Herbert Marcuse. One-Dimensional Man

6 – From Negative to Positive Thinking: Technological Rationality and the Logic of Domination

In the social reality, despite all change, the domination of man by man is still the historical continuum that links pre-technological and technological Reason. However, the society which projects and undertakes the technological transformation of nature alters the base of domination by gradually replacing personal dependence (of the slave on the master, the serf on the lord of the manor, the lord on the donor of the fief, etc.) with dependence on the “objective order of things” (on economic laws, the market etc.). To be sure, the “objective order of things” is itself the result of domination, but it is nevertheless true that domination now generates a higher rationality – that of a society which sustains its hierarchic structure while exploiting ever more efficiently the natural and mental resources, and distributing the benefits of this exploitation on an ever-larger scale. The limits of this rationality, and its sinister force, appear in the progressive enslavement of man by a productive apparatus which perpetuates the struggle for existence and extends it to a total international struggle which ruins the lives of those who build and use this apparatus.

At this stage, it becomes clear that something must be wrong with the rationality of the system itself. What is wrong is the war in which men have organized their societal labor. This is no longer in question at the present time when, on the one side, the great entrepreneurs themselves are willing to sacrifice the blessings of private enterprise and “free” competition to the blessings of government orders and regulations, while, on the other side, socialist construction continues to proceed through progressive domination. However, the question cannot come to rest here. The wrong organization of society demands further explanation in view of the situation of advanced industrial society, in which the integration of the formerly negative and transcending social forces with the established system seems to create a new social structure.

This transformation of negative into positive opposition points up the problem: the “wrong” organization, in becoming totalitarian on internal grounds, refutes the alternatives. Certainly it is quite natural, and does not seem to call for an explanation in depth, that the tangible benefits of the system are considered worth defending – especially in view of the repelling force of present day communism which appears to be the historical alternative. But it is natural only to a mode of thought and behaviour which is unwilling and perhaps even incapable of comprehending what is happening and why it is happening, a mode of thought and behaviour which is immune against any other than the established rationality. To the degree to which they correspond to the given reality, thought and behaviour express a false consciousness, responding to and contributing to the preservation of a false order of facts. And this false consciousness has become embodied in the prevailing technical apparatus which in turn reproduces it.

We live and die rationally and productively. We know that destruction is the price of progress as death is the price of life, that renunciation and toil are the prerequisites for gratification and joy, that business must go on, and that the alternatives are Utopian. This ideology belongs to the established societal apparatus; it is a requisite for its continuous functioning and part of its rationality.

However, the apparatus defeats its own purpose if its purpose is to create a humane existence on the basis of a humanized nature. And if this is not its purpose, its rationality is even more suspect. But it is also more logical for, from the beginning, the negative is in the positive, the inhuman in the humanization, enslavement in liberation. This dynamic is that of reality and not of the mind, but of a reality in which the scientific mind bad a decisive part in joining theoretical and practical reason.

Society reproduced itself in a growing technical ensemble of things and relations which included the technical utilization of men – in other words, the struggle for existence and the exploitation of man and nature became ever more scientific and rational. The double meaning of “rationalization” is relevant in this context. Scientific management and scientific division of labor vastly increased the productivity of the economic, political, and cultural enterprise. Result: the higher standard of living. At the same time and on the same ground, this rational enterprise produced a pattern of mind and behaviour which justified and absolved even the most destructive and oppressive features of the enterprise. Scientific-technical rationality and manipulation are welded together into new forms of social control. Can one rest content with the assumption that this unscientific outcome is the result of a specific societal application of science? I think that the general direction in which it came to be applied was inherent in pure science even where no practical purposes were intended, and that the point can be identified where theoretical Reason turns into social practice. In this attempt, I shall briefly recall the methodological origins of the new rationality, contrasting it with the features of the pre-technological model discussed in the previous chapter.

The quantification of nature, which led to its explication in terms of mathematical structures, separated reality from all inherent ends and, consequently, separated the true from the good, science from ethics. No matter how science may now define the objectivity of nature and the interrelations among its parts, it cannot scientifically conceive it in terms of “final causes.” And no matter how constitutive may be the role of the subject as point of observation, measurement, and calculation, this subject cannot play its scientific role as ethical or aesthetic or political agent. The tension between Reason on the one hand, and the needs and wants of the underlying population (which has been the object but rarely the subject of Reason) on the other, has been there from the beginning of philosophic and scientific thought. The “nature of things,” including that of society, was so defined as to justify repression and even suppression as perfectly rational. True knowledge and reason demand domination over – if not liberation from – the senses. The union of Logos and Eros led already in Plato to the supremacy of Logos; in Aristotle, the relation between the god and the world moved by him is “erotic” only in terms of analogy. Then the precarious ontological link between Logos and Eros is broken, and scientific rationality emerges as essentially neutral. What nature (including man) may be striving for is scientifically rational only in terms of the general laws of motion – physical, chemical, or biological.

Outside this rationality, one lives in a world of values, and values separated out from the objective reality become subjective. The only war to rescue same abstract and harmless validity for them seems to be a metaphysical sanction (divine and natural law). But such sanction is not verifiable and thus not really objective. Values may have a higher dignity (morally and spiritually), but they are not real and thus count less in the real business of life – the less so the higher they are elevated above reality.

The same de-realization affects all ideas which, by their very nature, cannot be verified by scientific method. No matter how much they may be recognized, respected, and sanctified, in their own right, they suffer from being non-objective. But precisely their lack of objectivity makes them into factors of social cohesion. Humanitarian, religious, and moral ideas are only “ideal;” they don’t disturb unduly the established way of life, and are not invalidated by the fact that they are contradicted by a behaviour dictated by the daily necessities of business and politics. If the Good and the Beautiful, Peace and Justice cannot be derived either from ontological or scientific-rational conditions, they cannot logically claim universal validity and realization. In terms of scientific reason, they remain matters of preference, and no resuscitation of some kind of Aristotelian or Thomistic philosophy can save the situation, for it is a priori refuted by scientific reason. The unscientific character of these ideas fatally weakens the opposition to the established reality; the ideas become mere ideals, and their concrete, critical content evaporates into the ethical or metaphysical atmosphere.

Paradoxically, however, the objective world, left equipped only with quantifiable qualities, comes to be more and more dependent in its objectivity on the subject. This long process begins with the algebraization of geometry which replaces “visible” geometric figures with purely mental operations. It finds its extreme form in same conceptions of contemporary scientific philosophy, according to which all matter of physical science tends to dissolve in mathematical or logical relations. The very notion of an objective substance, pitted against the subject, seems to disintegrate. From very different directions, scientists and philosophers of science arrive at similar hypotheses on the exclusion of particular sorts of entities.

For example, physics “does not measure the objective qualities of the external and material world – these are only the results obtained by the accomplishment of such operations.”[108] Objects continue to persist only as “convenient intermediaries,” as obsolescent “cultural posits,”[109] The density and opacity of things evaporate: the objective world loses its “objectionable” character, its opposition to the subject, Short of its interpretation in terms of Pythagorean-Platonic metaphysics, the mathematized Nature, the scientific reality appears to be ideational reality,

These are extreme statements, and they are rejected by more conservative interpretations, which insist that propositions in contemporary physics still refer to “physical things.”[110] But the physical things turn out to be “physical events,” and then the propositions refer to (and refer only to) attributes and relationships that characterize various kinds of physical things and processes,[111] Max Born states:

“... the theory of relativity ... has never abandoned and attempts to assign properties to matter...” But “often a measurable quantity is not a property of a thing, but a property of its relation to other things ... Most measurements in physics are not directly concerned with the things which interest us, but with same kind of projection, the word taken in the widest possible sense.”[112]

And W. Heisenberg:

Was wir mathematisch festlegen, ist nur zum kleinen Teil ein ‘objectives Faktum,’ zum grösseren Teil eine Uebersicht über Möglichkeiten.”[113]

Now “events,” “relations,” “projections,” “possibilities” can be meaningfully objective only for a subject – not only in terms of observability and measurability, but in terms of the very structure of the event or relationship. In other words, the subject here involved is a constituting one – that is, a possible subject for which some data must be, or can be conceivable as event or relation. If this is the case, Reichenbach’s statement would still hold true: that propositions in physics can be formulated without reference to an actual observer, and the “disturbance by means of observation,” is due, not to the human observer, but to the instrument as “physical thing.”[114]

To be sure, we may assure that the equations established by mathematical physics express (formulate) the actual constellation of atoms, i.e., the objective structure of matter. Regardless of any observing and measuring “outside” subject A may “include” B, “precede” B, “result in” B; B may be “between” C, “larger than” C, etc. it would still be true that these relations imply location, distinction, and identity in the difference of A, B, C. They thus imply the capacity of being identical in difference of being related to in a specific mode, of being resistant to other relations, etc. Only this capacity would be in matter itself, and then matter itself would be objectively of the structure of mind – an interpretation which contains a strong idealistic element:

“... inanimate objects, without hesitation, without error, simply by their existence, are integrating the equations of which they know nothing. Subjectively, nature is not of the mind – she does not think in mathematical terms. But objectively, nature is of the mind – she can be thought in mathematical terms.” [115]

A less idealistic interpretation is offered by Karl Popper,[116] who holds that, in its historical development, physical science uncovers and defines different layers of one and the same objective reality. In this process, the historically surpassed concepts are being cancelled and their intent is being integrated into the succeeding ones – an interpretation which seems to imply progress toward the real core of reality, that is, the absolute truth. Or else reality may turn out to be an onion without a core, and the very concept of scientific truth may be in jeopardy.

I do not suggest that the philosophy of contemporary physics denies or even questions the reality of the external world but that, in one way or another, it suspends judgment on what reality itself may be, or considers the very question meaningless and unanswerable. Made into a methodological principle, this suspension has a twofold consequence: (a) it strengthens the shift of theoretical emphasis from the metaphysical “What is ... ?” to the functional “How... ?,” and (b) it establishes a practical (though by no means absolute) certainty which, in its operations with matter, is with good conscience free from commitment to any substance outside the operational context. In other words, theoretically, the transformation of man and nature has no other objective limits than those offered by the brute factuality of matter, its still unmastered resistance to knowledge and control. To the degree to which this conception becomes applicable and effective in reality, the latter is approached as a (hypothetical) system of instrumentalities; the metaphysical “being-as-such” gives way to “being-instrument.” Moreover, proved in its effectiveness, this conception works as an a priori – it predetermines experience, it projects the direction of the transformation of nature, it organizes the whole.

We just saw that contemporary philosophy of science seemed to be struggling with an idealistic element and, in its extreme formulations, moving dangerously close to an idealistic concept of nature. However, the new mode of thought again puts idealism “on its feet,” Hegel epitomized the idealistic ontology: if Reason is the common denominator of subject and object, it is so as the synthesis of opposites.

With this idea, ontology comprehended the tension between subject and object; it was saturated with concreteness. The reality of Reason was the playing out of this tension in nature, history, philosophy. Even the most extremely monistic system thus maintained the idea of a substance which unfolds itself in subject and object – the idea of an antagonistic reality. The scientific spirit has increasingly weakened this antagonism, modern scientific philosophy may well begin with the notion of the two substances, res cogitans and res extensa – but as the extended matter becomes comprehensible in mathematical equations which, translated into technology, “remake” this matter, the res extensa loses its character as independent substance.

“The old division of the world into objective processes in space and time and the mind in which these processes are mirrored – in other words, the Cartesian difference between res cogitans and res extensa – is no longer a suitable starting point for our understanding of modern science” [117]

The Cartesian division of the world has also been questioned on its own grounds. Husserl pointed out that the Cartesian Ego was, in the last analysis, not really an independent substance but rather the “residue” or limit of quantification; it seems that Galileo’s idea of the world as a “universal and absolutely pure” res extensa dominated a priori the Cartesian conception.[118] In which case the Cartesian dualism would be deceptive, and Descartes’ thinking ego-substance would be akin to the res extensa, anticipating the scientific subject of quantifiable observation and measurement. Descartes’ dualism would already imply its negation; it would clear rather than block the load toward the establishment of a one-dimensional scientific universe in which nature is “objectively of the mind,” that is, of the subject. And this subject is related to its world in a very special war:

" :... la nature est mise sous le signe de l’homme actif, de l’homme inscrivant la technique dans la nature; ”[119]

The science of nature develops under the technological a priori which projects nature as potential instrumentality, stuff of control and organization, And the apprehension of nature as (hypothetical) instrumentality precedes the development of all particular technical organization:

“Modern man takes the entirety of Being as raw material for production and subjects the entirety of the object-world to the sweep and order of production (Herstellen).” “... the use of machinery and the production of machines is not technics itself but merely an adequate instrument for the realization (Einrichtung) of the essence of technics in its objective raw material.” [120]

The technological a priori is a political a priori inasmuch as the transformation of nature involves that of man, and inasmuch as the “man-made creations” issue from and re-enter a societal ensemble. One may still insist that the machinery of the technological universe is “as such” indifferent towards political ends – it can revolutionize or retard a society. An electronic computer can serve equally a capitalist or socialist administration; a cyclotron can be an equally efficient tool for a war party or a peace party. This neutrality is contested in Marx’s controversial statement that the “handmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist.”[121] And this statement is further modified in Marxian theory itself: the social mode of production, not technics is the basic historical factor. However, when technics becomes the universal form of material production, it circumscribes an entire culture; it projects a historical totality – a “world."!

Can we say that the evolution of scientific method merely “reflects” the transformation of natural into technical reality in the process of industrial civilization? To formulate the relation between science and society in this war is assuming two separate realms and events that meet each other, namely, (1) science and scientific thought, with their internal concepts and their internal truth, and (2) the use and application of science in the social reality. In other words, no matter how close the connection between the two developments may be, they do not imply and define each other. Pure science is not applied science; it retains its identity and validity apart from its utilization. Moreover, this nation of the essential neutrality of science is also extended to technics. The machine is indifferent toward the social uses to which it is put provided those uses remain within its technical capabilities.

In view of the internal instrumentalist character of scientific method, this interpretation appears inadequate. A closer relationship seems to prevail between scientific thought and its application, between the universe of scientific discourse and that of ordinary discourse and behaviour – a relationship in which both move under the same logic and rationality of domination.

In a paradoxical development, the scientific efforts to establish the rigid objectivity of nature led to an increasing de-materialization of nature:

“The idea of infinite nature existing as such, this idea that we have to give up, is the myth of modern science. Science has started out by destroying the myth of the Middle Ages. And now science is forced by its own consistency to realize that it has merely raised another myth instead.” [122]

The process which begins with the elimination of independent substances and final causes arrives at the ideation of objectivity. But it is a very specific ideation, in which the object constitutes itself in a quite practical relation to the subject:

“And what is matter? In atomic physics, matter is defined by its possible reactions to human experiments, and by the mathematical – that is, intellectual – laws it obeys. We are defining matter as a possible object of man’s manipulation.”[123]

And if this is the case then science has become in itself technological:

“Pragmatic science has the view of nature that is fitting for technical age.”[124]

To the degree to which this operationalism becomes the center of the scientific enterprise, rationality assumes the form of methodical construction; organization and handling of matter as the mere stuff of control, as instrumentality which lends itself to all purposes and ends – instrumentality per se, “in itself.”

The “correct” attitude toward instrumentality is the technical approach, the correct logos is technology, which projects and responds to a technological reality.[125] In this reality, matter as well as science is “neutral;” objectivity has neither a telos in itself nor is it structured toward a telos. But it is precisely its neutral character which relates objectivity to a specific historical Subject – namely, to the consciousness that prevails in the society by which and for which this neutrality is established. It operates in the very abstractions which constitute the new rationality – as an internal rather than external factor. Pure and applied operationalism, theoretical and practical reason, the scientific and the business enterprise execute the reduction of secondary to primary qualities, quantification and abstraction from “particular sorts of entities.”

True, the rationality of pure science is value-free and, does not stipulate any practical ends, it is “neutral” to any extraneous values that may be imposed upon it. But this neutrality is a positive character. Scientific rationality makes for a specific societal organization precisely because it projects mere form (or mere matter – here, the otherwise opposite terms converge) which can be bent to practically an ends. Formalization and functionalization are, prior to an application, the “pure form – of a concrete societal practice. While science freed nature from inherent ends and stripped matter of any but quantifiable qualities, society freed men from the “natural” hierarchy of personal dependence and related them to each other in accordance with quantifiable qualities – namely, as units of abstract labor power, calculable in units of time. “By virtue of the rationalization of the modes of labor, the elimination of qualities is transferred from the universe of science to that of daily experience.” [126]

Between the two processes of scientific and societal quantification, is there parallelism and causation, or is their connection simply the work of sociological hindsight? The preceding discussion proposed that the new scientific rationality was in itself, in its very abstractness and purity, operational inasmuch as it developed under an instrumentalist horizon. Observation and experiment, the methodical organization and coordination of data, propositions, and conclusions never proceed in an unstructured, neutral, theoretical space. The project of cognition involves operations on objects, or abstractions from objects which occur in a given universe of discourse and action. Science observes, calculates, and theorizes from a position in this universe. The stars which Galileo observed were the same in classical antiquity, but the different universe of discourse and action – in short, the different social reality – opened the new direction and range of observation, and the possibilities of ordering the observed data. I am not concerned here with the historical relation between scientific and societal rationality in the beginning of the modern period. It is my purpose to demonstrate the internal instrumentalist character of this scientific rationality by virtue of which it is a priori technology, and the a priori of a specific technology – namely, technology as form of social control and domination.

Modern scientific thought, inasmuch as it is pure, does not project particular practical goals nor particular forms of domination. However, there is no such thing as domination per se. As theory proceeds, it abstracts from, or rejects, a factual teleological context – that of the given, concrete universe of discourse and action. It is within this universe itself that the scientific project occurs or does not occur, that theory conceives or does not conceive the possible alternatives, that its hypotheses subvert or extend the pre-established reality.

The principles of modern science were a priori structured in such a way that they could serve as conceptual instruments for a universe of self-propelling, productive control; theoretical operationalism came to correspond to practical operationalism. The scientific method which led to the ever-more-effective domination of nature thus came to provide the pure concepts as well as the instrumentalities for the ever-more-effective domination of man by man through the domination of nature. Theoretical reason, remaining pure and neutral, entered into the service of practical reason. The merger proved beneficial to both. Today, domination perpetuates and extends itself not only through technology but as technology, and the latter provides the great legitimation of the expanding political power, which absorbs all spheres of culture.

In this universe, technology also provides the great rationalization of the unfreedom of man and demonstrates the “technical” impossibility of being autonomous, of determining one’s own life. For this unfreedom appears neither as irrational nor as political, but rather as submission to the technical apparatus which enlarges the comforts of life and increases the productivity of labor. Technological rationality thus protects rather than cancels the legitimacy of domination, and the instrumentalist horizon of reason opens on a rationally totalitarian society:

On pourrait nommer philosophie autocratique des techniques celle qui prend l’ensemble technique comme un lieu ou l’on utilise les machines pour obtenir de la puissance. La machine est seulement un moyen; la fin est la conquête de la nature, la domestication des forces naturelles au moyen d’un premier asservissement: La machine est un esclave qui sert à  faire d’autres esclaves. Une pareille inspiration dominatrice et esclavagiste peut se rencontrer avec une requête de liberté pour l’homme. Mais il est difficile de se libérer en transférant l’esclavage sur d’autres êtres, hommes, animaux ou machines; régner sur un peuple de machines asservissant le monde entier, c’est encore régner, et tout règne suppose l’acceptation des schèmes d’asservissement.[127]

The incessant dynamic of technical progress has become permeated with political content, and the Logos of technics has been made into the Logos of continued servitude. The liberating force of technology – the instrumentalization of things – turns into a fetter of liberation; the instrumentalization of man.

This interpretation would tie the scientific project (method and theory), prior to an application and utilization, to a specific societal project, and would see the tie precisely in the inner form of scientific rationality, i.e. in the functional character of its concepts. In other words, the scientific universe (that is, not the specific propositions on the structure of matter, energy, their interrelation, etc., but the projection of nature as quantifiable matter, as guiding the hypothetical approach to – and the mathematical-logical expression of – objectivity) would be the horizon of a concrete societal practice which would be preserved in the development of the scientific project. But, even granting the internal instrumentalism of scientific rationality, this assumption would not yet establish the sociological validity of the scientific project. Granted that the formation of the most abstract scientific concepts still preserves the interrelation between subject and object in a given universe of discourse and action, the link between theoretical and practical reason can be understood in quite different ways.

Such a different interpretation is offered by Jean Piaget in his “genetic epistemology.” Piaget interprets the formation of scientific concepts in terms of different abstractions, from a general interrelation between subject and object. Abstraction proceeds neither from the mere object, so that the subject functions only as the neutral point of observation and measurement, nor from the subject as the vehicle of pure cognitive Reason. Piaget distinguishes between the process of cognition in mathematics and in physics.

The former is abstraction “a l’intérieur de l’action comme telle”:

Contrairement à  ce que l’on dit souvent, les êtres mathématiques ne résultent donc pas d’une abstraction a partir des objets, mais bien d’une abstraction effectuée au sein des actions comme telles. Réunir, ordonner, déplacer, etc. sont des actions plus général que penser, pousser, etc. parce qu’elles tiennent à  la coordination même de toutes les actions particulières et entrent en chacune d’elles à  titre de facteur coordinateur...[128]

Mathematical propositions thus express “une accommodation générale à  l’objet” – in contrast to the particular adaptations which are characteristic of true propositions in physics. Logic and mathematical logic are “une action sur l’objet quelconque, c’est-à-dire une action accommodée de faà§on générale[129] and this “action” is of general validity in as much as

" cette abstraction ou différenciation porte jusqu’au sein des coordinations héréditaires, puisque les mécanismes coordinateurs de faction tiennent toujours, en leur source, à  des coordinations réflexes et instinctives.[130]

In physics, abstraction proceeds from the object but is due to specific actions on the part of the subject, thus abstraction assumes necessarily a logic-mathematical form because

" des actions particulières ne donnent lieu a une connaissance que coordonnées entre elles et que cette coordination est, par sa nature même, logico-mathématique.[131]

Abstraction in physics leads necessarily back to logico-mathematical abstraction and the latter is, as pure coordination, the general form of action – action as such” (“raction comme telle”). And this coordination constitutes objectivity because it retains hereditary, “reflexive and instinctive” structures.

Piaget’s interpretation recognizes the internal practical character of theoretical reason, but derives it from a general structure of action which, in the last analysis, is a hereditary, biological structure. Scientific method would ultimately rest on a biological foundation, which is supra- (or rather infra-) historical. Moreover, granted that all scientific knowledge presupposes coordination of particular actions, I do not see why such coordination is “by its very nature” logico-mathematical – unless the “particular actions” are the scientific operations of modern physics, in which case the interpretation would be circular.

In contrast to Piaget’s rather psychological and biological analysis, Husserl has offered a genetic epistemology which is focused on the socio-historical structure of scientific reason. I shall here refer to Husserl’s work[132] only insofar as it emphasizes the extent to which modern science is the “methodology” of a pre-given historical reality within whose universe it moves.

Husserl starts with the fact that the mathematization nature resulted in valid practical knowledge: in the construction of an accidentional” reality which could be effectively “correlated” with the empirical reality (p. 19; 42). But the scientific achievement referred back to a pre-scientific practice, which constituted the original basis (the Sinnesfundament) of Galilean science. This pre-scientific basis of science in the world of practice (Lebenswelt), which determined the theoretical structure, was not questioned by Galileo; moreover, it was concealed (verdeckt) by the further development of science. The result was the illusion that the mathematization of nature created an “autonomous (eigenständige) absolute truth” (p. 49 f.), while in reality, it remained a specific method and technique for the Lebenswelt. The ideational veil (Ideenkleid) of mathematical science is thus a veil of symbols which represents and at the same time masks (vertritt and verkleidet) the world of practice (p. 52).

What is the original, pre-scientific intent and content that is preserved in the conceptual structure of science? Measurement in practice discovers the possibility of using certain basic forms, shapes, and relations, which are universally “available as identically the same, for exactly determining and calculating empirical objects and relations” (p. 25). Through all abstraction and generalization, scientific method retains (and masks) its pre-scientific-technical structure; the development of the former represents (and masks) the development of the latter. Thus classical geometry “idealizes” the practice of surveying and measuring the land (Feldmesskunst). Geometry is the theory of practical objectification.

To be sure, algebra and mathematical logic construct an absolute ideational reality, freed from the incalculable uncertainties and particularities of the Lebenswelt and of the subjects living in it. However, this ideational construction is the theory and technic of “idealizing” the new Lebenswelt: “In the mathematical practice, we attain what is denied to us in the empirical practice, i.e., exactness. For it is possible to determine the ideal forms in terms of absolute identity ... As such, they become universally available and disposable...” (p. 24).

The coordination (Zuordnung) of the ideational with the empirical world enables us to “project the anticipated regularities of the practical Lebenswelt”:

“Once one possesses the formulas, one possesses the foresight which is desired in practice”

– the foresight of that which is to be expected in the experience of concrete life (p. 43).

Husserl emphasizes the pre-scientific, technical connotations of mathematical exactness and fungibility. These central notions of modern science emerge, not as mere by-products of a pure science, but as pertaining to its inner conceptual structure. The scientific abstraction from concreteness, the quantification of qualities which yield exactness as well as universal validity, involve a specific concrete experience of the Lebenswelt – a specific mode of “seeing” the world. And this “seeing,” in spite of its “pure,” disinterested character, is seeing within a purposive, practical context. It is anticipating (Voraussehen) and projecting (Vorhaben). Galilean science is the science of methodical, systematic anticipation and projection. But – and this is decisive – of a specific anticipation and projection – namely, that which experiences, comprehends, and shapes the world) in terms of calculable, predictable relationships among exactly identifiable units. In this project, universal quantifiability is a prerequisite for the domination of nature. Individual, non-quantifiable qualities stand in the way of an organization of men and things in accordance with the measurable power to be extracted from them. But this is a specific, socio-historical project, and the consciousness which undertakes this project is the hidden subject of Galilean science; the latter is the technic, the art of anticipation extended in infinity (ins Unendliche erweiterte Voraussicht: p.51).

Now precisely because Galilean science is, in the formation of its concepts, the technic of a specific Lebenswelt, it does not and cannot transcend this Lebenswelt. It remains essentially within the basic experiential framework and within the universe of ends set by this reality. In Husserl’s formulation: in Galilean science, the “concrete universe of causality becomes applied mathematics” (p. 1l2) – but the world of perception and experience,

“in which we live our whole practical life, remains as that which it is, in its essential structure: in its own concrete causality unchanged ...” (p. 51; my underlining).

A provocative statement, which is easily minimized, and I take the liberty of a possible overinterpretation. The statement does not refer simply to the fact that, in spite of non-Euclidean geometry, we still perceive and act in three-dimensional space; or that, in spite of the “statistical” concept of causality, we still act, in common sense, in accord with the “"old” laws of causality. Nor does the statement contradict the perpetual changes in the world of daily practice as the result of “applied mathematics.” Much more may be at stake: namely, the inherent limit of the established science and scientific method, by virtue of which they extend, rationalize, and insure the prevailing Lebenswelt without altering its existential structure – that is without envisaging a qualitatively new mode of “seeing” and qualitatively new relations between men and between man and nature.

With respect to the institutionalized forms of life, science (pure as well as applied) would thus have a stabilizing, static, conservative function. Even its most revolutionary achievements would only be construction and destruction in line with a specific experience and organization of reality. The continuous self-correction of science – the revolution of its hypotheses which is built into its method – itself propels and extends the same historical universe, the same basic experience. It retains the same formal a priori, which makes for a very material, practical content. Far from minimizing the fundamental change which occurred with the establishment of Galilean science, Husserl’s interpretation points up the radical break with the pre-Galilean tradition; the instrumentalist horizon of thought was indeed a new horizon. It created a new world of theoretical and practical Reason, but it has remained committed to a specific historical world which has its evident limits – in theory as well as in practice, in its pure as well as applied methods.

The preceding discussion seems to suggest not only the inner limitations and prejudices of scientific method but also its historical subjectivity. Moreover, it seems to imply the need for same sort of “qualitative physics,” revival of teleological philosophies, etc. I admit that this suspicion is justified, but at this point, I can only assert that no such obscurantist ideas are intended.[133]

No matter how one defines truth and objectivity, they remain related to the human agents of theory and practice, and to their ability to comprehend and change their world. This ability in turn depends on the extent to which matter (whatever it may be) is recognized and understood as that which it is itself in all particular forms. In these terms, contemporary science is of immensely greater objective validity than its predecessors. One might even add that, at present,” the scientific method is the only method that can claim such’ validity; the interplay of hypotheses and observable facts validates the hypotheses and establishes the facts. The point which I am trying to make is that science, by virtue of its own method and concepts, has projected and promoted a universe in which the domination of nature has remained linked to the domination of man – a link which tends to be fatal to this universe as a whole. Nature, scientifically comprehended and mastered, reappears in the technical apparatus of production and destruction which sustains and improves the life of the individuals while subordinating them to the masters of the apparatus. Thus the rational hierarchy merges with the social one. If this is the case, then the change in the direction of progress, which might sever this fatal link, would also affect the very structure of science – the scientific project. Its hypotheses, without losing their, rational character, would develop in an essentially different experimental context (that of a pacified world); consequently science would arrive at essentially different concepts of nature and establish essentially different facts. The rational society subverts the idea of Reason.

I have pointed out that the elements of this subversion, the notions of another rationality, were present in the history of thought from its beginning. The ancient idea of a state where Being attains fulfillment, where the tension between “is” and “ought” is resolved in the cycle of an eternal return, partakes of the metaphysics of domination. But it also pertains to the metaphysics of liberation – to the reconciliation of Logos and Eros. This idea envisages the coming-to-rest of the repressive productivity of Reason, the end of domination in gratification.

The two contrasting rationalities cannot simply be correlated with classical and modern thought respectively, as in John Dewey’s formulation “from contemplative enjoyment to active manipulation and control;” and “from knowing as an aesthetic enjoyment of the properties of nature... to knowing as a means of secular control.” [134]

Classical thought was sufficiently committed to the logic of secular control, and there is a sufficient component of indictment and refusal in modern thought to vitiate John Dewey’s formulation. Reason, as conceptual thought and behaviour, is necessarily mastery, domination. Logos is law, rule, order by virtue of knowledge. In subsuming particular cases under a universal, in subjecting it to their universal, thought attains mastery over the particular cases. It becomes capable not only of comprehending but also of acting upon them, controlling them. However, while all thought stands under the rule of logic, the unfolding of this logic is different in the various modes of thought. Classical formal and modern symbolic logic, transcendental and dialectical logic – each rules over a different universe of discourse and experience. They all developed within the historical continuum of domination to which they pay tribute. And this continuum bestows upon the modes of positive thinking their conformist and ideological character; upon those of negative thinking their speculative and utopian character.

By way of summary, we may now try to identify more clearly the hidden subject of scientific rationality and the hidden ends in its pure form. The scientific concept of a universally controllable nature projected nature as endless matter-in-function, the mere stuff of theory and practice. In this form, the object-world entered the construction of a technological universe – a universe of mental and physical instrumentalities, means in themselves. Thus it is a truly “hypothetical” system, depending on a validating and verifying subject.

The processes of validation and verification may be purely theoretical ones, but they never occur in a vacuum and they never terminate in a private, individual mind. The hypothetical system of forms and functions becomes dependent on another system – a pre-established universe of ends, in which and for which it develops. What appeared extraneous, foreign to the theoretical project, shows forth as part of its very structure (method and concepts); pure objectivity reveals itself as object for a subjectivity which provides the Telos, the ends. In the construction of the technological reality, there is no such thing as a purely rational scientific order; the process of technological rationality is a political process.

Only in the medium of technology, man and nature become fungible objects of organization. The universal effectiveness and productivity of the apparatus under which they are subsumed veil the particular interests that organize the apparatus. In other words, technology has become the great vehicle of reification-reification in its most mature and effective form. The social position of the individual and his relation to others appear not only to be determined by objective qualities and laws, but these qualities and laws seem to lose their mysterious and uncontrollable character; they appear as calculable manifestations of (scientific) rationality. The world tends to become the stuff of total administration, which absorbs even the administrators. The web of domination has become the web of Reason itself, and this society is fatally entangled in it. And the transcending modes of thought seem to transcend Reason itself.

Under these conditions, scientific thought (scientific in the larger sense, as opposed to muddled, metaphysical, emotional, illogical thinking) outside the physical sciences assumes the form of a pure and self-contained formalism (symbolism) on the one hand, and a total empiricism on the other. (The contrast is not a conflict. See the very empirical application of mathematics and symbolic logic in electronic industries.) In relation to the established universe of discourse and behaviour, non-contradiction and non-transcendence is the common denominator. Total empiricism reveals its ideological function in contemporary philosophy. With respect to this function, same aspects of linguistic analysis will be discussed in the following chapter. This discussion is to prepare the ground for the attempt to show the barriers which prevent this empiricism from coming to grips with reality, and establishing (or rather re-establishing) the concepts which may break these barriers.