thinking is dangerous

Arendt VI


The channeling of natural forces into the human world has shattered the very purposefulness of the world, the fact that objects are the ends for which tools and implements are designed. It is characteristic of all natural processes that they come into being without the help of man, and those things are natural which are not "made" but grow by themselves into whatever they become. (This is also the authentic meaning of our word "nature", whether we derive it from its latin root nasci, to be born, or trace it back to its Greek origin, physis, which comes from phyein, to grow out of, to appear by itself.) Unlike the products of human hands, which must be realized step by step and for which the fabrication process is entirely distinct from the existence of the fabricated thing itself, the natural thing's existence is not separate but is somehow identical with the process through which it comes into being: the seed contains, and, in a certain sense, already is the tree, and the tree stops being if the process of growth through which it came into existence stops. If we see these processes against the background of human purposes, which have a willed beginning and a definite end, they assume the character of automatism. We call automatic all courses of movement which are self-moving and therefore outside the range of wilful and purposeful interference. In the mode of production ushered in by automation, the distinction between operation and product, as well as the product's precedence over the operation (which is only the means to produce the end), no longer make sense and have become obsolete. The categories of homo faber and his world apply here no more than they ever could apply to nature and the natural universe. This is, incidentally, why modern advocates of automation usually take a very determined stand against the mechanistic view of nature and against the practical utilitarianism of the eighteenth century, which were so eminently characteristic of the one-sided, single minded work orientation of homo faber.
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