Modelling of Constitutive Relationship of Steel Fiber-Concrete Interface

Modelling of Constitutive Relationship of Steel Fiber-Concrete Interface

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Technology in Society xxx (2015) 1e6

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Human nature, the means-ends relationship, and alienation: Themes for potential EasteWest collaboration Bocong Li* College of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.19 A Yuquan Road, Beijing 100049, PR China

a b s t r a c t Keywords: Human nature Means-ends relationship Means-ends imbalance Alienation

This essay identifies two basic themes, human nature and the means-ends relationship, that can both advance philosophical reflection on technology and potentially serve as a basis for EasteWest collaboration in philosophy. What is central to the philosophy of technology and engineering are questions of how technical activity is related to human nature, both as founded in human nature and contributing to its realization. In the history of human thought, there have been a number of theses about human nature d the human being is a rational animal, a tool making and using animal, and a symbol making and using animal d that can have different implications for such questions. There are nevertheless possibilities for synthesis of different theories that point toward the importance of thinking about technology in terms of the means-ends relationship and the experience of a disharmony in the relationship that has been called alienation. From the perspective of the means-ends relationship, some suggestions are considered for dealing with different forms of alienation. A final suggestion is that some traditions of Chinese philosophy may contribute to advancing efforts to understand human nature and to deal with disharmonies in the means-ends relationship. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction In 1995 the American Philosophical Association hosted at its annual Eastern Division meeting in New York a Society for Philosophy and Technology shadow symposium on “Philosophy of Technology after Twenty Years.” Surprisingly to some, when commenting on the situation of the philosophy of technology at that time, three leading philosophers of technology d Don Ihde, Joseph C. Pitt, and Friedrich Rapp d all described the field as marginal [1]. There is little doubt that since then philosophy of technology has moved to a less marginal if still not central position on the map of philosophy. For instance, in 1998 a workshop on “The Empirical Turn in the Philosophy of Technology” was organized at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, with participants came from both * Tel./fax: þ86 10 88256360. E-mail address: [email protected]

the philosophy and engineering professions. Workshop organizers Peter Kroes and Anthonie Meijers argued that, to advance philosophical engagement with technology, “The philosophy of technology should be based on empirically adequate descriptions of technology and the engineering practices” [2, p. xxxiii]. The “empirical turn in the philosophy of technology” can to a considerable extent be interpreted as a turn to engineering. This is because concretely and empirically speaking technological acting is engineering practice. As for the topic of engineering, Carl Mitcham's Thinking through Technology: The Path between Engineering and Philosophy (1994) had pointed out that philosophers must think about technology in a way that does not exclude engineering discourse in order to advance their philosophical work [3, p. 267]. However, it was not until the early 2000s that a significant number of philosophers of technology gave engineering any sustained attention. 0160-791X/© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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At the beginning of the 21st century, as a younger sibling of the philosophy of technology, there emerged the philosophy of engineering [4]. It is obvious that philosophy of technology and philosophy of engineering are two overlapping subjects, distinctive but interdependent and interactive. However, this essay will not differentiate the two and focus only on their common points. From my perspective, technology and engineering differ from science, which focuses on the pursuit of truth, by being deeply involved with theories of human nature. Such an involvement will in the future help move the philosophy of technology to an ever more central position in philosophical reflection. Insofar as the philosophy of technology and engineering deal with questions of human nature they also deal with essential problems in philosophy as a whole. This essay will consider briefly two such topics d human nature and the means-ends relationship d that can also provide opportunities for collaboration between western and Chinese philosophical work. 2. Human nature There are many theories of human nature. Debates about what it means to be human have occupied philosophy from its beginnings, with pre-philosophical reflection taking place in myths. One early attempt in the West to bring mythological thinking about human nature into philosophy occurs in Plato's Protagoras, in a passage that deserves to be quoted at length. The old Protagoras, in order to persuade a younger Socrates that virtue is teachable, tells the following fable (as adapted from Jowett): Once there were only gods and no animals. When the time came for the creation of mortal animals, the gods molded them in the earth as mixtures of fire and earth and other elements. When they were about to enter the light of day, the gods ordered Prometheus and Epimetheus to distribute appropriate capabilities to each. Epimetheus proposed to Prometheus: “Let me distribute and you inspect.” This agreed, Epimetheus went about his task. To some he gave strength without swiftness, while weaker animals were given swiftness; some he armed, and others he left unarmed but devised other means of preservation: making some large, with size as a protection, and others small, who could fly in the air or burrow in the ground. Thus did he give to each species some means for self-preservation … . But not being as wise as he might have been, Epimetheus distributed among the non-human animals all the qualities he had to give, so that when he came to humans, who had yet to be provided for, he did not know what to do. Now while he was thus perplexed, Prometheus came to inspect the distribution, and he found that although all other animals were suitably equipped, humans alone were naked and unshod, uncovered, and unarmed d and already time had come when humans and the other animals were to go forth into the light of day. Then Prometheus, not knowing what to do, stole from Hephaestus and Athene wisdom in their arts along with

fire d since these arts could not have been acquired or used without fire d and quickly gave them to humans. Thus human beings acquired the wisdom necessary to support life, but not political wisdom, since this was in the possession of Zeus …. But Prometheus entered unobserved into the workshop shared by Athena and Hephaestus, in which they pursued their arts, and carried off Hephaestus' art of working by fire, and also the arts of Athena, and gave them to humans. And in this way humans acquired the means of livelihood. But Prometheus is said afterward to have been prosecuted for theft, owing to the blunder of Epimetheus. (Protagoras, 320c-322a) Obviously and interestingly, we can interpret the Greek myth philosophically as follows. According to the story, the nature of an animal species is associated with its ability to survive. While all animals obtained from Epimetheus their own such natural abilities, only humans did not obtain something, which means that humans did not from the beginning have a nature of their own. But Prometheus stole the arts d the Greek word is “technai”, the root of the English “technology” d from Hephaestus and Athena and along with them fire, giving them to humans so as to enable human beings to survive. The word “to steal” is another key to interpreting human nature. As another element in the story, “stealing” further suggests that humans do not have their own nature but instead have a “stolen” nature by way of Prometheus. So while the nature of all other animals rests in their own bodies d for example, the nature of tigers or the nature of moles is to be found in their anatomies and physiologies d the nature of humans exists outside their bodies. Human nature is outside the body in an ability to use the arts and fire. Considering that Hephaestus was the god of blacksmiths and artisans, with his symbols being the tools of axe and tongs, and that Athena was the goddess of the city, handicrafts, and agriculture, modern philosophers have gone a step further and interpreted the human as a toolmaking and tool-using animal. In ancient Greece, because tool-making and tool-using activity was mainly carried out by slaves, slave owners disdained tool-making and tool-using. Slave owners such as Plato and Aristotle would resist defining humans as a tool-making species. Instead, according to Plato, Aristotle, and their followers, the human being is not a tool-making and tool-using animal but a rational animal. This can be called the Plato-Aristotle thesis. The majority of philosophers for two thousand years in the West accepted this view. Something similar was the case in China, although servitude was not quite the same as in the West. In China, for instance, peasant agricultural life was ranked above that of traders. In the 18th century, Benjamin Franklin proposed a counter thesis, that the human being is a tool-making animal. Strangely, this thesis was not stated by Franklin himself but was attributed to him by Samuel Johnson. A later commentator summarized Franklin's view as follows: Inventiveness was the indispensable condition for the survival of the human species. Without fur or feather, carapace or scale, ancestral man naked to the elements;

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and without fang or claw or tusk to fight his predators; without speed to elude them, without camouflage to deceive them or the ability to take to the trees like his cousin, the ape, he was physically at a hopeless disadvantage. What he developed to deal with his deficiencies was [technology]. [Quoted from 3, pp. 137138] Franklin thesis recalls the Prometheus myth. A further adaptation in Thomas Carlyle presents the human being as a “tool-using animal.” This statement easily complements Franklin's and the two can readily be integrated into the idea that the human being is a tool-making and tool-using animal. Although some scholars, including Karl Marx, adopted the Franklin thesis, others have contested it. In the 20th century, Ernst Cassirer in the Philosophy of Symbolic Forms (1923e1929) and Essay on Man (1944) [5] argued that the human being is essential a symbol creating and using animal; this could be called the Cassirer thesis. Lewis Mumford advanced a similar view. According to Mumford, For more than a century man has habitually been defined as a tool-using animal. This definition would have seemed strange to Plato, who attributed man's rise from a primitive state as much to Marsyas and Orpheus as to Prometheus and Hephaestos, the blacksmith-god.” In opposition to the idea of humans as defined by tool making and using, Mumford argues the human “is preeminently a mind-using, symbol-making, and selfmastering animal; and the primary locus of all his activities lies in his own organism. [6, p.77-78] Although there are differences in the Plato-Aristotle, Franklin, and Cassirier theses, this does not mean that they necessarily exclude or contradict each other. Indeed, a proposal for their synthesis follows in section four. 3. The paradigm of technology The term “paradigm” has been especially popular since Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) [7] used it to indicate a governing framework for the pursuit of what he called normal science, and to describe scientific revolutions in terms of changes in paradigms. The term has subsequently been extended from the history and philosophy of science to many other fields, from general epistemology to literature and communications. However, it is not a term has not been used much in the field of philosophy of technology. An exception is found in the work of the contemporary American philosopher Albert Borgmann. In Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry (1984), Borgmann argued for understanding modern technology in terms of what he called the device paradigm [8]. As with Kuhn, Borgmann's usage is vague but expressive and powerful d and as such his philosophy has attracted the attention of many scholars, as witnessed by the publication of a collection of studies titled Technology and the Good Life. [9]. For Borgmann, natural processes and technological activities are fundamentally different. While natural proce-


sses are aimless, the technological activity is purposeful. As for the purpose or end of modern technology, Borgmann argues that technology “promises to bring the forces of nature and culture under control, to liberate us from misery and toil, and to enrich our lives” [8, p. 41]. Because of this some scholars see the philosophy of technology as a kind of teleology or analysis of its possible uses and ends. But Borgmann goes on immediately to write, “To speak of technology making promises suggests a substantive view of technology and is misleading” [8, p. 41]. The essence of technology should not be simplified in terms of teleology. His view is that what distinguishes modern technology is its distinctive character as means in the form of the device paradigm. The device paradigm as a means seeks to deliver a commodity, any commodity, in a way that hides or does not expose the mechanism of its creation. It thus disburdens any consumer of an appreciation of or engagement with the means. In contrast with the devices of modern technology such as automatic HVAC systems and digital watches Borgmann contrasts focal things and their associated practices such as wood burning stoves and time pieces that call forth regular manual physical engagement. In technological devices ends become increasingly independent of and separate from means. In this sense, as Borgmann notes, modern technology is a little like magic. As Borgmann says, “Only in magic are ends literally independent of means. The inevitable explicit concern with the machinery takes place in labor” [8, p. 48]. Through traditional labor a worker comes to recognize how means implicate ends: how work on the farm yields the food we eat or how the artisan's work produces goods such as clothes and shelter. In such work it is possible to see the inner connection between means and ends, how the means produce end products. In magic, however, there is no inner connection between means and end products; a magician simply recites a spell or waves a wand and the product appears. For the consumer of technologically produced goods, technology has a similar magical character. Contemporary consumers do not know how their digital watches or computer programed automobiles really work, and workers on the technological assembly line have no view of the whole of the production process as a means. To consumers technological products operate in magical ways and to technological workers it is almost magical how products appear as a result of their increasingly specialized labor. Yet technological activity is really material and radically different from magic. Technological production takes place through means that are truly effective whereas the dreams of magic are just that, dreams. In addition, the technological device is different from the elixir allegedly produced by means of some magic spell; the technological device truly delivers a good, be it pharmaceutical therapy or a digital clock. Magic carpets fail to transport people, but automobiles and airplanes succeed in doing so. All people are able to appreciate this difference. No more than a little reflection is necessary to recognize that a end truly alienated from means is not possible, even if the means is difficult to identify or understand.

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Thus Borgmann's concept of the device paradigm may seem at first to question the means-end connection in modern technology but in fact it calls attention to its importance. The connection today is less obvious than in premodern technology and in focal things and practices, but nevertheless is there in some form and requires examination. For this reason, in contrast to Borgmann, I would argue for understanding technology not in terms of a device paradigm but in terms of a broader means-ends relationship. 4. Human nature and the means-ends relationship Human nature and the means-ends relationship are two key issues in the philosophy of technology and inseparable from one another. With regard to human nature, it is necessary to distinguish human beings from animals. As argued above in section two, there are at least three theses concerning this distinction: humans are rational animals, humans are tool-making and tool-using animals, and humans are symbol-making and symbol-using animals. Yet it is possible to synthesize these three views in a way that points toward the need to analyze technology in terms of the means-ends relationship. Because the aim of tool-making is tool-using, and the tools are means human use, the Franklin thesis easily implies the importance of the means-ends relationship for understanding technology. In addition, the symbol can be regarded as a kind of means that human beings create and use, so that the Cassirer thesis also implies the importance of the means-ends relationship. As for the Plato-Aristotle thesis, the connection with the technological means-ends relationship requires more elaboration. The inorganic world is a world without aims, but all animals have their own aims or ends. Although humans and other animals have aims, which is something they have in common point, humans also differ from other animals. Here the myth of Prometheus and Epimetheus provides further inspiration when it describes how other animals make contact with the outside world directly and struggle against difficulties with their bodies, including claws, teeth, limbs, and so on. By contrast, humans make contact with the outside world indirectly or by some means, because humans make contact with the world by making tools and using tools. The human relationship to the world is mediated through tools and technology. In classical western philosophy, Plato and Aristotle nevertheless regarded reason as something beyond tool making and tools, as a form of contemplation rather than action. This view was deeply challenged by G.W.F Hegel and his followers. In opposition to philosophers who saw reason as contemplation and a way for detaching oneself from the world, Hegel's “cunning of reason” sees reason as an activity in the world that transforms it. It has its own tools with which it works to achieve certain (often hidden) ends. In Hegel's words, Reason is just as cunning as she is powerful. Her cunning consists principally in her mediating activity, which, by causing objects to act and re-act on each other in accordance with their own nature, in this way, without

any direct interference in the process, carries out reason's intentions. (Logic, sec. 382) Karl Marx cited Hegel's remarks in Capital where he points out that “The elementary factors of the labor-process are 1, the personal activity of man, i.e., work itself; 2, the subject of the work; and 3, its instrument.” In addition, Marx associates his theory with the Franklin thesis: “The use and fabrication of instruments of labor, although existing in the germ among some species of animals, is specifically characteristic of the human labor-process, and Franklin therefore defines man as a tool-making animal” (Capital I, ch. 7, sec. 1). Thus in the new concept of reason found in Hegel and Marx the Platonic-Aristotelian thesis of the human as a rational animal is transformed into or becomes one with the Franklin thesis of the human as a toolmaking and using animal. And in this way it too implies the importance of understanding technology through the paradigm of the means-ends relationship. Subsequent to Marx, Max Weber's understanding of reason as instrumental rationality only deepened the need for this approach. As a result of Weber's work, post-World War I many scholars d from economists and sociologists to philosophers d frequently replaced the term “reason” with “rationality” and sometimes distinguished different types of rationalities: substantive, instrumental, procedural, and more. Others pointed out the dependency of all forms of rationality on language and symbols. From the perspective of such developments, the PlatonicAristotelian can be reinterpreted as compatible with the Franklin thesis and justifies an understanding of the means-ends relationship as fundamental to both human nature and technology. 5. The means-ends relationship and alienation Historically not only has the means-ends relationship been central to the Hegelian-Marxist tradition, but it has occasioned discussion of the concept of alienation, in which there is some form of break between means and ends. In a sense it is alienation that Borgmann is concerned with when he criticizes technology as manifesting the device paradigm and its imbalance of means and ends [8, p. 57]. Other discussions of alienation, although not always using this exact word, can be found in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein (1818), Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensions Man (1964), Holmes Rolston's environmental ethics, and Andrew Feenberg's ten paradoxes [10]. Once it has been identified as such, the issue of alienation can be interpreted as present in some premodern philosophical texts. For instance, it is possible to read the ancient Chinese Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi, from the 4th century BCE, as having considered the problem of alienation, when he presented social orders and culture as confusing humans about reality. Central to any discussion of alienation are such questions as the following: What causes alienation to emerge in society? What are the social results of alienation? How might the problem of alienation best be addressed? All will involve some reflection on the means-ends relationship. As part of this reflection, I would suggest that alienation comes in at least three forms: (1) A means-ends imbalance

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in which the ends break away from the means to an extreme degree; (2) a means-ends imbalance in which the means overwhelm and ultimately betray the ends; and (3) symbol alienation, a relatively new form of alienation. The causes and effects of alienation are deeply related to the means-ends relationship in technology. Borgmann's paradigm of technology, in which a consumer commodity is delivered while hiding the machinery of its production, creates a kind of means-ends imbalance or alienation. (This is in contrast to Kuhn's scientific paradigm, where different elements cohere in a harmonious unity.) The first kind of means-ends alienation is that in which the ends break away from the means to an absurd extreme, even to the extent that an isolated end exists independent of any obvious means. We can name this type of alienation “magic alienation”. According to Borgmann, The peculiar presence of the end and the device is made possible by means of the device and its concealment. Everyone understands that the former rests on the latter, and everyone understands as well that the enjoyment of ends requires some kind of attention to the means. [8, p. 48] Yet not everyone understands that the enjoyment of the ends requires some kind of attention to or appreciation of the means. Many people, perhaps even some philosophers, cherish illusions that ends can be independent of means or be enjoyed without attention to means. Why else would magic be so attractive? The second type of imbalanced means-ends relationship is in some sense opposed to the first. In this case, the means overwhelm the ends rather than serve them. Charlie Chaplin's film Modern Times (1936) so vividly depicts this type of alienation in satirical style that we could call it a “modern times alienation”. There is a Chinese proverb about lifting a rock only to drop it on your own toes that could also apply here. Marx severely criticized this type of alienation insofar as the capitalist employment of machinery heightens the intensity of labor rather than lightening it, enslaving workers rather than liberating them. Historically speaking, in the premodern world magic alienation was more common than modern times alienation. Primitive peoples often believed they could gain their ends by means of incantations or imprecations. In the contemporary world, modern times alienation has become more common, insofar as humans have invented powerful devices but neglected or lost sight of ends. Borgmann has a remarkably keen insight into the ways that the device paradigm can split means and ends into mere means and mere ends. It is this separation that leads to the loss of focus in contemporary life. But a third type of alienation, symbol alienation, poses a new and further challenge in the information age. 6. The information age and symbolic alienation The invention of the computer in the mid-1940s and its increasingly ubiquitous use from the 1970s on has made it the technology most responsible for transforming an industrial into an information age. Along with this transformation there has been a shift from the kind of


mechanical modern times alienation Marx warned against to a symbol alienation, insofar as computers and the Internet facilitate symbol processing and symbol communication. The Industrial Revolution with its powerful tools and machines gave rise to the problem of modern times alienation, which has been subject to extensive analysis by Marxist philosophers and others. With the development of science, technology, and the economy under the influence of computers some of the most oppressive features of modern times alienation have been reduced if not eliminated. Workers in highly developed countries of western Europe benefit much more from industrialization than a hundred years ago. Even in China the Internet and social media facilitate some melioration of the worst excesses of industrialization. On the one hand, however, there is much in common between mechanical modern times alienation and symbol alienation. Both involve an imbalance or split between means and ends. On the other, symbol alienation is a distinct form of alienation with its own unique set of complex properties that deserve to be investigated from historical, social, philosophical, political, and cultural perspectives. The dominant characteristic of symbol alienation is that it blurs the line between true and false information. Modern times alienation was more of a social phenomenon, and did not challenge the true-false distinction. Examples of symbol alienation in the information age are false advertising of one kind or another, Internet fraud, identity theft, and more. In the information age, the notion of information as “objective” is called into question. Information can be manipulated or processed in such a way that it becomes mentally or culturally oppressive. In an industrial society actual workers are alienated via actual machinery and the distinction between means and ends is therefore more literal and direct. By contrast, symbol alienation applies even to consumers and takes place at the level of understanding and meanings. 7. Addressing imbalances between means and ends The preceding is no more than a sketch of some key issues in the philosophy of technology the further pursuit of which can contribute to making the philosophy of technology more central to philosophy as a whole. The pursuit of deeper and more comprehensive understandings of human nature, analyses of means-ends relationships, and efforts to identify and address various types of meansends imbalances are all important both to philosophy and to societies. Work in these areas thus deserves to be addressed from a variety of perspectives. To address the problem of alienation in the form of seeking ways to rebalance means and ends is a complex task which, moreover, bridges East and West; it is one on which there are opportunities for global collaboration. Sometimes there are tendencies to propose overly simple solutions that do little more than replace one type of imbalance with another. For example, some romantic proposals for overcoming alienation have simply called for a return to pre-industrial ways of life or for the restriction of

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the use of information media. It is not clear that these are realistic options. The negotiation of tensions among romantic and realistic perspectives, pessimistic and optimistic ones, or dystopian and utopian dreams is a constant feature of contemporary philosophical reflection on technology. Nevertheless, the challenge remains of the need to replace an imbalanced system with a balanced one, a system lacking in harmony with a harmonious one. In this regard it may be possible to be encouraged especially by the Chinese traditions of Daoism and Buddhism, in which the ideal of harmony plays a central role. More than in the West, there is a tradition in China of taking harmony as an ideal. Drawing on various understandings of the ideal of harmony may contribute to new visions of means-ends harmonies might take in the information age and how they might be pursued.






[7] [8]

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