One-Dimensional Man

From negative to positive thinking — Technological rationality and the logic of domination

“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 had 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 behavior 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.”

Herbert Marcuse


Creative Confession IV

“Movement is the source of all change. In Lessing’s Laocoon, on which we squandered study time when we were young, much fuss is made about the difference between temporal and spatial art. Yet looking into the matter more closely, we find that all that is but a scholastic delusion. For space, too, is a temporal concept.

When a dot begins to move and becomes a line, this requires time. Likewise, when a moving line produces a plane, and when moving planes produces spaces.”

Paul Klee

Cascade Experiment

“Because truths we don’t suspect have a hard time
making themselves felt, as when thirteen species
of whiptail lizards composed entirely of females
stay undiscovered due to bias
against such things existing,
we have to meet the universe halfway.
Nothing will unfold for us unless we move toward what
looks to us like nothing: faith is a cascade.
The sky’s high solid is anything
but, the sun going under hasn’t
budged, and if death divests the self
it’s the sole event in nature
that’s exactly what it seems.”

Alice Fulton

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

“At the basis of the whole modern view of the world lies the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena.

So people stop short at natural laws as at something unassailable, as did the ancients at God and Fate.

And they both are right and wrong. But the ancients were clearer, in so far as they recognized one clear terminus. whereas the modern system makes it appear as though everything were explained.”


Tomar Distancia

“La mayor parte de vosotros vive en la superficie de su ser, expuesto al contacto de las influencias exteriores. Vivís, por así decirlo, casi proyectados al exterior de vuestro cuerpo y cuando encontráis un ser desagradable, proyectado como vosotros hacia afuera, os sentís trastornados. Toda la dificultad viene de que vuestro ser no tiene el hábito de tomar distancia. Es preciso, siempre, penetrar en vosotros mismos. Aprended a descender profundamente al interior. Tomad distancia y estaréis seguros. No os abandonéis a las fuerzas superficiales que se mueven en el mundo exterior. Aun si os urge hacer algo, tomad distancia durante un instante y descubriréis, para vuestra propia sorpresa, que hacéis más rápido y mucho mejor el trabajo que tenéis que hacer. Si alguien está furioso contra vosotros, no os dejéis atrapar en sus vibraciones sino, simplemente, tomad distancia, y su cólera, al no encontrar en vosotros ni apoyo ni respuesta, se desvanecerá. Manteneos siempre en paz, resistid toda tentación de perder esta paz. No decidáis nada sin tomar distancia, no digáis jamás una palabra sin tomar distancia, no os lancéis jamás a la acción sin tomar distancia.”

La Madre

A Pluralistic Universe (Hibbert Lectures)

“The best way of entering into it will be to begin immediately with Bergson’s philosophy, since I told you that that was what had led me personally to renounce the intellectualistic method and the current notion that logic is an adequeate measure of what can or cannot be.”

William James

Dark Pool of Light

“”What -when you really thing about it- is consciousness?” I had long understood that this is the mega-question of both science and philosophy, but I had not appreciated either the tautology of epicycles that neuroscience had projected onto the relations between the brain and the mind or the full boggle of philosophy’s forays in search of subjective being. (…)

For scientists to tolerate any exogenous source of consciousness would be to forfeit their eminent domain and vested legitimacy -the basis of their declaration of power. Conscousness must finally be either illusional or imaginary -a spinoff of thermodynamics and neural stacking. It cannot aspire to any higher status. If it ever gets a foothold outside entropy, their goose is cooked.

Everything that follows in my books is either an extension or ass-kicking of this dilemma; that is, it either addresses the crazy-making ploy of acting like conscious dudes who de factory deny their own existence, or it portrays consciousness operating sui generis under its own authority.

I mean to kamikaze rather than skulk into this snafu, avoiding “tao of physics” settles or stale resorts of quantum-mechanical metaphors that relocate science and spirituality at layers of the same general paradox (thought I think that these models are valid in their way). What I seek instead is an actual convergence of scientific and psychic attunements -very, very different birds that stick out hard beaks and shape claws in trying to bash the other into nonexistence. I force them into coexistence and frame their meaning in terms of each other’s. I can’t think of anyone else eager enough to operate at this frequency; yet I believe that it is precisely the dial tone of modernity as well as where we have to go.”

Richard Grossinger

Antaios was strong cause he was grounded

“Antaios was a son of Gaia of the Earth, and it was from her that he drew his invincible strength. When Herakles encountered him in the ring, Athene advised the him to lift the giant up from the earth in the contest. He did so, and weakening the monster was able to crush his ribs and kill him.”

The Tao symbol, and Heidegger-Whitehead-Bohm

“The ancient Tao symbol offers an intuitive understanding of the between-two. The symbol provides a suggestive static visual representation, a snapshot of a dynamical process in which the belonging-together of dual modes in the between-two transparently “gifts” world-thrownness. (…)

The diagram can be interpreted, then, as a visual representation of the peculiar thermofield logic of the between-two. An unremitting dynamical belonging-together is symbolized and the whole remains unchanged in the reciprocating compensation between creation and annihilation operators. The fruit of this transparent dual mode process is “world-thrownness,” “creative advance,” “explication” of world, in the language of Heidegger, Whitehead and Bohm respectively.”

G. G. Globus

The effectiveness of causes

“The quick comment might be that of course we believe in effects; otherwise why should we look for causes, whether in everyday life or in the sciences. So causes are efficacious, genuinely effective. I believe that this quick comment is in fact the right one: but its justification is not obvious and can be challenged.

It can be challenged because it is not clear what such “efficacy” consists in. It is said to be the relic of an anthropomorphic view of the world, in which forces in nature are thought of as pushing and pulling and making things happen because we ourselves push and pull and make things happen. So to believe in natural efficacy is an animistic superstition.”

Dorothy Emmet