thinking is dangerous

Arendt III

Continued from yesterday.

The decisive difference between tools and machines is perhaps best illustrated by the apparently endless discussion of whether man should be "adjusted" to the machine or the machines should be adjusted to the "nature" of man. We mentioned in the first chapter the chief reason why such a discussion must be sterile: if the human condition consists in man's being a conditioned being for whom everything, given or man-made, immediately becomes a condition of his further existence, then man "adjusted" himself to an environment of machines the moment he designed them. They certainly have become as inalienable a condition of our existence as tools and implements were in all previous ages. The interest of the discussion, from our point of view, therefore, lies rather in the fact that this question of adjustment could arise at all. There never was any doubt about man's being adjusted or needing special adjustment to the tools he used; one might as well have adjusted him to his hands. The case of the machines is entirely different. Unlike the tools of workmanship, which at every given moment in the work process remain the servants of the hand, the machines demand that the laborer serve them, that he adjust the natural rhythm of his body to their mechanical movement. This, certainly, does not imply that men as such adjust to or become the servants of their machines; but it does mean that, as long as the work at the machine lasts, the mechanical process has replaced the rhythm of the human body. Even the most refined tool remains a servant, unable to guide or to replace the hand. Even the most primitve machine guides the body's labor and eventually replaces it altogether.
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