According to Max Weber, the “fate of our times” is characterized by a “disenchantment of the world.” The scientific ambition of rationalization and intellectualization, as well as the attempt to master nature through technology, will greatly limit experiences of and openness for the transcendent, i.e. that which is beyond our control. Insofar as transcendence is a central aspect of virtually every religion and all religious experiences, the development of science and technology will, according to the Weberian assertion, also limit the scope of religion. In this paper, we will reflect on the relations between technology and transcendence from the perspective of technological mediation theory. We will show that the fact that we are able to technologically intervene in the world and ourselves does not imply that we can completely control the rules of life. Technological interference in nature is only possible if the structures and laws that enable us to do that are recognized and to a certain extent obeyed, which indicates that technological power cannot exist without accepting a transcendent order in which one operates. Rather than excluding transcendence, technology mediates our relation to it.
Published by Peter-Paul Verbeek
Peter-Paul Verbeek (1970) is full professor of Philosophy of Technology and co-director of the DesignLab of the University of Twente, The Netherlands. He is also honorary professor of Techno-Anthropology at Aalborg University, Denmark. Verbeek's research focuses on the philosophy of human-technology relations, and aims to contribute to philosophical theory, ethical reflection, and practices of design and innovation. His publications include Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things (University of Chicago Press, 2011) and What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design (Penn State University Press, 2005). View all posts by Peter-Paul Verbeek