A Rhetoric of Technology

In the practice of technology, alternative proposals for the realization of particular functions are usually taken from ‘catalogs’ of existing and proven realizations. – Stanford Encyclopedia.

A possible implication of this is that while there is clearly a philosophy of science, then just as linguistics is the science of language, then technology as an application of scientific knowledge might be closer to a rhetoric of technology. This may seem to be a strange statement, but consider it for a moment. Most discussions of technology remain on a fairly superficial level (Heidegger being an example of this) because technology is regarded as an epiphenomenon of something else. Whether this is a conflict between individuals and capital, or a manifestation of the drama of Sein and Dasein, or whatever else doesn’t really matter. This discourse assumes that unto itself technology is directed elsewhere, that it is of no real interest qua technology. Accordingly, the application of “rhetoric” ties in with this because the catalogues mentioned here are a striking parallel with the taxonomies of the classical and medieval rhetoricians. We are further removed from attempting a philosophy of technology, in that we are not led to ask how a scientific principle is applied (in rhetorical terms this might lead us to ask “is X a felicitous example of Y”) because this involves some analysis of application. Instead, we are led to simple description, the trainspotters version of technology.


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