Pope Francis on the Technocratic Paradigm
#1
Has anyone seen this?  Shocked

Laudato Si, nn. 106-114:

106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.[86]

107. It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”.[87] As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”.[88] Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.[89] At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”,[90] while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that “realities are more important than ideas”.[91]

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?

113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.
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#2
(07-13-2015, 04:49 AM)richgr Wrote: Has anyone seen this?  Shocked

Laudato Si, nn. 106-114:

106. The basic problem goes even deeper: it is the way that humanity has taken up technology and its development according to an undifferentiated and one-dimensional paradigm. This paradigm exalts the concept of a subject who, using logical and rational procedures, progressively approaches and gains control over an external object. This subject makes every effort to establish the scientific and experimental method, which in itself is already a technique of possession, mastery and transformation. It is as if the subject were to find itself in the presence of something formless, completely open to manipulation. Men and women have constantly intervened in nature, but for a long time this meant being in tune with and respecting the possibilities offered by the things themselves. It was a matter of receiving what nature itself allowed, as if from its own hand. Now, by contrast, we are the ones to lay our hands on things, attempting to extract everything possible from them while frequently ignoring or forgetting the reality in front of us. Human beings and material objects no longer extend a friendly hand to one another; the relationship has become confrontational. This has made it easy to accept the idea of infinite or unlimited growth, which proves so attractive to economists, financiers and experts in technology. It is based on the lie that there is an infinite supply of the earth’s goods, and this leads to the planet being squeezed dry beyond every limit. It is the false notion that “an infinite quantity of energy and resources are available, that it is possible to renew them quickly, and that the negative effects of the exploitation of the natural order can be easily absorbed”.[86]

107. It can be said that many problems of today’s world stem from the tendency, at times unconscious, to make the method and aims of science and technology an epistemological paradigm which shapes the lives of individuals and the workings of society. The effects of imposing this model on reality as a whole, human and social, are seen in the deterioration of the environment, but this is just one sign of a reductionism which affects every aspect of human and social life. We have to accept that technological products are not neutral, for they create a framework which ends up conditioning lifestyles and shaping social possibilities along the lines dictated by the interests of certain powerful groups. Decisions which may seem purely instrumental are in reality decisions about the kind of society we want to build.

108. The idea of promoting a different cultural paradigm and employing technology as a mere instrument is nowadays inconceivable. The technological paradigm has become so dominant that it would be difficult to do without its resources and even more difficult to utilize them without being dominated by their internal logic. It has become countercultural to choose a lifestyle whose goals are even partly independent of technology, of its costs and its power to globalize and make us all the same. Technology tends to absorb everything into its ironclad logic, and those who are surrounded with technology “know full well that it moves forward in the final analysis neither for profit nor for the well-being of the human race”, that “in the most radical sense of the term power is its motive – a lordship over all”.[87] As a result, “man seizes hold of the naked elements of both nature and human nature”.[88] Our capacity to make decisions, a more genuine freedom and the space for each one’s alternative creativity are diminished.

109. The technocratic paradigm also tends to dominate economic and political life. The economy accepts every advance in technology with a view to profit, without concern for its potentially negative impact on human beings. Finance overwhelms the real economy. The lessons of the global financial crisis have not been assimilated, and we are learning all too slowly the lessons of environmental deterioration. Some circles maintain that current economics and technology will solve all environmental problems, and argue, in popular and non-technical terms, that the problems of global hunger and poverty will be resolved simply by market growth. They are less concerned with certain economic theories which today scarcely anybody dares defend, than with their actual operation in the functioning of the economy. They may not affirm such theories with words, but nonetheless support them with their deeds by showing no interest in more balanced levels of production, a better distribution of wealth, concern for the environment and the rights of future generations. Their behaviour shows that for them maximizing profits is enough. Yet by itself the market cannot guarantee integral human development and social inclusion.[89] At the same time, we have “a sort of ‘superdevelopment’ of a wasteful and consumerist kind which forms an unacceptable contrast with the ongoing situations of dehumanizing deprivation”,[90] while we are all too slow in developing economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources. We fail to see the deepest roots of our present failures, which have to do with the direction, goals, meaning and social implications of technological and economic growth.

110. The specialization which belongs to technology makes it difficult to see the larger picture. The fragmentation of knowledge proves helpful for concrete applications, and yet it often leads to a loss of appreciation for the whole, for the relationships between things, and for the broader horizon, which then becomes irrelevant. This very fact makes it hard to find adequate ways of solving the more complex problems of today’s world, particularly those regarding the environment and the poor; these problems cannot be dealt with from a single perspective or from a single set of interests. A science which would offer solutions to the great issues would necessarily have to take into account the data generated by other fields of knowledge, including philosophy and social ethics; but this is a difficult habit to acquire today. Nor are there genuine ethical horizons to which one can appeal. Life gradually becomes a surrender to situations conditioned by technology, itself viewed as the principal key to the meaning of existence. In the concrete situation confronting us, there are a number of symptoms which point to what is wrong, such as environmental degradation, anxiety, a loss of the purpose of life and of community living. Once more we see that “realities are more important than ideas”.[91]

111. Ecological culture cannot be reduced to a series of urgent and partial responses to the immediate problems of pollution, environmental decay and the depletion of natural resources. There needs to be a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational programme, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to the assault of the technocratic paradigm. Otherwise, even the best ecological initiatives can find themselves caught up in the same globalized logic. To seek only a technical remedy to each environmental problem which comes up is to separate what is in reality interconnected and to mask the true and deepest problems of the global system.

112. Yet we can once more broaden our vision. We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral. Liberation from the dominant technocratic paradigm does in fact happen sometimes, for example, when cooperatives of small producers adopt less polluting means of production, and opt for a non-consumerist model of life, recreation and community. Or when technology is directed primarily to resolving people’s concrete problems, truly helping them live with more dignity and less suffering. Or indeed when the desire to create and contemplate beauty manages to overcome reductionism through a kind of salvation which occurs in beauty and in those who behold it. An authentic humanity, calling for a new synthesis, seems to dwell in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door. Will the promise last, in spite of everything, with all that is authentic rising up in stubborn resistance?

113. There is also the fact that people no longer seem to believe in a happy future; they no longer have blind trust in a better tomorrow based on the present state of the world and our technical abilities. There is a growing awareness that scientific and technological progress cannot be equated with the progress of humanity and history, a growing sense that the way to a better future lies elsewhere. This is not to reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us. But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.


The part about science and technology not being neutral really resonates with me somehow. I've always had this notion that it's a double edged sword, and our fallen nature tends to become intoxicated on this technocratic and scientific way of seeing the world and solving problems. It's practically a religious worldview for a lot of people but at heart it's godless, a 21st century Tower of Babel so to speak.

Definitely there is no return to the " Stone Age" or anything like it, although sometimes I think a little stepping back would be a good thing. Ultimately it will have to be individuals choosing to step away from this technocratic scientific paradigm in their own lives that will make a difference, but it'll have no appreciable impact on the world at large, as the wound in our nature and our impulse to self destruction and forbidden knowledge cuts too deep to resist.

When I look at the mess we make of ourselves individually and collectively sometimes I cant blame Luther for believing about our nature what he did.
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#3
But I thought that Laudato Si was a just an eco-weenie paper?  I mean, that's what I've heard constantly from certain circles since before it even came out...

As for the above quoted section, it strikes me as echoing certain themes from Rerum Novarum and Quadragesimo Anno
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#4
The point for us is not that there's truth mixed in there, but that there is error mixed in there. A chain is judged but the weakest link, not all the other ones which are strong.
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#5
'Finance overwhelms the real economy.' Wow. What a true statement.
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#6
This is actually quite a good critique of a major part of the whole Enlightenment project, namely man's desire to objectify and control nature, though I wonder if this is obscured somewhat by the emphasis on technology in itself.
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#7
(07-15-2015, 09:34 AM)FleetingShadow Wrote: This is actually quite a good critique of a major part of the whole Enlightenment project, namely man's desire to objectify and control nature, though I wonder if this is obscured somewhat by the emphasis on technology in itself.
It might be obscured if you make a separation between technology as we currently utilize it and the Enlightenment project. For myself, I see technology as being the "sacrament" of the Enlightenment.
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#8
Judging only by the excerpt given above, I would say that the Holy Father's critique is fine as far as it goes, but I am not sure that it goes far enough. Despite his noting that technology is not neutral, he still seems to be thinking in essentially instrumental terms when he says that, by slowing down and recovering other "values," we can put technology at the service of "another type of progress." One can find expressions of sentiments such as these as far back as the nineteenth century, and I do not think that they can truly overcome the technocratic paradigm that the Holy Father rightly rejects, though neither can the sort of romanticizing primitivism that Pope Francis seems to position as an "extreme" position as compared to his own "moderate" one. What is really necessary, I think, is a move toward thinking the essence of technology, which so far has not received much thoughtful attention. However, this sort of thinking is, of course, no easy task, and so I certainly do not think we should dismiss what the Holy Father teaches here simply because it is not complete.
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#9
(07-15-2015, 10:32 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: Judging only by the excerpt given above, I would say that the Holy Father's critique is fine as far as it goes, but I am not sure that it goes far enough. Despite his noting that technology is not neutral, he still seems to be thinking in essentially instrumental terms when he says that, by slowing down and recovering other "values," we can put technology at the service of "another type of progress." One can find expressions of sentiments such as these as far back as the nineteenth century, and I do not think that they can truly overcome the technocratic paradigm that the Holy Father rightly rejects, though neither can the sort of romanticizing primitivism that Pope Francis seems to position as an "extreme" position as compared to his own "moderate" one. What is really necessary, I think, is a move toward thinking the essence of technology, which so far has not received much thoughtful attention. However, this sort of thinking is, of course, no easy task, and so I certainly do not think we should dismiss what the Holy Father teaches here simply because it is not complete.

Yeah, OK, but is it necessary for the Pope to go further? Maybe the whole point of this encyclical is to bet the ball rolling, so that the philosophers, politicians and reformers can start building these ideas up and implementing them through policies? It seems to me that the people in those vocations should pick up where the Pope left off. I'm personally still extremely confused as to what the Pope's role is in the world. With all the criticism heaped on him from all sides, the whole thing is starting to feel like a farce. Meanwhile, since when has there been a way of verifying which writings of which popes are 'soul saving'? People were squawking all the time about this encyclical, bemoaning once more that the Church is no longer interested in the salvation of souls. That is an extremely bombastic thing to do, esp. considering that the majority of those people didn't even read what he wrote. But, really, how is 'Mit brennender Sorge' more soul saving than this encyclical? For the poor today in a nation that is being exploited by multinationals this issue is just as real as what was happening in interbellum Europe. And the fact that Francis is from the third world (I know that not all of Argentina is exactly such, but a South American I think it's safe to say he is a third worlder), well it just makes sense that he'd write about about what he knows. What were people expecting? Him to restore the TLM? Benedict didn't even do that, so why on earth to people think Francis could/would? People get so obsessed with certain issues that they are completely deaf and blind to other things, and even become hateful because of it. Really, you could pick out any papal document on political issues from any point in history and say 'Well, here he didn't go far enough' or 'Here he's just floundering around in his own rhetoric' or whatever. Something tells me that's the wrong approach to these arguments, unless you intend to build on yourself.
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#10
(07-15-2015, 10:32 PM)Crusading Philologist Wrote: Judging only by the excerpt given above, I would say that the Holy Father's critique is fine as far as it goes, but I am not sure that it goes far enough. Despite his noting that technology is not neutral, he still seems to be thinking in essentially instrumental terms when he says that, by slowing down and recovering other "values," we can put technology at the service of "another type of progress." One can find expressions of sentiments such as these as far back as the nineteenth century, and I do not think that they can truly overcome the technocratic paradigm that the Holy Father rightly rejects, though neither can the sort of romanticizing primitivism that Pope Francis seems to position as an "extreme" position as compared to his own "moderate" one. What is really necessary, I think, is a move toward thinking the essence of technology, which so far has not received much thoughtful attention. However, this sort of thinking is, of course, no easy task, and so I certainly do not think we should dismiss what the Holy Father teaches here simply because it is not complete.

I agree completely, and I posted this excerpt merely because I was surprised anything like it was even there.

Part of the difficulty, I think, is affirming art as right reason in the production of useful or instrumental things but also clarifying technology within the scope of art. The ambiguity of what technology is stems from its perhaps integral tie to the modern view, but perhaps a return to the Scholastic view of art as encompassing both that which is produced for the sake of usefulness ("technology") and that which is produced for the sake of beauty (fine art) is a more wholesome route.

Thus perhaps it is not so much that technology should even be considered as an isolated phenomenon apart from its modern philosophical context but rather as an element in an interweaving web. How this line of thinking might be justified, if it is the right path, I honestly don't have much clue.
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