Nature and Technology

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This essay aims to broaden the concept of human history by reconsidering the roles of nature and technology in it. Behind this reconsideration stands the conviction that recent history and theory have vitiated the traditional construals of nature and technology as outsider and handmaiden, respectively, to history.


This means that historians study human actions, what determines actions, and what actions bring about. What determines action has usually been considered to be mental phenomena such as beliefs, hopes, and desires, whereas what results from human activity has typically been taken to be artifacts and further activity. The focus of history, as a result, has emphatically been human beings. Apart from environmental determinists and historical ecologists or environmentalists of various stripes, nature has largely been ignored.
Technology, moreover, has been almost universally construed as a means for furthering human ends, as artifacts people produce, together with the skills and knowledge these artifacts require and engender, so as to facilitate their lives. According to this way of thinking, technology, unlike nature, is part of history. It is so because it shapes, facilitates, and is brought about by human activity.
Whatever is part of history has a history. On the standard line of thinking, consequently, there is a history of technology but not of nature. The history of technology is simply that slice of the total realm of human activity that is tied to technology. ...
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