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O Homem e a Técnica

Spengler (HT) – a técnica como tática

Capítulo I.1

sábado 23 de outubro de 2021

El Hombre y la Técnica. Traducción: Manuel García Morente

SPENGLER  , Oswald. Man and Technics. A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life. Tr. Charles Francis Atkinson and Michael Putman. London: Arktos, 2015

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El problema? de la técnica y de su relación con la cultura? y la Historia no se plantea hasta el siglo XIX. El siglo XVIII, con el escepticismo fundamental, con la duda, que equivale a la desesperación, había planteado la cuestión del sentido? y valor? de la cultura, cuestión que condujo a problemas ulteriores siempre más desmenuzados, y con ello creo las bases que permitieron al siglo XX ver? la historia universal? como problema.

Por entonces, en la época de Robinson y de Rousseau  , de los parques ingleses y de la poesía pastoril, considerábase? al hombre? “primitivo?” como una especie de corderito pacífico y virtuoso, echado a perder más tarde por la cultura. Pasábase completamente por alto la técnica; y, en todo caso, ante las consideraciones morales, considerábasela como indigna de la atención.

Pero la técnica maquinista de la Europa occidental creció en proporciones gigantescas desde Napoleón; y con sus ciudades? fabriles, sus ferrocarriles y sus barcos de vapor obligó, finalmente, a plantear en serio el problema. ¿Qué significa la técnica? ¿Qué sentido tiene en la historia, qué valor en la vida? del hombre, qué rango moral? o metafísico? Diéronse muchas respuestas a estas preguntas. Todas ellas pueden reducirse en el fondo a dos.

Por una parte?, los idealistas y los ideólogos?, los epígonos del clasicismo humanista? de la época de Goethe  , despreciaban las cosas? técnicas y las cuestiones? económicas en general, considerándolas como extrañas y ajenas a la cultura. Goethe  , con su gran sentido de todo lo real?, había intentado en la segunda parte del Fausto penetrar en las más hondas profundidades de ese nuevo mundo? de los hechos. Pero ya con Guillermo de Humboldt   comienza la concepción filológica de la historia, una concepción ajena a la realidad? y según la cual medíase, al fin y al cabo, el rango de una época histórica por el número de cuadros y de libros que en ella se hayan producido. Un soberano no poseía significación de importancia más que si se conducía como un Mecenas. No importaba lo que por lo demás, fuese. El Estado? era? una constante? perturbación para la verdadera cultura, que se fraguaba en las aulas, en los gabinetes de los científicos y en los talleres de los artistas. La guerra? era una barbarie inverosímil de épocas pretéritas, y la economía algo prosaica y tonta, sobre lo cual resbalaba la atención, aun cuando a diario se hacía uso? de ella. Nombrar a un gran comerciante o a un ingeniero junto a los poetas? y a los pensadores, era punto? menos que delito de lesa majestad cometido para con la cultura “verdadera”. Léanse en este sentido las Consideraciones sobre historia universal, de Jacobo Burckhardt  . Pero este era también el punto de vista de la mayoría de los filósofos de cátedra y aun de muchos historiadores, hasta llegar a los literatos y estetas de las actuales grandes urbes, que consideran la elaboración de una novela como más importante que la construcción de un motor de aviación.

De otra parte estaba el materialismo? de origen? esencialmente inglés, la gran moda? de los semicultos en la segunda mitad del siglo pasado, de los folletones liberales y de las asambleas populares radicales, de los marxistas y de los escritores ético-sociales que se tenían por pensadores y poetas.

Si a los primeros les faltaba el sentido de la realidad, a éstos, en cambio, les faltaba en grado superlativo el sentido de la profundidad. Su ideal? era exclusivamente lo útil. Todo lo que fuese útil para la “humanidad” pertenecía a la cultura, era cultura. Lo de más era lujo, superstición o barbarie.

Útil, empero, era lo que sirve a la “felicidad? del mayor número”. Y esta felicidad consistía en no hacer nada?. Tal es, en último término, la doctrina de Bentham, Mill y Spencer. El fin de la Humanidad consistía en aliviar al individuo de la mayor cantidad? posible de trabajo?, cargándolo a la máquina. Libertad de “la miseria, de la esclavitud asalariada”, e igualdad en diversiones, bienandanza y “deleite art?ístico”. Anúnciase el panem et circenses de las urbes mundiales en las épocas de decadencia. Los filisteos de la cultura se entusiasmaban a cada botón que ponía en marcha un dispositivo y que, al parecer, ahorraba trabajo humano. En lugar de la auténtica religión de épocas pasadas, aparece el superficial entusiasmo? “por las conquistas de la Humanidad”, considerando como tales exclusivamente los progresos de la técnica, destinados a ahorrar trabajo y a divertir a los hombres. Pero del alma?, ni una palabra?.

Este no es el gusto de los grandes descubridores mismos, con pocas excepciones; ni tampoco el de los que conocen bien los problemas técnicos; sino el de los espectadores, que no pueden inventar nada y, en todo caso, no comprendían nada de eso, pero rastreaban algo que podía redundar en su beneficio. Y con la falta? de imaginación que caracteriza al materialismo de todas las civilizaciones, bosquéjase una imagen? del futuro?, la bienaventuranza eterna sobre la tierra, un fin último y un estado? duradero, bajo el supuesto de las tendencias técnicas del año 80, aproximadamente, y en peligrosa contradicción con el concepto? de progreso, que excluye todo “estar?”: libros como La antigua y la nueva fe, de Strauss; Retrospección desde el año 2000, de Bellamy, y La mujer? y el socialismo?, de Bebel. No más guerras; no más diferencias de razas?, pueblos, Estados, religiones; no más criminales y aventureros; no más conflictos por la superioridad de unos y el diferente modo? de ser de otros; no más odios, no más venganzas. Un infinito? bienestar por todos los siglos de los siglos. Semejantes trivialidades nos producen hoy, al presenciar las fases finales de ese optimismo vulgar?, la idea? nauseabunda de un profundo? tedio vital, ese taedium vitae de la Roma imperial, que se expande al solo leer tales idilios sobre el alma y que en realidad, si se realizase, aunque fue se sólo en parte, conduciría al asesinato y al suicidio en masa.

Ambos puntos de vista están hoy anticuados. El siglo XX ha llegado a madurez y puede penetrar, al fin, en el último sentido de los hechos, en cuya totalidad consiste la historia real del Universo?. Ya no se trata de interpretar, según el gusto privado? de algunos individuos y de masas enteras las cosas y los acontecimientos en referencia a una tendencia racionalista, a deseos y esperanzas propios. En lugar de decir: “así debe ser”, o “así debiera ser”, aparece el inquebrantable: así es y así será. Un escepticismo orgulloso viene a sustituir los sentimentalismos del pasado siglo. Hemos aprendido que la Historia es algo que no tiene para nada en cuenta nuestras esperanzas.

El tacto fisiognómico, como he denominado [1] la facultad que nos permite penetrar en el sentido de todo acontecer; la mirada de Goethe  , la mirada de los que conocen a los hombres y conocen la vida, y conocen la Historia y contemplan los tiempos, es la que descubre en lo particular? su significación profunda.

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The problem of technics and its relation? to culture and to history? first? emerges in the nineteenth century. The eighteenth century, with its fundamental scepticism — a doubt? that was tantamount to despair — had posed the question of the meaning and value of culture; a question that led to further, ever more subversive questions and so laid the foundations for the possibility today, in the twentieth century, of seeing world history itself as a problem.

The eighteenth century, the age of Robinson [2] and Rousseau  , of the English park and of pastoral poetry, had regarded ‘primordial’ Man himself as a sort of lamb of the pastures, a peaceful and virtuous creature who would only later be corrupted by culture. The technical? side of him was completely overlooked, and in any case considered unworthy of consideration compared with considerations of moral issues.

But after Napoleon the machine-technics of Western Europe grew gigantic and, with its manufacturing towns, its railways, its steamships, it has forced us in the end? to face the problem in earnest?. What is the significance of technics? What meaning within history or value within life does it possess? What moral and metaphysical dimensions does it have? Many answers were given, but ultimately they are reducible to two.

On the one side there were the idealists and ideologues, the belated stragglers of the humanistic Classicism of Goethe  ’s age, who generally regarded technical matters and economic issues as separate from culture and beneath it. Goethe  , with his grand sense of all things real, had attempted to probe this new fact?-world to its deepest depths in the second part of Faust. But even in Wilhelm von Humboldt   [3] we have the beginnings? of that anti-realist, philological outlook upon history which ultimately judges the value of a historical epoch in terms of the number? of the paintings and books that it produced. A ruler was regarded as a significant figure only insofar as he proved himself to have been a patron of learning and the arts — what he was in other respects did not count. The state was a constant intrusion upon the true culture that was pursued in lecture halls, scholars’ dens, and studios. War was an unlikely relic of the barbarism of past times; the economy? was something prosaic, stupid, and beneath notice, although one made daily demands upon it. To mention a great merchant or a great engineer in the same? breath with poets and thinkers was almost an act? of lèse-majesté [4] to ‘true’ culture. Consider, for instance, Jakob Burckhardt  ’s [5] Weltgeschichtliche Betrachtungen [6] — the outlook is typical of that of most classroom philosophers? (and many historians, for that matter), just as it is the outlook of those literates and aesthetes of today who view the production? of a novel as something more important than the manufacture of an aircraft engine.

On the other? hand there was a materialism of an essentially English provenance which was the fashion among the half-educated during the latter half of the nineteenth century, of liberal culture pages and radical popular assemblies, of Marxist and social?-ethical writers who fancied themselves thinkers and poets.

If the characteristic of the first class was a lack of a sense of reality, that of the second was a devastating shallowness. Its ideal was utility, and utility only. Whatever was useful to ‘humanity’ was a legitimate element of culture, was in fact culture. The rest was luxury, superstition, or barbarism.

Utility meant what was conducive to the ‘happiness of the majority’, and this happiness consisted of leisure?. This is in the final analysis the doctrine of Bentham, [7] Mill, [8] and Spencer. [9] The aim of mankind was held to consist in relieving the individual? of as much of the work as possible and putting the burden on the Machine. Freedom? from the ‘misery of wage-slavery?’, equality in amusements and comforts, and ‘enjoyment of art’ — thus do the panem et circenses [10] of the cosmopolitan cities of the Late periods announce? themselves. The progress-philistine became excited over every button that set an apparatus in motion? for the — supposed — sparing of human labour. In the place? of the authentic religion? of earlier times came a shallow enthusiasm for the ‘achievements of humanity’, by which nothing more was meant than progress in the technics of labour-saving and amusement-making. Of the soul, not one word was discussed.

That is not at all to the taste of the great inventors themselves (with few exceptions), and also not to that of people who really understand technical problems. It is that of their spectators who, themselves incapable of inventing or understanding? anything, nevertheless sense that there is something interesting going on. And with the complete lack of imagination? that is the hallmark of materialism in every civilisation, there is formed a vision of the future in which the ultimate object? and the final permanent condition of humanity is an Earthly? Paradise conceived in terms of the technical trends of, say, the eighties of last century — a rather startling negation, by the way?, of the very concept of progress, which by definition? excludes permanent conditions. Thus we have books like Strauss’ [11] Alte und Neue Glaube, [12] Bellamy’s [13] Looking Backward, [14] and Bebel’s [15] Die Frau und der Sozialismus. [16] No more war; no more distinctions between races, peoples, states, or religions; no criminals or adventurers; no conflicts arising out of superiorities and differences, no hate or vengeance anymore, but eternal? comfort throughout the millennia. Even today, when we experience the last phases of this trivial optimism, these idiocies make one shudder, thinking of the appalling boredom — the taedium vitae [17] of the Roman Imperial age — that spreads over the soul in the mere reading of such idylls, of which even a partial actualisation in real life could only lead to wholesale murder and suicide?.

Today both views are obsolete. The twentieth century has at last reached the maturity to penetrate the inner meaning of the facts which collectively comprise genuine world history. Interpreting facts and events is no longer a matter of the private tastes of individuals or of the masses, a rationalistic tendency, or of one’s own hopes and desires. The place of ‘it shall be so’ and ‘it ought to be so’ is taken by the inexorable ‘it is so’, ‘it will be so’. A proud scepticism displaces the sentimentalities of last century. We have learned that history is something that takes no notice whatever of our expectations.

The physiognomic tact — as I have called it [18] — the quality? which alone enables us to probe the meaning of all events, the insight of Goethe   and of every born connoisseur of men and life and history throughout the ages — reveals the deeper significance of particular phenomena?.


Ver online : Man and Technics


[1Decadencia del Occidente. Tomo I, Capítulo II.

[2As in Robinson Crusoe. –Ed.

[3Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835) was a Prussian philosopher who was charged with reforming the Prussian public educational system, which he did by instituting standardisation across all schools. –Ed.

[4A French term denoting an insult against the dignity of a person or institution. –Ed.

[5Jakob Burckhardt (1818–1897) was an important German historian and historiographer who specialised in the Renaissance, and art history in particular. Nietzsche studied under him. –Ed.

[6Judgments on History and Historians (London: Routledge, 2007).

[7Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) was a British philosopher who was the founder of the utilitarian school of philosophy. –Ed.

[8John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) was a British philosopher and exponent of utilitarianism who was crucial in the development of liberal political theory. –Ed.

[9Herbert Spencer (1820–1903) was a British philosopher who applied the theory of evolution to politics and sociology, coining the concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’. –Ed.

[10Latin: ‘bread and circuses’. –Ed.

[11David Friedrich Strauss (1808–1874) was a controversial German theologian who denied the divinity of Christ, giving rise to the concept of the ‘historical Jesus’. –Ed.

[12The Old Faith and the New (Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books, 1997). In this book Strauss rejected religion in its entirety, as he came to see it as being supplanted by science and technology. –Ed.

[13Edward Bellamy (1850–1898) was an American socialist writer. –Ed.

[14Looking Backward is about a man who is put into a hypnotic sleep in the year 1887 and then awakens in the year 2000 to discover that the United States has been transformed into a socialist utopia. –Ed.

[15August Bebel (1840–1913) was a German socialist politician who was the leader of the Social Democrats. He was a strong proponent of social, racial, and sexual equality. –Ed.

[16Woman Under Socialism (New York: Schocken Books, 1971). In it, Bebel called for the abolition of the institution of marriage and monogamous relationships. –Ed.

[17Latin: ‘ennui of existence’. –Ed.

[18The Decline of the West, vol. 1, p. 100.