusory) self-subsistence, to be eliminated and controled by technological means. The self starts to forget that the violence in-between is to be lived through and overcome in peace. In fact, he adds to the violence through his instrumentalization and redirection of violence towards the other. As long as man is dependent on technology, there will be war.

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