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Before moving to the final parts of our study of the origins of science and technology as the chief

productive ideology of the bourgeoisie, I wished to propose this introduction to the problematic
that we are seeking to confront in our examination of the work of Descartes, Bacon and Hobbes.
This type of reflection is utterly essential at a time when the bourgeoisie is attempting – but only
attempting, because the attempt will fail and is already floundering – to undermine political
freedom through the contemptible utopia of “artificial intelligence “. Each and every day we are
finding out, with growing alarm, how idiotic is this ambition, and how despotic is its intention!
Cheers.

Misconceptions of Science

Capitalism is the command over living labour through its fictitious exchange with dead objectified labour.
Any necessary living labour required over and above its free reproduction is surplus labour. Capitalism is
therefore the accumulation of political power over living labour through dead labour. It is the
accumulation of surplus labour. But because a worker can work only so many hours in the day, capitalist
accumulation requires the expansion of the actual labour force and of the reserve army of labour – which
entails the absolute expansion of the working population by means of the reduction of the living labour
necessary for its reproduction as a proportion of the working day. The workers seek the expansion of the
individual daily necessary labour and the containment or reduction of the working population. The
individual capitalist seeks to reduce the proportion of the workday going to necessary labour for his own
workers and to expand it for the workers of other capitalists so their workers can consume more of what
he produces.

To reduce necessary labour and accumulate surplus labour, capital requires the scientific-industrial
enterprise. Thus, the early development of the scientific enterprise, mistaken universally for an
autonomous intellectual or “scientific” development, is really entirely dependent on the expansion of
capitalist industry and commerce. Natural philosophy based its “method” entirely on capitalist industry
not on its “pure” science but mistook this for precisely such a “pure” activity of scientific research.

1. That there is such a “thing” called science. That science is a specific reality or dimension or ability
in human being – as distinct from a “scientific enterprise “, that is to say, a set of highly specific
practices dependent on social relations of production adopted for the reproduction of human
societies.
2. As a corollary, that science is the process of the discovery of “truth”, of “objective reality” and
not a specific “enterprise” related to human social relations.
3. As a result, that science is a technical activity independent of human social relations and choices.
4. That scientific research and findings are necessarily “progressive” and of benefit to humanity –
precisely because they are deemed to be “true” in the sense of “objective” – that is to say,
independently of their effect on human society.
5. Finally, that scientific enterprise is entirely objective and does not depend on the manipulation of
the life-world – of human reality and environment (“nature”) - in the “demonstration” of its
“truth” – that is to say, in the (artificial reality) of experimentation.

The original sin of Western reflection is the oblivion of being. From its inception in pre-Socratic
Greece, philosophy abandons its unique focus on attaining knowledge as wisdom (whence the
equation of the two notions in the Greek word sophia and the literal meaning of philo-sophia as
“love of knowledge-wisdom”) and con-fuses it instead with the empirical discovery of the make-up
and functioning of the physical universe. Hence, philosophy relinquishes its most sublime task –
that of exploring and championing the role of human conscience and action in the cosmos or life-
world – and then traduces this quest by defining itself as the handmaiden of scientific enterprise. In
other words, the oblivion of being – the reification of being into the world of inert objects and
perennial entities - leads to the acceptance of what is called “science” as “the continuation of
philosophy by experimental means” (to paraphrase von Clausewitz) – implying thereby that
“science” possesses an epistemological status, a methodological identity and solidity – to be sure, a
“scientific objectivity”! - that it quite simply does not possess.

The mischievous misapprehension is that philosophy and the instrumental activity universally
known as “science” are merely different stages of a single process known as the acquisition of
knowledge or, in the title of Francis Bacon’s magnum opus, “the advancement of learning”, where
knowledge and learning are understood as power and dominion over an indomitable nature extrinsic
and alien to humans. In this perspective, science and philosophy have the same homogeneous
object: - that is, the pursuit of knowledge as power and domination by human beings over the life-
world and, per extenso, over one another. Yet what we call “science” is not an independent sphere
or dimension of human knowledge understood as an innate intellectual and cerebral faculty – the
way logico-mathematics or music and art are. Instead, as we are demonstrating here, science is
simply “technique” (techne’ as against episteme or indeed poiesis). Nor is science a “technical-
neutral” dimension of human action whose “truth” is independent of human social relations and
practical goals. Rather, it is a practical pursuit of historically specific goals by instrumental means –
through induction and manipulation or experimentation where the creation of an artificial
environment goes hand in hand with establishing the “validity” or “success” of “scientific
experiments and discoveries”! In sum, “science” is a non-entity; scientific methodology is a mirage
pure and simple.

It is thus that philosophy confuses and traduces its scope and unique role of comprehending the
human experience of the life-world for the utilitarian advantage of subjecting the environment, the
life-world, into an instrument for human gratification. Rather than concentrate on the being of
beings, philosophy reduces and therefore traduces the experience of life with its objectification. It
also perniciously allows the ascription to “science” of an epistemological and methodological status
that, again, is quite simply fictitious. Given that human existence inevitably entails objectification –
we cannot but do and act as we live – such a reduction would be politically harmless were it not for
the fact that under capitalist social relations of production the specific historical form of
objectification is the alienation of human living activity and its reification in terms of dead
objectified labour (“goods” or “commodities”). The task of philosophy – its indispensable and
ineluctable attribute – is to remind human beings of the reality that they exist within the life-world
(the cosmos), and therefore can never observe it “from without” – wherein consists the irrefragable
human faculty to initiate action and, as a corollary, to be free. The unique mission of philosophy is
to remind human beings of their freedom, of the reality of their existence. The oblivion of being is
tantamount to the relinquishment of human freedom.

Already, human living activity has a tendency to become reified and crystallised into its extrinsic
inert products: thus, the quest for knowledge understood as wisdom turns into the relentless pursuit
of knowledge as power and domination over nature and, through nature, over human beings. This
fundamental reduction of the question of being to the observation of particular beings and their
instrumental utilization (a utensil is an instrument, a tool), this reification of human thinking
activity, this crystallization and freezing of being into static substance or essence or presence and
the consequent confinement of human action to mere instrumental exploitation of the world – this is
the process whereby being (Etre, Sein) is reduced to beings (etants, Seiende) and philosophy is
turned into the handmaiden of “science and technology”. The reification of human life – this is the
true sense and ultimate outcome of “the oblivion of being” claimed by Heidegger but in truth
originally seized upon by Nietzsche as the “end [Voll-endung] of metaphysics” and the beginning of
European nihilism.
Contrary to the mythology made ubiquitous in bourgeois society, science is not the objective
observation of reality but it is rather a precise project whose purpose (Zweck) must be recognized
and rendered explicit as a political social goal that involves intervention and manipulation, not
neutral observation, of the life-world. The very survival of the human species depends entirely on
us acting on this realization. Our principal aim here is to trace this transformation and ultimate
reification of practical scientific enterprise at the hands of the bourgeoisie, its corruption and
degradation of European thought and society from the original goal, however distorted by Judaeo-
Christian religion, of pursuing knowledge as wisdom to the instrumental utilitarian acquisition of
knowledge as power (over the life-world, over other humans) and its reduction to a productive
technique under the guise of “the advancement of learning” or “science and technology” as the
handmaiden of capitalist industry – the aim is to evince this nihilistic process whereby the birth and
global expansion of capitalist industry and the social relations of production has come to underlie
all of human society nowadays, and to this pursuit of “science” as a “will to truth” that is the
thinnest disguise for the will to power of the bourgeoisie right from its origins at the end of the
Middle Ages in the transition from feudalism to capitalism.

The Reification of Science

The process of production, therefore, is seen as “technology”, as an ob-ject – that is, as a “neutral
scientific process” that is “external” or “exogenous” to economic “science” - rather than as a pro-
duct, as the very embodiment of political antagonism over the production and satisfaction of
human needs. At a broader level, the capitalistic domination of living labour by means of dead
labour (productive materials, machinery and produced goods) is reified as “science and technology”
in such a manner that (a) they are mistaken for “objects” or “tools” when in fact they are mere
extensions of human activities, they are “techniques”; and (b) they are seen as the result of
“scientific and technological” – that is to say, “politically neutral” - research and development or
“discovery” independently of capitalist domination over living activity!

As a result, “science and technology” are seen not as specific capitalist strategies that contain
antagonism but rather as “autonomous” and “separate” – indeed, “scientific and technical”! –
entities that are in themselves “politically neutral”! Yet just as there is no such thing as “science”
or “technology” but only human productive activities mediated by tools, so there is and there can
be no “neutrality” in the tools employed by humans for their activities! “Science and technology”
are not neutral because they are always activities in which human beings engage with a purpose in
mind, even when that purpose is “multiple”: hence, tools are not distinguishable from human
activities because they are extensions of the human body! (Cf. H. Arendt’s Prologue to The
Human Condition in which the automobile is seen as an “extension” of or appurtenance to the
human body.) It is not the case that a tool can be used for good or for bad purposes - because the
tool and the purpose cannot ever be distinguished – they are part of the one human “activity”; they
go “hand-in-hand”, as it were!

The political danger in the hypostatization of “science and technology” lies in the epochal
transformation of their socio-political role from the Renaissance, when societies were still
emerging from feudalism and Absolutist rule, to the Industrial Revolution when the capitalist
bourgeoisie had finally erected its liberal nation-State regimes and begun to subsume the entire
reproduction of human societies under the rule of capitalist production. Effectively, capital has
succeeded in presenting both the State – the Political – and civil society – the Economy – as
“techno-scientific mechanisms” that are politically neutral – securing thereby the apparent
depoliticization of capitalist production.
This danger was first exposed with exceptional acuity by Carl Schmitt (in the related essay cited
above) by confuting the neutrality of “technology” from two opposing sides, as the respective
quotations below evince. From the side of “technology” intended as “tools”, as objects, Schmitt
rightly points out in the first quotation that tools are “tools” to the extent that they are util-ized
by human beings: but in that case they can never be “neutral” for the exact reason that human
actions, by definition, cannot be “neutral” and are always “motivated” instead. In the second
quotation, which approaches the reified concept of “technology” (and “science”) from the side of
human motives, Schmitt shows that these motives are never obliterated or neutralized by the
“tools”, even when human agents believe that they are simply applying a “neutral technology”!

Technology appeared to be a domain of peace, understanding, and reconciliation. The otherwise


inexplicable link between pacifist and technical belief is explained by this turn toward neutralization which
the European mind took in the seventeenth century and which, as if by fate, has been pursued into the
twentieth century. But the neutrality of technology is something other than the neutrality of all former
domains. Technology is always only an instrument and weapon; precisely because it serves all, it is not
neutral. No single decision can be derived from the immanence of technology, least of all for neutrality.
Every type of culture, every people and religion, every war and peace can use technology as a weapon.
Given that instruments and weapons become ever more useful, the probability of their being used becomes
that much greater. Technical progress need not be either metaphysical or moral and not particularly
economic to be progress. If humanitarian-moral progress is still expected by many today from the [92]
perfection of technology, it is because technology is magically linked to morality on the somewhat naive
assumption that the splendid array of contemporary technology will be used only as intended, i.e.,
sociologically, and that they themselves will control these frightful weapons and wield this monstrous
power. But technology itself remains culturally blind. Consequently, no conclusions which usually can be
drawn from the central domains of spiritual life can be derived from pure technology as nothing but
technology - neither a concept of cultural progress, nor a type of clerc or spiritual leader, nor a specific
political system. (Schmitt, CoP, pp.91-2)

[94] The spirit of technicity, which has led to the mass belief in an anti-religious activism, is still spirit;
perhaps an evil and demonic spirit, but not one which can be dismissed as mechanistic and attributed to
technology. It is perhaps something gruesome, but not itself technical and mechanical. It is the belief in an
activistic metaphysics - the belief in unlimited power and the domination of man over nature, even over
human nature; the belief in the unlimited "receding of natural boundaries," in the unlimited possibilities for
change and prosperity. Such a belief can be called fantastic and satanic, but not simply dead, spiritless, or
mechanized soullessness.

Again, taken jointly, Schmitt’s objections to the reification of “science and technology” as a thing,
show clearly that in reality they are nothing more than human pro-ductive activity or praxis. Yet,
although Schmitt’s approach quite correctly leaves this reified concept of “science and technology”
with no “separate existence”, with no “neutrality” whatsoever, and therefore correctly stresses its
relation to human action and interests, still he refers to “technology” as if such a thing really
existed independently of human action. Of course, the validity of Schmitt’s critique becomes
pellucid once we replace the reified phrase “science and technology” with its true equivalent of
“techniques” because – as the term itself obviously implies – a “technique” is an actual human
activity or skill whereas “science and technology” are quite easily mistaken for and hypostatized as
the “methodology” and “tools” (the laboratories, the institutions, the objects, the machines, the
equipment, the instruments) that constitute their social embodiment. (This last insight is in
Heidegger’s essay on Aristotle’s Physis cited above. This crucial fallacy of treating “science and
technology” as “independent realities” – as objects, really - can be found even in the most
insightful reviews of the social role of “science and technology” such as Habermas’s review of
Marcuse [“Science and Technology as ‘Ideology’” in Toward A Rational Society, which we shall
review later] or Arendt’s notion of “human action” in The Human Condition.)

The final part of Schmitt’s second quotation above is a mordant and trenchant riposte to the
various late-romantic ideologies denouncing the “reification” and “dis-enchantment” that capitalist
“rationalization” imposes on living labour which is now seen as reducing human interests to the
mere materialistic pursuit of “prosperity” or “economic value” (whether as utility or as labour-
value) or “profits” or “consumerism” – with the consequent loss of “meaning” and of “totality” in
this “science and technology” which no longer seek “reason” or “freedom” but serve only to chain
humanity to the Promethean wheel of production for its own sake, profit for its own sake, quantity
against quality, having against being – the Weberian and Lukacsian Rationalisierung. The locus
classicus of this critique of “the crisis of European sciences” is to be found in Husserl’s famous
address with the same title:

The exclusiveness with which [6] the total world-view of modern man, in the second half of the
nineteenth century, let itself be determined by the positive sciences and be blinded by the
"prosperity"2 they produced, meant an indifferent turning-away from the questions which are
decisive for a genuine humanity.3 Merely fact-minded sciences make merely fact-minded people.
The change in public evaluation was unavoidable, especially after the war, and we know that it has
gradually become a feeling of hostility among the younger generation. In our vital need—so we
are told—this science has nothing to say to us. It excludes in principle precisely the questions
which man, given over in our unhappy times to the most portentous upheavals, finds the most
burning: questions of the meaning or meaninglessness of the whole of this human existence. (E.
Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences, pp.5-6).

This pining for the loss of “totality” [Totalitat] (a central concept in Lukacs) and the consequent
alienation of human beings from their living activity (Marx) through the fragmentation and
reification of social reality (Lukacs, Heidegger) or “dis-enchantment” (Weber’s Entzauberung)
engendered by the instrumental and positivist abuse of “science and technology” is a constant
theme running through all social theory – bourgeois, socialist and Marxist - from the middle of
the nineteenth century to the present day. Despite the obvious pertinence of many of the critical
analyses of Technik and the Rationalisierung central to the German phenomenological tradition
from Nietzsche to Weber and Heidegger (which includes figures such as Husserl, Arendt, Lukacs
and the Frankfurt School), their incisiveness stops right at the point at which human conflict and
the techno-scientific practices that it pro-duces – the Rationalisierung - are misconstrued as
ontological or epistemological or ontogenetic categories that are quite independent of social
relations of production, and therefore as ineluctable or immutable categories of human activity.
Indeed, once more, they are foisted upon us as the evil by-products of “science and technology”(!),
which reintroduces by the back door the very reification and hypostasis that the critique of
“science and technology” was meant to expose!

Some Marxist intellectuals have criticised these notions as a rear-guard attempt by the German
workers’ movement to preserve the “artisanal” work practices of skilled workers (die Gelernte)
against the massification of labour introduced by Taylorist and Fordist industrial processes (cf. M.
Cacciari, Pensiero Negativo e Razionalizzazione and the studies by G. Marramao on the German
workers’ movement.)

All the critics of “the technocratic society” (even down to our days - Jacques Ellul, Alvin Toffler,
or Theodore Roszak) and “one-dimensional man” (Marcuse) forget that the ideological use of this
reified concept - “science and technology” -, far from actually embodying the political antagonism
of the society of capital, and farther still from being able to disguise it, and much farther still from
being able to resolve it (!), is instead the actual direct product and manifestation of this antagonism
- and not a mere “ideology” (Marcuse) or a “necessary illusion” (Lukacs), or an “objective
appearance” (Marx) -, an antagonism that increasingly calls into question the sustainability of the
capitalist economic system based on domination over living activity, and indeed also poses ever-
growing systemic risks to the very survival of “the society” on which capitalist social relations of
production must be founded. Thus, far from hiding or disguising or “reifying” it, these techno-
scientific practices actually embody and reveal – they exhibit - the utter incompatibility of human
needs with the capitalist command of living labour based on the wage relation.
Habermas, in S&T as “Ideology”, whilst agreeing with Marcuse that perhaps a New Science and
New Technology can come to view humanity as “the Other”, rather than humans regarding
“nature” as “the Other” (a pious suggestion at best), concedes the possibility of human pacification,
yet insists on this notion of “Science and Technology” and goes along with Arnold Gehlen’s wild
generalizations about the “universality” of “technological progress” (from mechanical functions
involving limbs to cerebral functions)! Once again, Habermas and Gehlen conveniently forget that
human “mechanical” functions are indeed as “intellectual” or “cerebral” as any other functions, as
Gramsci amply and ably showed in the Prison Notebooks (sections on “Intellectuals”). The reason
for this misapprehension is that Habermas falls into the same old habit of seeking to draw an
invalid dichotomy between “labour” (mechanical activity) and “interaction” (symbolic
communication) – a pathetic humanist and late-romantic distinction that we have criticized in our
“Habermas’s Meta-Critique of Marx” and in our critical review of Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s
Intellectual and Manual Labor (both on scribd.com). Apart from this, Habermas validly challenges
Marx’s facile distinction between “forces” and “relations” of production as well as Marcuse’s even
more questionable reduction of “Science and Technology” – an abstraction – to “ideology”, contra
Weber, which only tends to reaffirm Weber’s hypostatization of “rationality” as synonymous with
capitalism whether in reality or as “ideology”.

A further hypostasis is pointed out by Heidegger, “On the Content and Essence of ‘Physis’ in
Aristotle”, in Pathmarks, at p.211. Heidegger insists repeatedly on the absurdity of the attempt in
Western civilisation to define physis, the coming-into-being of our surrounding world (Um-welt),
as techne, a pre-conceived human project [see especially p.197], and revives instead the notion of
“pro-duction” as metabole [especially at p.221]. His vice, as always in these matters, is to identify
this fallacious praxis philosophisch, as if it were merely an ontological confusion rather than the
historical product of existing political antagonism over the satisfaction and creation of human
needs. Heidegger centres this notion of physis and metabole on the contingency or being-toward-
death of human Dasein [being there], on its “thrown-ness” or “freedom-unto-death”, and
therefore on its mortality. Perhaps the best, albeit abstruse, critique of this “ontologism” is in T.
Adorno, Negative Dialectics, esp. Part One on “The Ontological Need”, and the shorter Lectures
on Negative Dialectics, esp. Lecture 2, pp.13ff. See also A.Gramsci, Il Materialismo Storico, cited
by Bobbio in Gramsci for a critique of the undialectical notion of “evolution” in social theory.
Much preferable and more uplifting is Hannah Arendt’s reinterpretation– in The Human
Condition - of physis and metabole as “birth” (genesis) and therefore as the inescapable condition
of human beings to initiate action as political beings – as beings whose very “being alive” is “to be
alive among other human beings” (inter homines esse – whence the notion of “human inter-est”).

The Birth of Bourgeois Science and the Rise of Nihilism

IV. Madness in the Method – Francis Bacon to Hobbes


La idea de sustituir la tradicional «filosofía de las palabras» por una «filosofía de las obras» ya estaba presente en la mente de
Francis Bacon cuando era aún un jovenzuelo: «Cuando todavía estaba en la universidad,
99
100 Francis Bacon: De la magia a la ciencia
alrededor de los dieciséis años, tuvo por vez primera un sentimiento de rechazo (como Su Señoría se complació en decirme) hacia la
filosofía de Aristóteles; sentimiento que no estaba causado por desprecio hacia el autor al que siempre tributó grandes alabanzas,
sino por la ineficacia del método; pues se trataba (como Su Señoría solía decir) de una filosofía que sólo era apta para las disputas
y controversias pero estéril en las obras provechosas para la vida del hombre...» «Bacon —prosigue el biógrafo William
Rawley— se mantuvo fiel a este juicio hasta el día de su muerte» '. (Rossi, Francis Bacon)

The idea of substituting the traditional «philosophy of words» for a "philosophy of works" was already present in the mind of Francis
Bacon when he was still a youngster: «When I was still in college,
99 100 Francis Bacon: from magic to science
around sixteen years of age, I had for the first time a feeling of rejection (as the honourable Member was pleased to tell me) towards
the philosophy of Aristotle; a feeling that was not caused by contempt for the author whom I always worshipped and praised, but by
the inefficiency of the method; For it was (as the honourable Member used to say) a philosophy that was only suitable for disputes
and controversies but sterile in the profitable works for the life of Man... " "Bacon," continues the biographer William Rawley —
“remained faithful to this judgement until the day he died. " (Rossi, Francis Bacon)

The dissolution of Cartesian rationalism must be placed in the context of the fallacious juxtaposing
of philosophy as the pursuit of knowledge as wisdom and of science as the degradation of
philosophy into the instrumental pursuit of knowledge as power and domination. This corruption of
philosophy as critique of human praxes such as the one stultifyingly called “science” can be traced
in part back to the evident apories and antinomies into which Cartesianism ran and therefore to its
inability to bridge the theoretical chasm between the res cogitans (mind) and the res extensa
(world). But the source of this inability – the separation (chorismos) of mind and matter – was not
purely theoretical: it was above all social in origin. Descartes and his philosophy represented a
social order tied to absolutist states founded on the feudal economy and closely aligned with the
Catholic church. This social order relied on fundamental tenets that Descartes and most of his
contemporaries could not challenge intellectually, let alone politically. The first tenet was the
undisputed and indisputable supremacy of religion in all human reality – and therefore the
categorical pre-eminence of the spiritual over the mundane. The second, a corollary of the first, was
the superiority of intellectual reasoning over manual labour and other practical pursuits – of
philosophy and logic over technology and science.

Clearly, these two tenets implied also the overwhelming dominance of logico-deductive
“knowledge” over technico-scientific “doing”. And this is precisely what the rise of the capitalist
bourgeoisie in Europe overturned. The political essence of capitalism is the subjugation of human
living labour through its fictitious “exchange” with objectified dead labour – leading to the easier
reproduction of the working population on an expanding scale – leading in turn to overpopulation
and the systematic destruction of the ecosphere. The abstract introspective and abstrusely
speculative bent of the old “knowledge” or gnosis – epitomized by and encapsulated in Augustine’s
“in interiore homine habitat veritas” – sought indeed to preserve the original telos of philosophy as
the love of wisdom, as the pursuit of the good life expounded primordially by Socrates in Plato’s
dialogues. In this specific context, its political goal for humanity was indeed rational in a
substantive sense and capable of leading to a rational human society in balanced and sustainable
coexistence with its environment.

In its distorted Judaeo-Christian, Aristotelian and Scholastic versions, however, this “knowledge”
could not but vacillate and retreat in the face of the broad social transformations coinciding with the
rise of capitalist industry during the Renaissance. This “knowledge” (or the Scholastic gnosis, or
sapience, or the Hellenic episteme) confused “truth” with the “certainty” of a priori logico-
mathematical deduction and had the nefarious consequence of stifling empirical research and
experimentation leading instead to practico-technical stagnation – in line with the interests of
absolutist theocracies that relied for their stability on the rigidity of the feudal socio-economic and
political hierarchy founded on land ownership. With the rapid expansion of capitalist manufacturing
industry and the concomitant cataclysmic social transformations it occasioned – not just the
humanist Renaissance, but also the religious Reformation -, there were irrepressible socio-economic
forces associated with “doing” that needed to assert their expanding socio-economic power into the
more overtly political activities associated with the old “knowledge” – and could so expand only by
intruding on the old Scholastic gnosis of the theosophical absolutist feudal order.

It is the very ‘fixity’ of Scholastic truth that seals its ineffectuality, its untruth, its “sterility”,
because it denies that human understanding has a history related to “the changing needs” of
humanity. The reality of “need” is what confirms the limitations of our knowledge and our need for
“doing”, as well as our subjection to the “laws” of nature. And it is against this Scholastic abuse of
logico-mathematics, and particularly of the syllogism as the quintessential tool for the advancement
of learning – this rhetorical swindle, this Eskamotage based on empty tautologies - that the sharpest
bourgeois proponents of the new Scientia inveniendi (Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes) rile,
basing themselves on the defiantly empirical-inductive practices of the burgeoning capitalist
manufacturing industries that will soon transform the face of the Earth.

Cartesian rationalism starts with the imprescindible postulate of the existence of God, from which
all other “truths” and “sciences” can be derived logico-deductively through the quasi-divine power
of Reason. Thence follows the necessary transcendental link between God and the soul, the soul and
the mind – all of which, as spiritual entities, seal the rule of the res cogitans, of the Spirit or Reason,
over the res extensa or Nature. The Subject rules over the Object, and therefore logico-deduction
rules over empirical induction. The medium of this cosmological order, of this Reason, is language
because reasoning is done exclusively through language. But this language of reasoning, Latin as
learned Scholastic language used in logic and theology and law, was increasingly divorced from the
menial tasks of rising manufacturing industry that owed its expansion in large part now to the
experimental “doing” of producers. The preferred, the essential, indeed perhaps the only tool of the
old gnosis was the syllogism and the associated science of rhetoric – which is the most certain,
irrefutable source of “truth”, seen as “certainty” derived from analytical deduction.

XIV. The syllogism consists of propositions; propositions of words; words are the signs of notions. If, therefore, the notions (which
form the basis of the whole) be confused and carelessly abstracted from things, there is no solidity on the superstructure. Our only
hope, then, is in the induction. (F. Bacon, Novum Organum.)

Despite Descartes’s own mechanicist turn, even Renaissance thought, to which he undeniably
belonged, was still constrained and restrained by the theocratic and theological perception that
human knowledge has insight into divine omniscience and certainty. The ability of humans to
understand – indeed, to decipher - Reality, places humans at the very centre of the universe next to
the Divinity. In this sense, the early theoreticians of the scientific method represent the apogee of
Renaissance humanism. If indeed it is possible for humans “to read” what Galileo and Descartes
called “the great book of the universe”, then it is impossible to see how this grand “great book” can
ever change, given that presumably it has been written by the Divinity with eternity in mind! After
all, the novel theories of science coming out of the Renaissance were founded on the inertia of
mechanical motion (Galileo, Newton) and on the conservation of mass and energy (Lavoisier,
Mayer). The inescapable corollary to this necessarily deterministic vision of the cosmos is that,
quite apart from “understanding” Nature, human beings are thereby unable to transform it by acting
upon it. Hence, human beings are entitled to act upon Nature solely in an effort to understand it –
and thereby elevate themselves to the passive status of mortal gods in terms of humanizing their
environment. Homo homini deus. Human activity does not change the universe, it does not create
but only transforms, because this activity is itself purely physical in nature – and so measurable and
calculable. Renaissance thought, Descartes included, still sees knowledge purely as the gathering of
wisdom, and scientific research as the quest for divine enlightenment. The practical applications to
which this knowledge could be put were not the main object of early scientific research and
experimentation. Indeed, even as late as Mach, at the threshold of the 20th Century, “pure”, dis-
interested, dis-passionate scientific research occupied a different circle of the scientific empyrean
from its “applied” engineering counterpart.

At the beginning of the bourgeois era, the mischievous misapprehension takes hold that philosophy
and the instrumental activity universally known as “science” are merely different stages of a single
process known as the acquisition of knowledge or, in the title of Francis Bacon’s magnum opus,
“the advancement of learning”, where knowledge and learning are understood as power and
dominion over an indomitable nature extrinsic and alien to humans. In this perspective, science and
philosophy have the same homogeneous object: - that is, the pursuit of knowledge as power and
domination by human beings over the life-world and, per extenso, over one another.
Gradually, however, an epochal revolution takes place in the theorization of humanity’s place in the
life-world and in the approach to scientific research from pure observation of natural occurrences to
the artificial reproduction of events. (Cf. Rossi, Birth, Intro.) Science now comes to be seen as the
pursuit of universal goals by instrumental means – through induction and manipulation or
experimentation where the creation of an artificial environment goes hand in hand with
establishing the “validity” or “success” of “scientific experiments and discoveries”! Far from
being mere observation, science now becomes an infinite insatiable quest to transform and
manipulate the life-world – including the human body!

Yet what we call “science” is not an independent sphere or dimension of human knowledge
understood as an innate intellectual and cerebral faculty – the way logico-mathematics or music and
art are. Instead, as we seek to illustrate historically here, science is simply “technique” (techne’ as
against episteme or indeed poiesis). Nor is science a “technical-neutral” dimension of human action
whose “truth” is independent of human social relations and practical goals. In sum, “science” is a
non-entity; scientific methodology is a mirage pure and simple.

To be sure, Cartesianism represented already a significant departure from the Scholastic gnosis
prevalent in feudal society. As we saw earlier, Descartes had been forced to indicate (to point to)
the “methods” adopted by the manufacturing, artisanal crafts as the blueprint for his own
philosophic-scientific method, - not, indeed, as an illustration of the theoretical foundation for such
a method, but precisely because it became clear to him that no such foundation was exactly
definable or even theoretically possible! In seeking to theorize his scientific method by reference
to the mechanical tasks of the burgeoning manufacturing industry necessitated by the new
bourgeois-capitalist industrial order, Descartes effectively demonstrates that “doing” (practical-
technical behavior based on social relations) precedes not just the old “knowledge” of the Hellenic
and feudal orders, but also the “knowing” (“science”) of the humanist Renaissance in the sense that
all “knowing” is merely the rationalization of social relations of production.

Our method…resembles the procedures in the mechanical crafts, which have no need of methods other than their own, and which supply their
own instructions for making their own tools. If, for example, someone wanted to practise one of these crafts…but did not possess any of the tools,
he would be forced at first to use a hard stone…as an anvil, to make a rock do as a hammer, to make a pair of tongs out of wood…Thus equipped, he
would not immediately attempt to forge swords, helmets, or other iron implements for others to use; rather, he would first of all make hammers,
an anvil, tongs and other tools for his own use (Rules).

It is certainly true that early bourgeois natural philosophers like Bacon highlighted the importance
of the artisanal and mechanical activities: yet, it is also true that they did so only to stress the need
for human learning to change methodology from logico-mathematical speculation (“the philosophy
of words”) to technical-scientific re-search and dis-covery (“the philosophy of work”): here the
emphasis is still laid heavily on the philosophical aspect of this “search and discovery”, not on its
practical industrial applications. The emphasis has certainly shifted from thought (meta-physics) to
nature (physics) – but the dignity of the search is rescued in the phrase “natural philosophy” with
which early bourgeois science sought to identify itself. Bacon merely promotes the imitation of the
methods of industry, of their productivity, but does not equate science with industry!

At the centre of the new science there is a hard core of quasi-Pyrrhonic scepticism (cf. R. Popkin, The
History of Scepticism from Erasmus to Spinoza). The abandonment of Latin in favour of national
languages, already advocated by Cusanus (cf. E. Cassirer, Individual and Cosmos), to eschew “the
idols of the market” – meaning the stifling orthodoxy of theocratic Scholastic and Aristotelian
learning endorsed by absolutist monarchies –, is a constant theme in the rising “scientific” literature
of the late Renaissance. The danger to guard against here is posed by the crystallization of prejudices
in words and languages in the sense that, far from being shaped by experience, words and language
filter and shape our experience of reality, con-ditioning (setting the direction and boundaries for) our
empirical research or practico-technical activity.
LIX. The idols of the market [idola fori] are the most troublesome of all, namely those which have entwined themselves round the
understanding from the associations of words and names. For men imagine that their reason governs words, while, in fact,
words react upon the understanding; and this has rendered philosophy and the sciences sophistical and inactive. Words are
generally formed in a popular sense, and define things by those broad lines which are most obvious to the vulgar mind; but when a
more acute understanding…is anxious to vary those lines, and to adapt them more accurately to nature, words oppose it.

In other words, as early as the sixteenth century, even earlier than Descartes, Bacon understands the
intrinsic epistemological nexus between language and “reality”, and the socio-economic interaction
of language and social structure in shaping and directing scientific activity. And he understands that
this language (Latin) has to change to accommodate changes brought about by empiric-inductive
discoveries connected to the rising manufacturing industry. It is both intriguing and revealing that
Bacon should refer to this “conventional wisdom” (Marx’s and Nietzsche’s “crystallization”,
Lukacs’s “reification”) with the phrase “the idols of the market” – because, in effect, Bacon is actually
emphasizing the importance of the inductive-empirical approach of the new manufacturing industries
– which, of course, rely on “the market” – against the most obvious opponents of this “market”, that
is, the Latin-speaking theocratic and monarchic establishment. It is obvious that already (!) from the
dawn of capitalist industry and its “marketplace society” Bacon identifies “society” – even the feudal
absolutist society preceding capitalist manufacturing industry (!) - entirely with “the market”, rather
than with a “community”, a civil society or a status civilis that are prior to and even independent of
and different from “the market mechanism”.

Bacon, then, fails to distinguish between, on one side, the moribund theocratic-absolutist mediaeval
order which had the vice of abusing empty terminology or nomenclature and derivative syllogisms,
to the detriment of practical empirical-inductive “research” – and on the other side, the “market
society” that is the real social carrier of the artisanal crafts that he is championing. Bacon wholly fails
to see the strict nexus between capitalist industry and his “new organon” because he mistakenly sees
the two activities – manufacturing industry and mechanical experimentation (“scientific research”) -
as separate, distinct human activities.

En realidad Bacon se convierte en intérprete de una actitud fundamental de su tiempo y da a conocer algunas de las más vitales
exigencias de su época cuando se fija en las «artes mecánicas» (que le parecieron apropiadas para revelar los verdaderos procesos
de la
54 Francis Bacon: De la magia a la ciencia
naturaleza) y ve en ellas la capacidad de producir inventos y obras de las que carecía el saber tradicional, o cuando, polemizando
contra la esterilidad de la lógica escolástica, proyecta una historia de las artes y las técnicas como presupuesto indispensable para
conseguir una reforma del saber y de la propia vida humana. De hecho en la obra de Bacon la protesta contra la «esterilidad» de la
cultura tradicional está fundada en la insistencia en el progreso que caracteriza a las artes mecánicas que, a diferencia de la filosofía
y las ciencias intelectuales, no son adoradas como perfectísimas estatuas, sino que se muestran siempre tan vitales que pueden pasar
de no tener forma a ser cada vez más perfectas en relación a las cambiantes necesidades de la especie humana. Esto es lo que
sucedió, según Bacon, en los desarrollos de la artillería, la navegación y la imprenta; piensa que la causa principal de estos
progresos es que muchos talentos colaboraron en la consecución de un único fin. En las artes mecánicas no hay lugar para el
poder «dictatorial» de un solo individuo sino que sólo cabe un poder «senatorial» que no exige en ningún caso que sus seguidores
renuncien a su propia libertad para convertirse en esclavos perpetuos de una sola persona. Así, el tiempo va a favor de las artes y
en cambio contribuye a la destrucción de los edificios, inicialmente perfectos, que construyeron los filósofos.

Bacon actually becomes an interpreter of a fundamental attitude of his time and publicizes some of the most vital
demands of his time when he fixates on the "Mechanical Arts" (which seemed appropriate to reveal the true processes
of
54 Francis Bacon: From Magic to science
nature) and sees in them the ability to produce inventions and works that lacked traditional knowledge, or when,
polemicizing against the sterility of scholastic logic, he projects a history of the arts and techniques as an indispensable
precondition to achieve a reform of knowledge and human life. In fact, in Bacon's work the protest against the "sterility"
of traditional culture is founded on the insistence on the progress that characterizes the mechanical arts that, unlike
philosophy and intellectual sciences, are not worshipped as most perfect sculptures, but are always shown to be so vital
that they can go from not having shape to being more and more perfect in relation to the changing needs of the human
species. This is what happened, according to Bacon, in the developments of artillery, navigation and printing; He
believes that the main cause of this progress is that many talents collaborated in achieving a single purpose. In the
mechanical arts there is no place for the "dictatorial" power of a single individual but only a "senatorial" power that
requires in no case that his followers renounce their own freedom to become perpetual slaves of a single person. Thus,
time is in favor of the arts and instead contributes to the destruction of the initially perfect buildings that the
philosophers built.

Knowledge-as-power or “doing” and tools

In this precise regard, and at this crucial historical juncture, the all-important epochal transformation
in the mode of thinking that Francis Bacon brings to renaissance thought, and then to technical-
scientific practice, - the transition from knowledge as the path to wisdom, on one hand, and
knowing as the acquisition and accumulation of material power – is given just and timely emphasis
by Rossi in his distinctive compendious fashion:

Ya he tenido ocasión de subrayar cómo en Bacon no está acentuada, o simplemente se muestra irrelevante, la adhesión a los
aspectos «místicos» de la visión metafísica de la realidad que estaba unida a las investigaciones de la magia o la alquimia. Lo que él
acepta de la tradición mágica es la concepción de un saber como poder y de una ciencia que se hace ministro de la naturaleza para
prolongar su obra y llevarla a plena realización, que, en fin, llega a hacerse dueña de la realidad y a ponerla, casi por astucia y a
través de una continua tortura, al servicio del hombre 78.

I have already had occasion to underline how in Bacon the adherence to the "mystical" aspects of the metaphysical vision of reality
that was linked to the investigations of magic or alchemy is either not highlighted or is simply irrelevant. What he accepts from the
magic tradition is the conception of knowledge as power and of a science [by means of which man] becomes a minister of nature to
prolong its work and take it to full realization, and through which, finally, man seeks to become the owner of reality and put it,
almost by cunning and through continual struggle, to the service of man.78

I. Man, as the minister and interpreter of nature, does and understands as much as his observations on the order of nature, either
with regard to things or the mind, permit him, and neither knows nor is capable of more.

III. Knowledge and human power are synonymous, since the ignorance of the cause frustrates the effect…

Bacon’s new organon (Novum Organum) is distinct from the old deductive and sterile, barren and
effete gnosis or sapience of Antiquity and of feudal times in that it is based (a) on “observations” and
(b) on practical tools or instruments as against the sterile syllogism and (c) on the division of labour.
Bacon’s “new organon” is not a stagnant and sterile mode of knowledge but much rather an
aggressively productive one, one militantly aligned with the socio-political and economic needs of
bulging capitalist interests. With Francis Bacon we find the earliest refusal of the static, sterile,
unchanging character of Nature (“nature free”), to privilege the action of humans in its transformation
(not creation! What he called “nature bound”). An “accidental” effect, an epiphenomenon, a mere
“incident” or “co-incidence” is mere contingence – it does not form part of an infinitely repeatable
experiment – and therefore it does not confer “power”. Power is the ability to obtain an “effect” with
certainty – a “result” (the German word is “Erfolg”, success, esito in Italian). If knowledge is power,
then power over nature is the defining moment of what the bourgeois era presents to us as “science”.
But science – and therefore all “knowledge” – are defined in this industrial productive light: whatever
can be produced indefinitely and infinitely for the purpose of endless capitalist accumulation –
endless dominion over “nature”. What these new, unprecedentedly powerful social relations of
production were – nothing less than the epochal emergence of capitalist society – is something that
neither Descartes nor Francis Bacon could suspect, let alone comprehend, in their time: nevertheless,
their pioneering opening to scientific enterprise and their theorization of the scientific method,
however fallacious, is central to the understanding of the nascent bourgeois society that has
characterized human history since then.
LI. The human understanding is, by its own nature, prone to abstraction, and supposes that which is fluctuating to be fixed.

La idea de un hombre carente de naturaleza, que puede darse a sí mismo la naturaleza que desee, es uno de los temas centrales
de la filosofía del Renacimiento que podemos encontrar —por citar sólo dos nombres— en Pico y Bovillus. Pero tal idea es
sustancialmente ajena al pensamiento de Bacon. El poder del hombre no es en modo alguno infinito: es obsessus legibus naturae
y ninguna fuerza humana puede desunir o romper los nexos causales que regulan la realidad natural 66. El deber del hombre no
consiste, pues, en celebrar su infinita libertad ni en mantener su esencial identidad con
1. Las artes mecánicas, la magia y la ciencia 69
el todo, sino en darse cuenta de que la potenciación de las dotes limitadas del hombre exige una adecuación a la naturaleza y la
voluntad de seguir sus mandatos y proseguir su tarea. Sólo esta voluntad de adaptación puede permitir una real y no ilusoria
autoridad sobre la naturaleza. El hombre deviene dueño de la naturaleza sólo en cuanto él mismo es ministro e intérprete de esa
naturaleza; por eso es peligrosa y carece de significado la pretensión humana de penetrar con los sentidos y la razón en la esfera
de lo divino, por eso la posibilidad de una operatio libera en la naturaleza no quiere decir en absoluto que se puedan realizar todas
las operaciones que se quiera sino que las operaciones de transformación que se atienen a las leyes naturales y llegan a ser como
una prolongación de la obra de la propia naturaleza jamás encontrarán límites 67. Sólo teniendo en cuenta esta concepción
baconiana de la situación del hombre en el mundo podrá quedar claro el concepto baconiano de ciencia y encontrar justificación
el interés de Bacon por la objetividad de la vida ética, su pasión por la fisionomía y el arte del éxito personal y sus simpatías hacia
el naturalismo de Maquiavelo.

The idea of man as a creature devoid of [separate from] nature, who can give himself the nature he desires, is one of the central
themes of the philosophy of the Renaissance that we can find — to cite only two names — in Pico and Bovillus. But such an
idea is substantially alien to Bacon's thought. The power of man is in no way infinite: It is obsessus legibus naturae and no
human force can break down the causal links that regulate natural reality 66. The duty of man is therefore not to celebrate his
infinite freedom or to maintain his essential identity with
1. The mechanical arts, the magic and the Science 69
the whole, but to realise that the empowerment of the limited endowments of man demands an adaptation to nature and the
will to follow its mandates and to continue its task. Only this willingness to adapt can allow for a real and non-illusory
authority over nature. Man becomes the owner of Nature only when he himself is minister and interpreter of that nature; That
is why the human pretension to penetrate the senses and reason in the realm of the divine is dangerous and is devoid of
meaning; so the possibility of an operatio libera in nature does not mean at all that you can perform all the operations that are
sought by man, but that those operations of transformation that comply with natural laws and become like an extension of the
work of nature will never find limits 67. Only taking into account this Baconian conception of the situation of man in the
world can be clear the Baconian concept of science and find justification for Bacon's interest in the objectivity of ethical life, his
passion for physiognomy and the art of success Staff and their sympathies towards Machiavelli's naturalism.

Hence, the laws of nature, though fixed, are as infinite as there are combinations of atoms in the
world – which is why humans will never acquire quasi-divine, definitive knowledge (“knowledge-
as-omniscience”) but rather will be confined to incessant knowing (“knowledge-as-power”,
unlimited production and accumulation of wealth) – as ministers and interpreters of nature. For
Bacon, a fixed definitive, omniscient science (knowledge) such as the one sought by early
Renaissance scientists would be no science at all because no further scientific activity would be
possible. Science would cease to have a history (Bacon was a keen historian): once we know all the
laws of nature that determine it, no further “action” is possible – including scientific research -
because the “actor” is strictly aware of all the causes and all the effects of that action ab aeternitate.
Put differently, our absolute awareness of the “action” would nullify our awareness of it as action
(Latin, ago, agere, actus, to initiate) and so activity would turn into mere mechanism. No life would
be possible! (Cf. Heidegger’s erroneous insistence on “thought” instead of “life”, albeit
compensated by his ubiquitous concern with Being.)

IV. Man while operating can only apply or withdraw natural bodies; nature internally performs the rest.

For “nature” to be able “internally to supply the rest”, it is obvious that human beings cannot dictate
to nature but must be subject to its “laws”. And for humans to be subject to natural laws, our
understanding of these laws must be limited and indefinite so that there can never be an end to
experimentation. The fallacy of Renaissance science as well as alchemy was to think that it could
unlock the workings of nature, that it could find the clavis universalis in keeping with the quasi-
divine status of the human spirit. But if, as Bacon contends, the laws of nature are indefinite and the
outcomes of scientific discovery infinite as the combinations of atoms, how do we know that there
are laws of nature? A historical science (knowing) can never be differentiated from doing – and
thus it becomes mere conjecture, a pro-ject, a hypothesis - not science in the sense of a body of
definite and definitive, objective rules or laws of nature. (A similar conclusion was reached earlier
by Cusanus with his notion of conjecture, see E. Cassirer, Individual and Cosmos.) If, as Bacon
rightly asserts (echoed much later by Max Weber), the laws of nature are infinite, then they become
indefinite: they are no longer laws but purely conventional guides to or tools for actions that
humans take consciously in directions they choose! (For instance, if we chose to ignore the
outcomes of certain experiments [that is, some “laws of nature”], we would then revert to a different
conduct or approach to that “nature”. The experimental results are not “objective” or “real”
separately from the interests and or activity that led us to conduct those specific experiments –
which is why Italians correctly call an experiment “esperienza” - experience]. Plato’s “noble lie”,
considered afresh from this perspective, reveals the aleatory, makeshift, and conventional basis of
technical-scientific re-search and dis-coveries and in-ventions. All of these terms indicate the
“active” deontological, as against ontological, origin of “scientific truth” – which is quite obviously
a praxis, a verum-factum.)

At least four elements emerge from Bacon’s postulates: first, Truth, or objective reality or nature,
exists. But Truth cannot be determined with finality by human beings; it is an ever-receding
unreachable horizon that can be sought but not attained. The aim of learning is to adopt a method
that prioritizes discovery as against transmission of knowledge – again, productive, powerful
knowledge as against learning as wisdom and its transmission.
Second, human beings are now subject to and not the subject of natural laws or of nature – hence, the
anthropocentrism of Renaissance humanism is thoroughly confuted and jettisoned. This marks the
beginning of nihilism (Nietzsche, Heidegger).
Third, human beings can transform natural elements, not laws, to suit their needs through the
instruments of method (observation/induction) and tools: but in so doing humans themselves become
tools in this acquisition of power, not over nature but over one another!
Fourth, henceforth, human beings do not limit themselves only to observing nature but can also set
up artificial experiments to impute and impose “laws of nature” to and on this nature itself!
Science, such as Bacon conceives it, must leave the terrain of uncontrolled individual genius, randomness, arbitrary and abrupt
synthesis, and work instead by basing itself on an experimentalism built not ex analogia hominis but ex analogia universi, founded
on the knowledge of the instrumental nature of cognitive faculties. In a culture of this kind there is no place for a reason able to
achieve, by itself, the rational truth. The truth is presented as an ideal to achieve and Bacon wants a logic that serves as a new
scientific method that serves precisely as the instrument of conquest of new truths, not as the means of transmission of truths
already achieved. The rejection of the "contentious" knowledge of Scholasticism wanted to express precisely this little interest of
Bacon in the truths of transmission. (Rossi, ibid.)

Bacon fails to understand that the very admonishments and objections he moves against the old
Scholastic learning, against hermeticism as well as the new science of the Renaissance - that they
mistakenly assume that humans are not subject to natural laws due to their spiritual affinity with the
Divinity - would be objectively impossible to make if indeed, as he contends, human beings were
subject to such “objective laws of nature” - because then it would not be possible for humans to be
conscious of such laws! The existence of objective laws of nature makes human awareness of them
objectively untenable! It would require the existence of an Archimedean point – a vantage point
outside the cosmos – that is impossible ex hypothesi! All “scientific laws” are theories – and the
essence of theory is that the theoretician is within, not without, the cosmos that is being theorized.
No theory can com-prehend its object. I cannot be aware or think of laws that govern my thinking
because the existence of such objective laws would nullify my awareness, my consciousness of
them! Thought cannot be subject to any “laws” because it is part of the life-world, whereas the
existence of laws of thought or of nature would require the extrapolation or extrusion of thought
from the life-world. The very notion of “law of nature” presupposes an ontological hiatus or chasm
between the stated “legality” and the object to which the “law” presumably applies! Inductive
experiences are not objective laws of nature: they are simply aspects of human experience, of
human activity or praxis. Objectively given laws of nature would render the notions of error and
knowledge meaningless because we would be unaware of the “laws” or “reality” against which we
have supposedly infringed. Knowledge and objectivity are mutually exclusive notions! For human
beings to be capable of knowledge, the object of their knowledge cannot be independent of their
“knowing” – that is to say, we know what we do, because we decide to do it, not because our
knowledge is objective and independent of the knowing activity. All knowing is a doing – there is
no “knowledge” independent of the activity of knowing - verum ipsum factum (truth is our very
activity [factum, fact, past participle of facere, Latin, to do]).

Knowledge is necessarily an interpretation because we only know our actions, not their ultimate or
“objective” cause. All knowledge is conjecture (Cusanus, Hobbes, Popper). To justify our actions
because they conform with or to our knowledge is to misconstrue and to instrumentalise this
knowledge – not just the state and the use of our knowledge but also the research that led to
that knowledge. It is like justifying a shooting on the ground that the firearm works infallibly! It is
identifying knowledge with “science” understood as “objective knowledge” and not as “scientific
enterprise”! All scientific knowledge – far from being objective – is a “doing”, a technique, an
enterprise or project elicited by and reflecting or ex-pressing specific human aims and goals. It is
not because of the laws of physics that we fly airplanes or can explode thermonuclear bombs:
on the contrary, it is because we have chosen to fly airplanes and to develop nuclear weapons
that we rationalize these activities – the scientific enterprise that led to them – by means of
“laws of physics” that we then fetishistically attribute to “nature” or “reality”!

Knowing and doing cannot be separated by treating the one as objective and the other as subjective:
both knowing and doing are aspects of one indivisible human living activity – knowing is as much a
doing as any doing! Their separation – the distorted emphasis on the objectivity of the one and the
subjectivity of the other - can only serve pernicious political purposes! – Which is certainly the case
under capitalist social relations of production.

Clearly, from this point onward, it is no longer the case, with Protagoras, that “man is the measure of all
things”; instead it is the human being that becomes a mere tool, a mere instrument used to measure
“nature” or “reality”:

LII. Such are the idols of the tribe, which arise either from the constitution of man’s spirit, or its prejudices, or its limited faculties
or restless agitation, or from the interference of the passions, or the incompetence of the senses, or the mode of their impressions.

In the hands of capitalist industry, the human body becomes a mere inert tool, and one that is prone to
error and prejudice to boot! Bacon displays everywhere a breathtakingly naïve belief in the utility and
progressive nature of all tools and techniques:

II. The unassisted hand and the understanding left to itself possess but little power. Effects are produced by the means of
instruments and helps, which the understanding requires no less than the hand; and as instruments either promote or regulate the
motions of the hand, so those that are applied to the mind prompt or protect the understanding.

IX. The sole cause and root of almost every defect in the sciences is this, that while we falsely admire and extol the powers of the
human mind, we do not search for its real helps [tools].

To be sure, Bacon must have been aware of the difficulties intrinsic to this ingenuous trust in the promise
of “science” – which as we have shown is really capitalist industry – and which is why he put so much
emphasis on the development and organization of a scientific profession or community of scientists that
would be as democratically accountable and “public” as possible:
Creo que para captar la real y profunda distancia que existe entre las posiciones de Bacon y las obras típicas de la magia y la
ciencia del Renacimiento es oportuno abandonar el terreno en el que nos hemos movido hasta ahora y referirnos en su lugar a la
valoración baconiana de las artes mecánicas y la interpretación de la carrera con la antorcha en honor a Prometeo de la que
hemos hablado al inicio de este capítulo. Aquí Bacon introdujo una idea de gran importancia que se situará en el centro de su labor
de reforma del saber: en la ciencia sólo se pueden alcanzar sólidos y positivos resultados me-4 8
84 Un intento de «medievalizar» la filosofía de Bacon ha sido realizado por C. Lemmi. Su estudio, a pesar de que sus conclusiones
sean poco persuasivas, resulta uno de los más útiles sobre las fuentes del pensamiento de Bacon.
1. Las artes mecánicas, la magia y la ciencia 77
diante una cadena de investigadores y un trabajo de colaboración entre los científicos. Los métodos y operaciones de las artes mecánicas,
su carácter de progreso e intersubjetividad, proporcionan el modelo para la nueva cultura 85. La ciencia, tal como Bacon la concibe, debe
abandonar el terreno de la incontrolada genialidad individual, el azar, lo arbitrario y las síntesis precipitadas y trabajar en cambio
basándose en un experi- mentalismo construido no ex analogía hominis sino ex analogía universi, fundado en el conocimiento de la
naturaleza instrumental de las facultades cognoscitivas. En una cultura de este tipo no hay lugar para una razón capaz de
alcanzar, por sí sola, la verdad racional. La verdad se presenta como un ideal a alcanzar y la lógica baconiana quiere ser
precisamente el instrumento de conquista de nuevas verdades, no el medio de transmisióm de verdades ya conseguidas. El
rechazo del saber «contencioso» de la escolástica quería expresar justamente este escaso interés de Bacon por las verdades de
transmisión. Pero para Bacon la conquista de verdades no puede ser obra de uno solo, sino de una colectividad de científicos
organizada para lograr ese fin. A propósito de esto se ha dicho, con razón, que muchas de las malas interpretaciones del
pensamiento de Bacon se habrían evitado si se hubiese tenido en cuenta la importancia que él concede al factor social,
tanto en el momento de la investigación como en lo referido al objeto del conocimiento 86 *. Desde este punto de vista nos
proponemos aquí aludir al proyecto baconiano de una nueva organización del saber científico. Con una coherencia extrema y a lo
largo de toda su vida, Bacon luchó en favor de una colectividad organizada de científicos financiada por el Estado u otros entes de
utilidad pública e intentó crear una especie de internacional de la ciencia.

Yet for Bacon the conquest of truths cannot be the work of a single person, but rather that of a collective of scientists organized to
achieve that end. For this reason it has been rightly stated that many of the bad interpretations of Bacon's thought would have been
avoided if they had taken into account the importance that he attaches to the social factor, both at the time of the investigation and in
the reference to the object of knowledge .86 From this point of view we propose here to allude to the Baconian project of a new
organization of scientific knowledge. With extreme coherence and throughout his life, Bacon fought for an organized collectivity of
scientists financed by the State or other entities of public utility and tried to create a kind of international science. (Rossi, ibid.)

I believe that to capture the real and profound distance that exists between the positions of Bacon and the typical works of the magic
and the science of the Renaissance it is opportune to leave the ground on which we have moved so far and to refer in its place to the
valuation Bacon makes of the mechanical arts and the interpretation of the race with the torch in honor of Prometheus we talked
about at the beginning of this chapter. Here Bacon introduced an idea of great importance that will be placed at the center of his work
of reform of learning: in the science can only be achieved solid and positive results through
1. The mechanical arts, magic and Science 77
a chain of researchers and of collaborative work among scientists. The methods and operations of the mechanical arts, their character
of progress and intersubjectivity, provide the model for the new culture 85. (Rossi, ibid.)

92 Francis Bacon: De la magia a la ciencia


En éste, y sólo en este terreno, nacen las reservas, las críticas y las oposiciones baconianas a la tradición mágico-alquímica. Se
atacaba aquí la actitud misma que estaba indisolublemente unida a estas investigaciones y constituía su base, es decir, la pretensión
de transformar la técnica —que para Bacon es capaz de hermanar a los hombres y estar al servicio de todo el género
humano— en un arte que se presenta como fruto de cualidades especiales y poderes extraordinarios y que se convierte por tanto en
el intento de un individuo de dominar a todos los demás. La «purificación» de la magia, tema del que habla Bacon, tiene
precisamente este significado: los fines de las tres artes (magia, alquimia y astrología) no son innobles, sino que los medios que esas
tres artes utilizan están llenos de errores y vanidad "4. Por un lado el hombre debe continuar el proyecto —propio de la magia— de
hacerse dueño de la naturaleza y transformarla desde los fundamentos pero, por otro, debe combatir el ideal humano que la magia
ha asociado a ese intento, debe rechazar toda postura que pretenda valorar la «iluminación» de un individuo sustituyéndola por el
esfuerzo organizado de todo el género humano y que tienda a poner la ciencia al servicio de un solo hombre en lugar de ponerla al
servicio de todo el género humano.

92 Francis Bacon: From the Magic to science


On this ground, and only on this ground, originate the Baconian reserves, criticisms and opposition to the magic-alchemical tradition.
The same attitude that was inextricably linked to these investigations was attacked here and constituted its base, that is to say, the
pretension to transform the technique [technologies] — that for Bacon is capable of uniting men and of being at the service of
the whole human race — in an art that is peddled as the fruit of special qualities and extraordinary powers and becomes therefore an
individual's attempt to dominate all others. The "purification" of magic, subject of which Bacon speaks, has precisely this meaning:
the ends of the three arts (magic, alchemy and astrology) are not ignoble, but the means that those three arts use are full of mistakes
and vanity "4. On the one hand man must continue the project — proper of magic — of becoming the owner of nature and of
transforming it from its foundations but, on the other hand, must fight the human ideal that magic has associated with that attempt,
must reject any posture that seeks to value the "enlightenment" of an individual by negating the organized effort of the whole human
race and which tends to put science at the service of a single man rather than putting it at the service of the whole human race.
Yet, the overriding shift away from introspection and stability/transmission/sterility to
experimentation and transformation/manufacture means that negative practical effects are possible
in terms of (a) errors and (b) evil. The outreach of experimentation – change for its own sake or for
a given purpose – means that the human body is subject to interference conjointly, indistinguishably
from interference/analysis/intrusion on Nature! Once the absolute certainty of Truth (truth
misconstrued as certainty), the infallibility of reason and the intellect are abandoned – due to “the
will” for Descartes – a new danger emerges in that the “truth” of empiric-inductive discovery,
erected initially against the logico-deductive Cartesian method, is turned against the human body
itself because there is no guarantee that “the search for Truth” (extrinsic scientific methodology)
will empower humans in beneficial ways!

Now it is “the idols of the market” – capitalist manufacturing industry - that begin to dominate
Truth, or the Will to Truth, as a scientific straitjacket to which the human body itself has to adjust!
The supremacy of the scientific method – a thinly-veiled disguise for the burgeoning interests of
industrial capitalism - is enthroned. The reality/appearance, truth/error dichotomy and, more
ominously, error/evil association prevalent in the mediaeval theocratic order re-surfaces in new
guise (cf. Nietzsche, The Genealogy of Morals. Compare, in this regard, the title of Ernst Mach’s
seminal work, Irrtum und Erkenntnis – where the contrast between knowledge and error becomes
crucial to the definition of science. Science is no longer seen as an activity but as knowledge almost
in a refreshed Scholastic and neo-Platonic sense.) Error is equated not just with mistakenness but
ultimately with falsehood and evil in the sense of willful obfuscation of the Truth! To fall into error
becomes equivalent to the biblical Fall from grace. (On all this, and read in this light, the
insuperable guide must be Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil where science is un-masked as “will
to truth” and then “will to power”. Heidegger’s later disquisitions on the evils of Technik –
faithfully reprised by nobler neo-Marxist minds such as Herbert Marcuse and, generally, the
Frankfurt School – seem almost trivial in comparison.)

What Bacon believed to be a methodical empowerment of humanity over nature was shortly to
degenerate into the subjection of humanity to an irrational and destructive social mode of
production that has pushed it together with the ecosphere to the edge of destruction. We shall see
how this great transformation took place in our study of Thomas Hobbes’s theories of science and
of society.

It is essential to understand that technical calculations cannot be interpreted as technical-neutral


“tools” because the very utilization of a “tool” makes it part and parcel of that “action”,
indistinguishable and inseparable from it. (A gun is not a neutral “tool”: the technical rules that
govern it and its manufacture are not “neutral”: they are one with the gun itself and with its
utilization. This is what Marx meant when he stated that the steam engine “explains” the knitting
mill. Vorhandenheit.) Science and Value become inextricably and inexorably linked. This throws us
back to the orientation of human operations requiring either a methodological discrimen to guide
empirical “observations” that lead to induction – which, as we have proved here, is impossible to
define - or else an awareness of the deontology of human research, experimentation and invention.

By “rationalization” we mean not simply ideological “justification”, but also and above all the
erection of a social environment (legal, ethical, and technological) that makes divergence from and
non-compliance with these social relations of production politically and practically difficult if not
impossible – and, conversely, adherence to and compliance with these relations of production
practically compulsory. (Hannah Arendt, in a typically perspicacious insight in Vita Activa, notes
how the “science” of economics, for instance, would be impossible without a society ordered
politically so as to observe its “laws” – capitalist “laws”, of course. Jurgen Habermas in various
essays – especially Toward A Rational Society – elaborates an almost identical thesis.)

The conventionality of science on the pessimistic hypothesis of conflict rather than harmony is how
Hobbes will differentiate his materialism from that of Bacon. Not the search for truth, but the need
(the dira necessitas) for order is what will induce the rationalisation of human life and society.

the fourth is that whilst scientific activity – science – is elevated to well-nigh divine status, human
labour or living activity itself is reified as purely mechanical and robotic energy such that humans
cannot “create” anything – and that therefore all “art” and “wealth” must be seen entirely
subjectively as mere mental phenomena (beauty, utility) that affect the senses, as distinct from the
intellect or pure reason. Art and wealth can no longer be viewed in terms of use values available to
humanity as a whole, but only in terms of exchange values between human beings. The “value” of
wealth does not reside in its use value – which is universal for humans – but rather in its ability to
be exchanged – which depends on the subjective needs and wants of individuals. Here the
individual is avulsed, is separated violently, from the rest of humanity as a species and as a social
and political entity.
[Bacon and manufacture as rebellion against monarchic scholasticism – Novum Organum.]

Even in the political sphere, Bacon preceded Hobbes by introducing the phrase homo homini deus,
to mean that human beings could substitute religious and divine dictates or commandments in the
governance of their societies.

[Natural reason. Intellect dominates senses. Intuition and deduction.]


(French is tied to this class aversion to the Latin of the clerical-monarchic establishment.)

[Absence of harmful activity if all science is “knowledge” or Vera mathesis. Productivity from
separation. How can anything be pro-duced or created in a passive nature where the cause already
contains the effect? Individualism and mechanicism of bourgeois production in the self-sufficient
artisan who expands production for others. Smith. Bohm-Bawerk.]

It is also evident from the foregoing that for Descartes human beings can in no way affect that
Reality! Humans may be able “to read” this Reality, and they may even be able to manipulate its
materia prima, its atomic elements (Democritus) to their benefit – but no human exertion can ever
create this Reality ex nihilo or indeed ex novo. Nothing is created; everything is transformed.

(Except for immortality.) What Descartes does, however, is repeatedly to liken metaphorically the
method of science to that of artisanal manufacture.

Thus workers are the primary and proximate causes of their work, whereas those who give them orders to do the work, who
promise to pay for it, are accidental and remote causes, for the workers might not do the work without instructions. (Principia)

Descartes starts once more from the individual, from a phantomatic “division of labour”. By so
doing he fails to see that there is no such thing as “labour”, just as there is no “method” or “rules”
for science or for the intellect. There are instead a set of “skills” that human beings have to share if
they are to exist at all! There is no “labour”, then, but instead there is “social labour” – a complex
set of skills that human beings inherit not as individuals but rather as members (specimens) of a
species. – he neglects entirely the division of social labour – the fact that no human being was ever
a Robinson Crusoe or a feral child. Indeed, the very “individual skills” needed to make tools that
Descartes enumerates are skills neurologically embedded in the human brain - which belongs to the
species and not to single individuals. Ontogenesis instead of phylogenesis, then: this is the
fundamental fatal flaw in all of Descartes’s rational idealism.

Furthermore, because he confuses social labour with a nonexistent undifferentiated homogeneous


“labour”, Descartes considers the division of social labour as if this began from self-sufficient
production (for oneself) and proceed to exchange (for others). But again, Adam Smith’s mistake
was to assume that exchange prompts the division of “labour” (as if each human being could
survive through its own exertions taken as homogeneous, undifferentiated “labour”!) – instead of
seeing that it is the division of social labour that makes the fiction of the “exchange” of what are
falsely seen as the products of separated producers possible! Descartes puts the cart…before the
horse!
Finally, Bohm-Bawerk’s theory of value is already on display here: tools and the division of labour
reduce the time of production so that more developed tools have greater value than less developed
ones.

The problem remains that of whether labour is a creative activity or value is pure exchange –
separation of I and world – determinism.

“There is method in the madness”. This widely used expression is meant to highlight the
incongruity between methodical action and madness – almost to the point of stating that the two are
mutually exclusive. The reason behind this popular saying is the belief that true madness is
incapable of methodical action almost by definition: people who are able to pursue activity
methodically must exhibit a degree of rationality – the method itself – without which they could not
be said to be acting methodically. Even Max Weber argued that the mark of a free decision is the
fact that it is made rationally, and therefore methodically, so that the means adopted are adequate to
the proposed ends. Weber’s notion of freedom is thus opposed to that of madness in the sense that
mad actions do not adopt adequate means for stated ends, so that they are neither rational nor free.
Weber does not entertain the possibility that proposed ends may be mad, and therefore so can the
methodical rational means, because his definition of rationality was always technical-scientific or,
as he styled it, “value-free” (wert-frei), couched in terms of the effectiveness of human action.

It should be obvious already that Weber was wrong because if a stated end or pursuit is mad, then
the means adopted cannot possibly be said to be sane, or free for that matter. But can they be
rational? In other words, how is it possible for madness to be pursued methodically – rationally? Is
it possible that our very definition of rationality is imbued with madness, in the sense that a
methodology can be formally rational – that is to say, predictable and effective – and yet at the
same time be the product of madness? How can insanity be institutionalised and perfected so that it
saturates the methodology adopted in its pursuit? Or rather, how is it at all possible to pursue insane
ends by methodical – rational and reasonable – means? Can madness have effectuality – the
“irresistibility” (Hannah Arendt in The Life of the Mind) of logico-mathematical thought? The
phrase “there is madness in the method” again seems incongruous – for how can a method be
methodical and yet be insane? What, we ask finally, is “methodicity”?

How can mad pursuits be carried out methodically? The question concerns the perennial antinomy
between form and substance (perennial because it is the kernel of the philosophia perennis from
Anaxagoras to Zeno). The method is the rational form and the substance is the irrational goal.
Evidently, here it is the notion of rationality that is called into question. Can formally rational action
be substantively mad? The implicit identification of rational with reasonable is due to the common
etymology of the two words – derived from the Latin ratio. Hegel went even so far as to identify the
rational, not just with the reasonable, but with reality itself! For him, indeed, “whatever is rational is
real and whatever is real is rational”: in other words, history is the extrinsication, the unfolding of
Reason in space and time; history is this unfolding of the Idea, of Reason, through the stages of
Spirit in the world – the manifestation of the Spirit’s “world-wisdom” (Welt-weisheit).

But what if there is madness or irrationality in the purportedly rational Form itself? What if the
Form, the possibility of thinking the Form, of equating and homologating life and the world as if
they were numbers and quantities – what if this very human capacity to abstract from experience
and to impose an inflexible measure on it (a Procrustean bed) is itself a form of madness, of
irrationality? Here it is not merely the scientific method that is called into question – for we have
seen in our critique of Descartes that there is no such thing. What is challenged is the very content
and validity of logic and mathematics – in other words, what is questioned is the calculability of the
world, which depends, first, on the formal validity of logico-mathematics, and, second, on their
ability to contain, to carry validly – rationally - the “things”, the “contents”, the “sub-stances” that
they claim to re-present, to which they pretend to refer. Neither of these functions are valid or true
for logico-mathematics because we have shown it to be internally contradictory and externally
antinomic: the very “purity” of logico-mathematics – already internally contradictory - makes its
Form conceptually incompatible with the Substance of the life-world.

The madness of the method lies precisely in this: - to wit, in the drive we have as humans – wherein
lies our insanity - to rationalise the life-world, to make it quantifiable and calculable – not at all
because the life-world is quantifiable and calculable, but only and solely because we will it thus (!),
because we construct our life-world in a manner that makes it artificially amenable to calculability!
And this drive is obviously exacerbated under specific historical modes of production. This human
ability to conjure up a calculable life-world springs solely from the confusion, heightened to the
point of neurosis in capitalist society, of truth with certainty – the reduction of the substantive life-
world to form (reification of reality into quantities) and of our experience to predictability and
infinite reproducibility. All in the interests of “productivity ”, which in capitalism means
“profitability”, which means control of living activity by means of its “exchange” with dead
objectified labour – an exchange made possible only by violent means.

As we have argued on earlier occasions, the limit to the madness of capitalism is the destruction of
the ecosphere through overpopulation. And overpopulation is an existential must for capital because
the real meaning of capitalist accumulation is – precisely, the accumulation of exploitable living
labour as surplus labour. Thus, “there is madness in the method” of capitalist society because its
reproduction is dependent entirely on its ability to force – by violent means – the impossible
“exchange” of living labour with dead objectified labour. Capitalist accumulation – “profitability”
as the economic measure of “growth and development” and of “social progress” – is the
mathematical method behind the madness of capitalism. But here the madness is the method itself!
Marx saw the exploitation behind this method - an exploitation that still had some “rationality”
behind it in a Hegelian sense. It took Max Weber to expose the pure “formality” of this rationality –
and therefore its substantive madness! In Marx, the almost eschatological inevitability of the advent
of communism is the ultimate justification of capitalism. But in Weber no such teleology is
possible: capitalism is the method of its own madness – it is its own “tale of sound and fury,
signifying nothing”. (In this sense, Weber’s analysis of capitalism is the culmination of Nietzschean
nihilism.)
Our upcoming study of the transformation of Cartesian rationalism into the empiricist methodology
of Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes will seek to unravel the process whereby the capitalist “great
transformation” of human societies has led us to the catastrophic denouement of a well-nigh
totalitarian social order run by capitalist algorithms – the ultimate cataclysmic triumph of capitalist
insane methodology and methodical madness.

The Reification of Science

The process of production, therefore, is seen as “technology”, as an ob-ject – that is, as a “neutral
scientific process” that is “external” or “exogenous” to economic “science” - rather than as a pro-
duct, as the very embodiment of political antagonism over the production and satisfaction of
human needs. At a broader level, the capitalistic domination of living labour by means of dead
labour (productive materials, machinery and produced goods) is reified as “science and technology”
in such a manner that (a) they are mistaken for “objects” or “tools” when in fact they are mere
extensions of human activities, they are “techniques”; and (b) they are seen as the result of
“scientific and technological” – that is to say, “politically neutral” - research and development or
“discovery” independently of capitalist domination over living activity!

As a result, “science and technology” are seen not as specific capitalist strategies that contain
antagonism but rather as “autonomous” and “separate” – indeed, “scientific and technical”! –
entities that are in themselves “politically neutral”! Yet just as there is no such thing as “science”
or “technology” but only human productive activities mediated by tools, so there is and there can
be no “neutrality” in the tools employed by humans for their activities! “Science and technology”
are not neutral because they are always activities in which human beings engage with a purpose in
mind, even when that purpose is “multiple”: hence, tools are not distinguishable from human
activities because they are extensions of the human body! (Cf. H. Arendt’s Prologue to The
Human Condition in which the automobile is seen as an “extension” of or appurtenance to the
human body.) It is not the case that a tool can be used for good or for bad purposes - because the
tool and the purpose cannot ever be distinguished – they are part of the one human “activity”; they
go “hand-in-hand”, as it were!

The political danger in the hypostatization of “science and technology” lies in the epochal
transformation of their socio-political role from the Renaissance, when societies were still
emerging from feudalism and Absolutist rule, to the Industrial Revolution when the capitalist
bourgeoisie had finally erected its liberal nation-State regimes and begun to subsume the entire
reproduction of human societies under the rule of capitalist production. Effectively, capital has
succeeded in presenting both the State – the Political – and civil society – the Economy – as
“techno-scientific mechanisms” that are politically neutral – securing thereby the apparent
depoliticization of capitalist production.

This danger was first exposed with exceptional acuity by Carl Schmitt (in the related essay cited
above) by confuting the neutrality of “technology” from two opposing sides, as the respective
quotations below evince. From the side of “technology” intended as “tools”, as objects, Schmitt
rightly points out in the first quotation that tools are “tools” to the extent that they are util-ized
by human beings: but in that case they can never be “neutral” for the exact reason that human
actions, by definition, cannot be “neutral” and are always “motivated” instead. In the second
quotation, which approaches the reified concept of “technology” (and “science”) from the side of
human motives, Schmitt shows that these motives are never obliterated or neutralized by the
“tools”, even when human agents believe that they are simply applying a “neutral technology”!

Technology appeared to be a domain of peace, understanding, and reconciliation. The otherwise


inexplicable link between pacifist and technical belief is explained by this turn toward neutralization which
the European mind took in the seventeenth century and which, as if by fate, has been pursued into the
twentieth century. But the neutrality of technology is something other than the neutrality of all former
domains. Technology is always only an instrument and weapon; precisely because it serves all, it is not
neutral. No single decision can be derived from the immanence of technology, least of all for neutrality.
Every type of culture, every people and religion, every war and peace can use technology as a weapon.
Given that instruments and weapons become ever more useful, the probability of their being used becomes
that much greater. Technical progress need not be either metaphysical or moral and not particularly
economic to be progress. If humanitarian-moral progress is still expected by many today from the [92]
perfection of technology, it is because technology is magically linked to morality on the somewhat naive
assumption that the splendid array of contemporary technology will be used only as intended, i.e.,
sociologically, and that they themselves will control these frightful weapons and wield this monstrous
power. But technology itself remains culturally blind. Consequently, no conclusions which usually can be
drawn from the central domains of spiritual life can be derived from pure technology as nothing but
technology - neither a concept of cultural progress, nor a type of clerc or spiritual leader, nor a specific
political system. (Schmitt, CoP, pp.91-2)

[94] The spirit of technicity, which has led to the mass belief in an anti-religious activism, is still spirit;
perhaps an evil and demonic spirit, but not one which can be dismissed as mechanistic and attributed to
technology. It is perhaps something gruesome, but not itself technical and mechanical. It is the belief in an
activistic metaphysics - the belief in unlimited power and the domination of man over nature, even over
human nature; the belief in the unlimited "receding of natural boundaries," in the unlimited possibilities for
change and prosperity. Such a belief can be called fantastic and satanic, but not simply dead, spiritless, or
mechanized soullessness.

Again, taken jointly, Schmitt’s objections to the reification of “science and technology” as a thing,
show clearly that in reality they are nothing more than human pro-ductive activity or praxis. Yet,
although Schmitt’s approach quite correctly leaves this reified concept of “science and technology”
with no “separate existence”, with no “neutrality” whatsoever, and therefore correctly stresses its
relation to human action and interests, still he refers to “technology” as if such a thing really
existed independently of human action. Of course, the validity of Schmitt’s critique becomes
pellucid once we replace the reified phrase “science and technology” with its true equivalent of
“techniques” because – as the term itself obviously implies – a “technique” is an actual human
activity or skill whereas “science and technology” are quite easily mistaken for and hypostatized as
the “methodology” and “tools” (the laboratories, the institutions, the objects, the machines, the
equipment, the instruments) that constitute their social embodiment. (This last insight is in
Heidegger’s essay on Aristotle’s Physis cited above. This crucial fallacy of treating “science and
technology” as “independent realities” – as objects, really - can be found even in the most
insightful reviews of the social role of “science and technology” such as Habermas’s review of
Marcuse [“Science and Technology as ‘Ideology’” in Toward A Rational Society, which we shall
review later] or Arendt’s notion of “human action” in The Human Condition.)

The final part of Schmitt’s second quotation above is a mordant and trenchant riposte to the
various late-romantic ideologies denouncing the “reification” and “dis-enchantment” that capitalist
“rationalization” imposes on living labour which is now seen as reducing human interests to the
mere materialistic pursuit of “prosperity” or “economic value” (whether as utility or as labour-
value) or “profits” or “consumerism” – with the consequent loss of “meaning” and of “totality” in
this “science and technology” which no longer seek “reason” or “freedom” but serve only to chain
humanity to the Promethean wheel of production for its own sake, profit for its own sake, quantity
against quality, having against being – the Weberian and Lukacsian Rationalisierung. The locus
classicus of this critique of “the crisis of European sciences” is to be found in Husserl’s famous
address with the same title:

The exclusiveness with which [6] the total world-view of modern man, in the second half of the
nineteenth century, let itself be determined by the positive sciences and be blinded by the
"prosperity"2 they produced, meant an indifferent turning-away from the questions which are
decisive for a genuine humanity.3 Merely fact-minded sciences make merely fact-minded people.
The change in public evaluation was unavoidable, especially after the war, and we know that it has
gradually become a feeling of hostility among the younger generation. In our vital need—so we
are told—this science has nothing to say to us. It excludes in principle precisely the questions
which man, given over in our unhappy times to the most portentous upheavals, finds the most
burning: questions of the meaning or meaninglessness of the whole of this human existence. (E.
Husserl’s The Crisis of European Sciences, pp.5-6).

This pining for the loss of “totality” [Totalitat] (a central concept in Lukacs) and the consequent
alienation of human beings from their living activity (Marx) through the fragmentation and
reification of social reality (Lukacs, Heidegger) or “dis-enchantment” (Weber’s Entzauberung)
engendered by the instrumental and positivist abuse of “science and technology” is a constant
theme running through all social theory – bourgeois, socialist and Marxist - from the middle of
the nineteenth century to the present day. Despite the obvious pertinence of many of the critical
analyses of Technik and the Rationalisierung central to the German phenomenological tradition
from Nietzsche to Weber and Heidegger (which includes figures such as Husserl, Arendt, Lukacs
and the Frankfurt School), their incisiveness stops right at the point at which human conflict and
the techno-scientific practices that it pro-duces – the Rationalisierung - are misconstrued as
ontological or epistemological or ontogenetic categories that are quite independent of social
relations of production, and therefore as ineluctable or immutable categories of human activity.
Indeed, once more, they are foisted upon us as the evil by-products of “science and technology”(!),
which reintroduces by the back door the very reification and hypostasis that the critique of
“science and technology” was meant to expose!

Some Marxist intellectuals have criticised these notions as a rear-guard attempt by the German
workers’ movement to preserve the “artisanal” work practices of skilled workers (die Gelernte)
against the massification of labour introduced by Taylorist and Fordist industrial processes (cf. M.
Cacciari, Pensiero Negativo e Razionalizzazione and the studies by G. Marramao on the German
workers’ movement.)

All the critics of “the technocratic society” (even down to our days - Jacques Ellul, Alvin Toffler,
or Theodore Roszak) and “one-dimensional man” (Marcuse) forget that the ideological use of this
reified concept - “science and technology” -, far from actually embodying the political antagonism
of the society of capital, and farther still from being able to disguise it, and much farther still from
being able to resolve it (!), is instead the actual direct product and manifestation of this antagonism
- and not a mere “ideology” (Marcuse) or a “necessary illusion” (Lukacs), or an “objective
appearance” (Marx) -, an antagonism that increasingly calls into question the sustainability of the
capitalist economic system based on domination over living activity, and indeed also poses ever-
growing systemic risks to the very survival of “the society” on which capitalist social relations of
production must be founded. Thus, far from hiding or disguising or “reifying” it, these techno-
scientific practices actually embody and reveal – they exhibit - the utter incompatibility of human
needs with the capitalist command of living labour based on the wage relation.

Habermas, in S&T as “Ideology”, whilst agreeing with Marcuse that perhaps a New Science and
New Technology can come to view humanity as “the Other”, rather than humans regarding
“nature” as “the Other” (a pious suggestion at best), concedes the possibility of human pacification,
yet insists on this notion of “Science and Technology” and goes along with Arnold Gehlen’s wild
generalizations about the “universality” of “technological progress” (from mechanical functions
involving limbs to cerebral functions)! Once again, Habermas and Gehlen conveniently forget that
human “mechanical” functions are indeed as “intellectual” or “cerebral” as any other functions, as
Gramsci amply and ably showed in the Prison Notebooks (sections on “Intellectuals”). The reason
for this misapprehension is that Habermas falls into the same old habit of seeking to draw an
invalid dichotomy between “labour” (mechanical activity) and “interaction” (symbolic
communication) – a pathetic humanist and late-romantic distinction that we have criticized in our
“Habermas’s Meta-Critique of Marx” and in our critical review of Alfred Sohn-Rethel’s
Intellectual and Manual Labor (both on scribd.com). Apart from this, Habermas validly challenges
Marx’s facile distinction between “forces” and “relations” of production as well as Marcuse’s even
more questionable reduction of “Science and Technology” – an abstraction – to “ideology”, contra
Weber, which only tends to reaffirm Weber’s hypostatization of “rationality” as synonymous with
capitalism whether in reality or as “ideology”.

A further hypostasis is pointed out by Heidegger, “On the Content and Essence of ‘Physis’ in
Aristotle”, in Pathmarks, at p.211. Heidegger insists repeatedly on the absurdity of the attempt in
Western civilisation to define physis, the coming-into-being of our surrounding world (Um-welt),
as techne, a pre-conceived human project [see especially p.197], and revives instead the notion of
“pro-duction” as metabole [especially at p.221]. His vice, as always in these matters, is to identify
this fallacious praxis philosophisch, as if it were merely an ontological confusion rather than the
historical product of existing political antagonism over the satisfaction and creation of human
needs. Heidegger centres this notion of physis and metabole on the contingency or being-toward-
death of human Dasein [being there], on its “thrown-ness” or “freedom-unto-death”, and
therefore on its mortality. Perhaps the best, albeit abstruse, critique of this “ontologism” is in T.
Adorno, Negative Dialectics, esp. Part One on “The Ontological Need”, and the shorter Lectures
on Negative Dialectics, esp. Lecture 2, pp.13ff. See also A.Gramsci, Il Materialismo Storico, cited
by Bobbio in Gramsci for a critique of the undialectical notion of “evolution” in social theory.
Much preferable and more uplifting is Hannah Arendt’s reinterpretation– in The Human
Condition - of physis and metabole as “birth” (genesis) and therefore as the inescapable condition
of human beings to initiate action as political beings – as beings whose very “being alive” is “to be
alive among other human beings” (inter homines esse – whence the notion of “human inter-est”).

There are two types or moments or aspects of “crisis” that need to be confronted therefore: the
first is the notion of crisis as a dys-function of what is interpreted as an otherwise “efficient
machine” such as the capitalist economy operating in accordance with the dictates of “economic
science”. And the other crisis is that affecting the very “science and technology”, the techno-
scientific practice and its theorization that are applied to regulate this fictitious “market
mechanism” that ensures the efficient operation of the capitalist economy – the only “scientific”
economy imaginable. This second crisis concerns both the “scientificity” of “economic science” –
its political “neutrality” – and also the content and the object of this “science”, that is to say, its
decreeing that the “Value” of economic activity is “scientifically quantifiable and determinable”
without the interference of democratically participatory decision-making processes that determine
the “goals” or “values” of social productive metabolism.