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Nature and Technology - Essay Example

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Nature and Technology

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. In addition to technological objects, this slice includes the actions that generate, use, or result from technology, the knowledge and skills technology requires and engenders, and, it should be added, the complexes of these matters that are given such designations as computer networks, assembly line manufacturing, medical practices, and scientific investigation. Nature, by contrast, is not, on the standard view, part of human history. Hence, it has no history. Or rather, any conception of nature as a historical entity or realm-such as those of Whitehead, Alexander, and contemporary biological evolutionary theory-works with an expanded notion of history that does not attribute to generic history any particular connection to humans and human history (for example, history as events in time, as development, or as contingency). On these wider conceptions, the history of nature simply is, or pertains to, the temporal course or development of nature. There is no history of nature as something peculiarly related to humans and their history. At best, nature and its history form a backdrop against which (human) history takes place.
A variety of developments has begun to chip away at the hegemony of this general conception of (human) history. Most centrally, its subversion is part of the general reconsideration currently underway of the relationship between society and nature. It has become tenuous, theoretically, to construe this relationship either reductionistically or oppositionally. This development, in turn, challenges the opposition between history and nature that is a facet of the venerable concept of history and that parallels, and maybe depends on, the society-nature opposition. (Mitcham, 233)
It should be stressed that activity remains crucial to history on this expanded conception of its domain. In the first place, actions, as the moments of practices, are absolutely central to practice-arrangement nexuses. More deeply, one condition of the existence of history qua the development of the social site (or, for that matter, qua the course of activity) is the historicity of the individual lives bound up with it. By the historicity of ...Show more


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…
Author : alan74
Nature and Technology essay example
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