Michael Patti

Notes on Ellul Text

Chapter 6 – A Look to the Future


First Half of Chapter


Ellul begins chapter 6 by reiterating points he has made throughout the chapters we have read, mainly:

-          Technique forces man to loose contact with nature

-          Technique now operates autonomously

-          Technology has changed the social fabric of man irreparably

-          Technology is artificial

Ellul then begins to work with ideas concerning means and ends. His main ideas include:

-          Technique is in firm control of the means (production, organization, etc)

-          “Proliferation of means brings about the disappearance of the ends” (430)

-          He details our “preoccupation” with rediscovering the ends or essentially finding a purpose or goal.

-          He states, “Everything today seems to happen as though ends disappear, as a result of the magnitude of the very means at our disposal.” (430)

-          Only technical inquiry into the ends can be provided (i.e. “A technical problem demands a technical solution”)



Second Half of Chapter: “A Look at the Year 2000”


Ellul starts by detailing predictions for the year 2000 by notable scientific figures of the time. The predictions include: completely synthetic food, quadrupling of the world population, elimination of all disease, no energy production issues, complete control of human reproduction, and direct connection of the human brain to machine.  


Ellul is skeptical about these predictions and he is concerned with the transition between his present day world and the world presented by the scientists. He states, “How socially, politically, morally, and humanly, shall we contrive to get there?”


Ellul thinks that by shaping society through technique, (control over human reproduction, etc) a complete dictatorship will result. He also doubts the scientists overall capacity to select the best traits to breed men.



Questions for discussion:


-          To what degree is technique autonomous?

-          What do you think about the claims of the scientists? Will we get there someday? Are there ways to avoid technological dictatorship?

-          If technique is artificial as Ellul states, and technique is in every part of our lives, what is the nature of reality?

-          Do you think that “ends” have really disappeared, or are ends relative? Do you agree with Ellul that our world lacks focus and goals, or that we are “preoccupied” with the search for goals?

-          To what degree is the shaping of society a form of dictatorship? Does technique have an effect upon freedom? (Consider his arguments in chapter 5 regarding education)

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