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Epilogue: The Values of Technology

There is a wing of opinion, here and abroad, that is positively opposed to modern technology and all it stands for, believing that mode and technology brutalizes man, enslaves and “depersonalizes” him, ruins his culture, etc.63

Fortunately, this view is overwhelmingly rejected by the bulk of our nation, and therefore there is no need to enter into extended refutation here. But it might be apropos to cite the views of this subject of two social philosophers with very different views on other matter:

Thus, Professor Ernest Nagel, of the Department of Philosophy, of Columbia University:

it is by no means evident that a life of deep satisfaction and dedication to the values of a liberal civilization is enjoyed by a smaller fraction of American society than of other types of culture, whether present or past. Critics of American mass culture tend to forget that only comparatively small elite groups in the great civilizations of the past were privileged to share in the high achievements of those cultures. ... In our own society, on the other hand, modern science and technology have made available to unprecedented numbers the major resources of the great literatures and the arts of the past and present, never accessible before in such variety even to the societies. ... The evidence seems to me overwhelming that the growth of scientific intelligence has helped to bring about not only improvements in the material circumstances of life, but also an enhancement in its quality.64

And here Father Bernard W. Dempsey, of the Institute of Social Order:

There are those who see in the mechanization of modern industry an inevitable and devastating anti-personal force. ... First of all, man has been condemned to earn his bread in the sweat of his brow; and yet past ages had more sweat and less bread than typical American industrial workers experience. ... Finally, the industrial discipline can also be challenging, interesting and inspiring, especially when an able mechanic is furnished good tools and materials to work with. We must not forget that the farmer is weather-paced, season-paced and animal-paced with a tyranny that is at least as exacting as the industrial discipline. ... In the day of serfs in Western Europe the horse was the symbol of nobility and knighthood. Many American workers in the course of a day control more horse power than there was on the whole field of Agincourt.65

  • 63. Thus, see Ralph Ross and Ernest Van den Haag, The Fabric of Society, and Introduction to the Social Sciences (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Cox, 1957).
  • 64. Ernest Nagel, “The Place of Science in a Liberal Education,” Daedalus (Winter, 1959): 66–67.
  • 65. Bernard W. Dempsey, S.J., “The Worker As Person,” Review of Social Economy (March, 1954): 19–20.
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