Mythos, Metaphysics, Technology, Science: Techne and Episteme.


I’ve been thinking about the relation between the epistemological and the technological a fair amount. As a mode of doing, techne is usually opposed with poiesis. However as a mode of knowing, its opposite was episteme. The basic difference between techne and episteme as knowing is temporal – techne looks forward, and tends therefore to possibility and probability. The main activity involved arising from techne is the actualization of what was initially present in the imagination. Episteme, by contrast, takes what is actual, insofar as it “has been”. Thus it’s not only oriented to the past, but specifically to the past-perfect of history and of science (as “natural” history). This opposition is part of the distaste most technologists (along with most craftspeople and most artists) have for epistemology: in terms of what they actually practice, it’s largely irrelevant, and thus problems in epistemology inevitably look like pseudo-problems to those whose basic orientation is technical, rather than epistemological..

The relation of history and science is not as simple as history being “one of” the sciences,, even if science being a historical development is added to that, but that they are founded on a common basis – accounting. The “historical record” is an analogy that comes from bookkeeping, while the “natural-historical record” is similar, it’s a bigger stretch, since the natural-historical record wasn’t intentionally maintained as such, and factically is less a near-complete record punctuated by specific gaps than a near-complete gap punctuated by very occasional records that together form very little context within which they can be interpreted, The intentionality of historical record-keeping, though, gives history a specific form, that of a simultaneous backwards and forwards projection, and this rational-historical form is the form of metaphysics itself. Records kept were kept because they were projected as relevant for future historians. Equally, specific records are admitted or removed from the overall record based on a backwards projection pf what is “historically” relevant.

It’s this basic form that makes history “rational” in Hegel’s sense: rationality always derives, eventually, from measurement as accounting. As accounting-for, history and to a lesser but still significant degree the other sciences, are always historical in the specific sense of ratio, as a tallying-up of the relevant set of records, and thus they find their rationality in history, rather than the obverse. This ‘rationality’, however, is precisely in Hegel’s terms ‘unreasonable’, since as Kant demonstrated it is founded on the non-rational, and that foundation inevitably results in the Kantian impasse. Thus, however unreasonable, history is “rational” because it is the history of a rationality that has forgotten its non-rational basis, and as such is also an ongoing rationalization of that basis. Much discussion of Hegel is worthless simply due to the reader having conflated rationality with what Hegel terms Reason, which always means Absolute Reason – spirit as the turning in on itself of what begins as drive.

Techne, on the other hand, reveals, and what it reveals is precisely what history and science must account for. Thus modern science and modern technology are intertwined, but not in the way that is commonly thought, where technology is “merely” applied science. Nearly every modern scientific theory begins by attempting to account for something that appears, i.e. is newly revealed, by technology, from the latest Hadron collider to Galileo’s telescope. Episteme, however, by its nature misses that appearing, since what “is” for episteme is what “has been”, what endures. Of course both are necessary. In an analagous (though temporally inverted) sense to the fact that nobody has a problem with Einstein doing philosophy, since a man can be a scientist, but to be more than a researcher must necessarily delve into philosoophy;a man can be a technologist but to actualize the truly new must delve into history. Technology itself is as mysterious as Man, taken as oneself, and must necessarily be since as much as Man produces technological works, even the most naive projections of the evolution of man are predicated on his learning to use simple technologies. Thus in producing each other, in a certain sense, both and neither are the origin of the other.

Just as techne actualizes the imaginary, episteme, whether historical or natural-scientific, imagines the actual, allows the actual to cross the line from ontic to ontological as imagination. That is to say it “mythologizes” it, by “telling a story” about it. Hegel’s “new mythology”, his original intent shared with Schelling and Holderlin from their schooldays and carried out, despite appearances, in the Phenomenology and the Logic,, could not appear as mythology, just as within metaphysics mythology could not appear as mythology, but as religion, and at the extreme as ideology. The ideology of modern science itself is one of the furthest, and therefore last, extremes of mythos in its metaphysical guise.

Hegel’s mythos, at the end of metaphysics, could no longer appear as religion or ideology, but had to appear as science. From quantum mechanics to post-mechanist biology, post-modern science is essentially a working out of that mythology. In a certan sense this completes the circling back to the point at which the first beginning began, and therefore another beginning becomes possible;.from observation that today would be called “scientific” passed down as societal mythology in the cosmic myth to a recreation of a societal mythos in the guise of scientiific observation and theory.

In a certain sense, the “change” must be a non-event, although to the individual that experiences it it is “The Event”. Paradigm shifts within metaphysics take the form of “everything changed, yet nothing’s different”, since there is always an invariant that makes the change of “everything” a topological change. Everything changes just enough so that relationally, nothing is fundamentally different. As opposed to that type of metaphysical paradigm shift, the non-event must result in a situation where “nothing changed, yet everything’s different”.

The circling of episteme and techne must be complemented by a circling of poiesis and techne, such that poiesis is revealed where we least expect it, in the growth of technology itself. The crucial point where “nothing changes” is therefore something that remains between the imaginary and the actual, remaining both and neither, yet is indisputably real and incomprehensibly obvious. As such it not only cannot be experienced as actual, it can neither be fully imagined, yet is so obvious and indisputable that it makes the line itself obvious, visible even, though in a non-visual sense.

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