22 January 2011

On the Tram--Conveyance as End In Itself

This is an interesting way to think about the sciences/technology, from The Tragic Sense of Life (available at Project Gutenberg), as "fundamentally a matter of economics":

"And, though they concern us so greatly, and are, indeed, indispensable
for our life and thought, the sciences are in a certain sense more
foreign to us than philosophy. They fulfil a more objective end--that is
to say, an end more external to ourselves. They are fundamentally a
matter of economics. A new scientific discovery, of the kind called
theoretical, is, like a mechanical discovery--that of the steam-engine,
the telephone, the phonograph, or the aeroplane--a thing which is useful
for something else. Thus the telephone may be useful to us in enabling
us to communicate at a distance with the woman we love. But she,
wherefore is she useful to us? A man takes an electric tram to go to
hear an opera, and asks himself, Which, in this case, is the more
useful, the tram or the opera?"

What is the means, what is the end, or are they entangled here in a way that will make them inseparable? Does the "conveyance" become the "end" by being all the more universal or general than the specific ideal of destination?

No comments:

Post a Comment