Technology and the End of History: Jacques Ellul and Martin Heidegger on the Eschatological Dimension of the Technological Society

Dissertation, Emory University (1994)
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Abstract

This dissertation is a comparison of Jacques Ellul's and Martin Heidegger's views on technology. The thesis is that through independently developed positions on technology, the thought of Ellul and Heidegger converge on what I call "eschatological thinking". Etymologically, eschatology is the study of last things--those things that surround us at the end of history. For Ellul, freedom of spirit is a last thing in a post-historical age. Heidegger observes that metaphysics is a last thing as we succumb to the unhistorical will to will . Both Ellul and Heidegger presuppose that we are at the end of history and that this end is embodied in technology. My project explains in what sense history is at an "end" and technology's connection to this "end". ;The first chapter considers Ellul's view in the context of the intellectual traditions from which it emerged. I give special attention to the relation between Ellul's use of Marxist concepts and his understanding of certain Biblical ideas, because his sociological analysis of technique hinges on the affinity between the Judeo-Christian conception of idolatry and the philosophical conception of alienation in Marx. ;In chapter two, after discussing how Heidegger envisions technology as the completion of metaphysics, I compare several of Ellul's and Heidegger's similarities and differences. ;In the last chapter, I contrast their views of the end of history with three other visions of finality--the apocalyptic, teleological, and deconstructive. These three perspectives on the end represent a source of hope to large sectors of the religious, political, and intellectual domains respectively. I explain how such hopes are bound to the technological phenomenon described by Ellul and Heidegger

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Erik Nordenhaug
Georgia Southern University

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