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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


BOSHOFF, Hercules. Language, technics and truth. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2017, vol.57, n.4, pp.1003-1011. ISSN 2224-7912.

In this article, the question concerning technics will be considered, not in terms of its current nature/state, or the impact that it has on contemporary society, but rather in terms of the myths on its origin and meaning. These myths point to the access gained through the use of technology in two senses: to the sphere of the gods on the one hand, but also to the solitude and independence of mankind from the gods on the other. Plato's account of the myth of the theft of technics by Prometheus will serve as an example of the first approach, and Nietzsche's lingual turn in On Truth and Lying in a non-moral sense will represent the latter. A space for the middle-ground between these approaches will be explored in Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, in which language and technics are depicted as being simultaneously bound to an overarching principle, as well as being representative of a concrete situation. In the tragedy, the characters representing both positions don't fit comfortably within the spheres they represent: firstly, Hephaestus was a cripple god that created technics to compensate for his shortcoming, and secondly there is Prometheus, the giant who sympathised with humanity by stealing technics from the gods. It will be argued that the use of technics positions humanity in a similar "in-between" position, a position that is constitutive of being human. The position comprises of a necessary tension between the metaphysical and the concrete, a tension that should not be resolved in favour of one side, but rather strengthened. This notion will be supported by Freud's term Spur, as appropriated by Derrida into différance. Spur refers to the trace of what is thought. However, this trace does not serve as an exact replica of what it depicts, because what is thought always remains beyond its representation. Furthermore, the means of and the act of representation bring about deviation in relation to what is represented, hence the description of différance. This does not imply that the act of thinking should be regarded as failing in its very purpose, but rather as a proof of the interplay between the elements constituting the zone of the imprint. Therefore, the zone of the imprint, différance, opens itself to what lies beyond itself without claiming to contain it on the one hand, and recognizes itself as being situated and limited on the other. But bringing these two parts together also implies changing our perceptions about truth and relativity. To this end, the suggestion of Heidegger to regard truth not as static, but as simultaneously/continuous veiling and unveiling, could be considered for bringing together or making the two approaches adaptable to each other. The binding force between the act of seeking what lies beyond, and the expression of what is immanent, is technics. Technics should not therefore be regarded merely as a supplement to or extension of human capabilities, but as something constitutive of being human. Such an explanation may leave the impression that humanity could be defined in terms of its technicity, which would amount to a distortion of the nature of the relationship between humanity and technics. The relationship in its most preferable form, is one in which a tension between that which lies beyond one's immediate situation and the immanent is maintained, a tension through which meaning becomes constituted. The tension is maintained by two aspects of technicity, firstly the always temporally transcendent character of technology, that seeks by means of invention and archiving to reach beyond its particular milieu, and secondly, the always pragmatic use of technology, that seeks to maintain and improve conditions. In conclusion a case will be made that the above-mentioned dichotomy between the universal and particular should instead be interpreted as an ongoing dynamism which seeks a balance between facilitating the preservation and transfer of that which shapes human society, as well as preventing its detrimental stagnation.

Keywords : Différance; Spur; Prometheus; Hephaestus; technics; truth; language; thinking; tradition; metaphysics.

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