by Hwa Yol Jung

Ours is the epoch when technology has become totalizing, one-dimensional, planetary, and terrifyingly banal and normalizing; an epoch when technologization has become the rampant and sweeping norm of everything we do, think and know, that is, when everything is technocentric or technomorphic. Indeed, our dilemma lies in the fact that man is human because he is technological in the most basic sense of the term. And yet, on the other hand, man’s very physical survival hangs in the balance because of his own artifacts. He has reached the point where technology has the potential of destroying and obliterating himself and the world. In this setting, it is most appropriate to suggest that there should be a philosophy of the technological as an encompassing area of philosophical inquiry. It is clear, moreover, that this new inquiry will become the most important form of critique in this epoch.

In 1972 The Club of Rome issued its first report called The Limits to Growth which focused on the dismal condition of the world as evidenced by accelerating industrialization, rapid population growth, widespread malnutrition, depletion of nonrenewable resources, and a deteriorating environment. In the same year, the Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess lectured in Bucharest on the intrinsic connection between philosophy and the ecology movement in the name of "deep ecology:"

"In so far as ecology movements deserve our attention, they are ecophilosophical rather than ecological. Ecology is a limited science which makes use of scientific methods. Philosophy is the most general forum of debate on fundamentals, descriptive as well as prescriptive, and political philosophy is one of its subsections. By an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of sofia wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and prediction. 1"

For our purpose here, deep ecology may be defined as an ontological ordering of man and nature in their harmony. Its aim is to create a whole new way of thinking and doing, a new philosophy of life, or a new ecological paradigm. Its approach is radical and holistic.

Anthropocentrism propelled by the ideology of progress is without doubt the root cause of our ecological predicament today. As such, it is the antithesis of deep ecology. Anthropocentrism is an ordering of man at the apex of all creation. Technology is the kernel of anthropocentrism and the ideology of progress regardless of different political and economic systems. Because technology is a cultural artifact hammered out of the wilderness of nature, deep ecology, as a philosophy of ecological harmony, must include a critique of the technological as an integral component.

Science and technology go hand in hand. The conquest of nature through technology for so-called human progress has its foundation in the theoretical sciences of nature, especially physics. It was Francis Bacon who was the poetic spokesman for science and who built an intellectual edifice for the popular ethos of modern technological-industrial civilization. He was the eloquent, supreme spokesman for progressivist humanism and technomorphic civilization. In pursuit of "earthly paradise," his "enlightened" philosophy of man and nature justified the "greening" of modern scientific, technological, and industrial civilization and, despite all his good "humanistic" intentions, opened Pandora’s box. In his philosophy, nature was transformed into a world of inert matter and objects which can be manipulated by calculation and experiment for "utility" (utilitas and "power" (pptentia) For knowledge is power. By increasing knowledge through "the inquisition of nature," man is capable of extending his dominion over nature for his benefit. Bacon envisioned utility and power as laying the foundation for overcoming the necessities and even the miseries of humanity. The framework of modern technology as instrumental rationality was laid down by Bacon when he insisted on the meaning of human knowledge and power as one and found "in the womb of nature many secrets of excellent use."

The Baconian conception of technology as instrumentum or instrumental facilitation for human well-being and progress has now been replaced by autonomous technology. With this radical shift, the traditional end-and–means continuum is reversed: means has become end itself. As such, the traditional rationale of technology as instrumentum is obsolete. Nonetheless, we continue to justify the "end" of technology in terms of this outmoded idea of instrumentum In so doing, we still view technology as morally neutral and forget that in technology end has already been subverted by means. In today’s world which is dominated by technology, this anachronism constitutes the poverty of moral thinking p excellence

There can be no ethics in autonomous technology, because it makes obsolete the traditional rationale of technology as instrumentuxn that serves the telos of man. The reversal of end and means is endemic to technocratic mentality and peculiarly characteristic of autonomous technology. It is an integral and indispensable part of "rationalization" accompanied by the rise and dominance of scientific and technological thinking (i.e., thinking by calculation). To "rationalize" or "instrumentalize" ends is to norm/alize "efficiency" as the end of our conduct -the operational demand of technocratic mentality and society. The "rationalization" or "instrumentalization" of our conduct is the end of the Kingdom of Ends.

The "instrumentalization" of ends raises the celebrated question of the "banality of evil" whose opposite is the ethics of responsibility The "banality of evil" is the profound idea Hannah Arendt coined in order to characterize Adolf Eichinan — the man who even misconstrued Kant’s notion of duty as blind obedience — as the paradigmatic case of the violent terror of unthinking men or men of moral indifference and to justify the death penalty imposed on him by the Israeli Government in 1962. For Arendt, Eichinann as doer was neither monstrous nor demonic, but the result of this deed was, nonetheless, atrocious. Indifference or lack of intention to murder does not absolve one’s guilt and responsibility for a crime. Objectively speaking, therefore, Eichman was no less guilty and deserving of death than the monstrous or demonic.

In the same way, Arendt’s idea of the "banality of evil" can very well be applied to the unintended "evil" consequences of technology itself. First of all, the possibility of moral thinking depends on the notion that we are responsible agents, that is, our ethical conduct presupposes the intentional activation of meaning. To be responsible is to choose one meaning or value over others in the configuration of both ends and means. Second, the ethics of responsibility must not be equated with an ethics of pure intention and principles alone. Nor should it be confused with an ethics of consequences with disregard for intention and principles. One without the other is insufficient because it is one-sided: by focusing on intention and principles alone, one loses sight of consequences, whereas by weighing only consequences, one forgets intention and principles.

The ethics of responsibility must be an ethics of fulfillment in the sense that it fulfills the principled intention of an action in light of the consequences it produces or will produce, whether it be verbal or nonverbal. We do not have to go as far as invoking the uncommon jurisprudential principle that technology is guilty until proven innocent! The "banality of evil" points to the "guilt or liability of technology despite its allegedly "innocent," "benign," or "good" intention to serve humanity’s well-being. Quite often, good intentions produce bad consequences for which we ought to be held responsible. To reenchant the world, to deconstruct technology, in sum, is to restore the essence of man as moral being Otherwise, history will indeed be a nightmare from which there is no awakening. When we become "automated" and "cybernated," we cease to be morally responsible agents. The denial of man’s moral agency, or nihilism, is implied in, and the end of, autonomous technology. Critique of the technological must without doubt be the subversion of this nihilism.

I wish to propose the idea of ecopiety for subverting and transgressing anthropocentrism whose essence inheres in technological rationality. To reenchant the world is to harmonize man with nature and to deconstruct the technologization of the world. The aim of ecopiety is to harmonize man with nature. But what is harmony? It is a musical concept in which nature may be described as a gathering of many earthly beings and things as an ordered whole. As it assumes a pluralistic universe of living beings and nonliving things, it becomes a kind of symphony or orchestration of the differentiated many. By using the term differentiated I mean to accentuate the idea that all beings and things cannot be flattened to a single equation or a fixed formula of equivalences. In this regard, both anthropocentrism and naturalism are equally one-sided, that is, they are false: one overvalues man, whereas the other undervalues the existential eccentricity of man as moral who is capable of activating meaning and value. To use a Pascalian expression, man is somewhere in the middle between nothing and everything. The term in as in "man in nature" or "man in the landscape" is an ecstatic one in that as an intentional being man is not simply an inert object or matter. In other words, the harmony of man with nature is man’s way of attuning himself or herself to the world both natural and social. Mood modulates the tonality of his or her existence in or in relation to the world. Precisely because mood is not a psychological or subjective category, harmony too cannot be defined as an anthropocentric or mancentered category.

To recapitulate: harmony constitutes the keyboard of understanding reality as social process for only where there is social process is there reality, and where there is no social process, there is no reality. Harmony is thus not the unitariness of the undifferentiated but a polyphonic chord or orchestration of the differentiated many. By social process based on the musical conception of harmony, we mean an intoned nexus of relationships between man and nature on the one hand and between man and man on the other. These two spheres deeply affect each other. We name the encompassing principle of social process among all earthly beings and things as ecopiety, which may be divided into two subcomponents: homopiety and geopiety. Thus,


Homopiety refers to the conviviality of man with man and geopiety the connaturality of man with nature. As the Greek oikos from whose etymology both ecology and economics are derived, signifies the "household" (a circle of family, relatives, and friends), both conviviality and connaturality are similarly two different ways of saying filiality, the term for endearment for the Sinistic mind in weaving the basic fabric of social, political, economic, and moral relationships. The unity of ecopiety is "synchronized" in the yang of homopiety and the y of geopiety as complementary. One cannot do without the other, the combination of which, I might add, is multifaced.

Above all, ecopiety signifies the attitude of reverence for all earthly beings and things. It is the sacrament of interexistence that affirms the "I-Thou" rather than the "I-It" relationships, to employ the language of Martin Buber. The attitude of reverence should be applied to our own artifacts as well as things social and natural. What is so revealing and saddening about technomorphic mentality, however, is that man is irreverent even to his own artifacts. Junkyards and chemical dumps, for example, show no reverence for man’s artifacts and products. Geopiety as reverential composure for the "natural spontaneity" of nature confirms the intrinsic value of nature as it is itself rather than for its use value, its extrinsic value. It is, I think, the stark contrast between art and technology — art for intrinsicality and technology for extrinsicality. In Sinism there is an ineluctable connection between the aesthetic and the ethical: the beautiful and the good are intertwined. As the aesthetic is the harmony of man with nature, so is the good the harmonious relationship of man with man. Harmony is, therefore, the essence not only of the aesthetic (the musical) but of the social as well.

In the end, there is no science of the future since the future is unpredictable. That is, it is made by us as responsible agents. The future as history will, indeed, be of our own choosing and making. As Chinese ideography composes "crisis" in the combined characters of "danger" and "opportunity," our option is clear in this time of ecological crises: we-have an opportunity of subverting and transgressing the Great Chain of technocentric civilization toward the reclamation of ecopiety. The prospect of our future depends on his radical and momentous choice and switch. Indeed, at the edge of history, ecopiety offers us a radical way of defenestrating technocentric civilization.


1. "The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement: A Summary," Inquiry 16 (Spring 1973): 99.

2. In The Minimal Self (New York: W.W. Norton, 1984), Christopher Lasch lashes out and deplores what he calls the "siege mentality" and "survivalism" including the ecology movement. While I agree with his positive tone, I question his minimization of the issue of survival.

Hwa Yol Jung, Ph.D. is Professor of Political Science, Moravian College, Bethlehem, Pa. Professor Jung has written extensively in the areas of Ecology, Phenomenology and Poliitcal Science. He is presently working on a manuscript entitled Zen and Deep Ecology.