Alpen Adria Universität Klagenfurt & Université de Toulouse Jean Jaurès (PhD Candidate)
Man and Technics/Habits. A Contribution to the Addiction of/to Life (Inspired by Oswald Spengler)
My Thesis project is entitled “Life as Addiction”, and I am trying to define and theorize on life as a series of habits, but also on life itself as being a habit, or rather an addiction.
What I find absolutely relevant when thought further on, is that Spengler’s technics (as demonstrated in his Man and Technics. A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life)1 can be parallel to what I try to define as habit: “technics is” he says, “the tactics of living” (chapter I.2, p.10). Isn’t that how habit could be defined? Men are never “men-in-themselves”, they are born into specific time, place, race, etc. (I.2, p.15), therefore they have specific technics/habits, to which habits they persist to the point of obsession or addiction to them, their will (to power) is their will to own (property: II.3), (to own life, in a way), and therefore own first of all their technics/habits, because they are “too shallow and cowardly to endure the fact of the mortality of everything living” (I.2, p.13). This condition of their mortality, forces them as a response to it, to grasp onto life, to the point of obsessing with it, with being alive; with living. All the animal world has technics (“generic technique”: II.4), but only the human develops his technics further that the generic level.
This is probably due to his consciousness of mortality, among other factors, such as his anatomic and intellectual disposition towards new technics-technologies. Therefore only the human persists on what he comes to be his metaphysical property of technics/habits, which is only the dispenser of a series of other properties/ownerships, including material ones (land, wife/husband, children, goods), and not material ones such as even theories, dogmas, beliefs, archives, but beneath all, rituals and habits. He obsesses because he needs to repeat them and force them to others to exhaustion, in order to establish them and therefore preserve them, despite his mortality.
Spengler says that animals merely repeat themselves with the vehicle of the generic technique. My objection here would be that contemporary ethology says that animals develop their technics as well. And what about us? Are we superior to the fact that we repeat the same goals, because of the same fears, with different means/technics/habits all over again? Both in primitive cultures and in Civilization (to which Spengler is suspicious), the goals stay the same: the handling of our mortality. This is our obsession that ever invents new ways (habits, technics) to fulfil itself, as every addict does. We aim at persevering ourselves to the now of life: an obsession to persist and preserve, to be and continue to be the same (ontologically), which is to live, be alive. What is specifically humane is nor birth nor death, but the addiction to the in-between. Is survival the reason/mechanism of addiction or maybe is it the other way round: are we kept in life or are we surviving as a by-product of being addicted to it – in order to survive? Spengler’s text is inspiring in many ways, and I think he senses as well a kind of addiction of man to man’s technics, which I plan to examine more.
1. Oswald Spengler (1918/1926), The Decline of the West: Perspectives of World History (Der Untergang des Abendlandes). Volume I. Translation and Notes by Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
2. Oswald Spengler (1918/1926), The Decline of the West: Form and Actuality (Der Untergang des Abendlandes). Volume II. Translation and Notes by Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
3. Oswald Spengler (1932/1963), Man and Technics. A Contribution to a Philosophy of Life (1931: Der Mensch und die Technik). Translation by Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, London: George Allen & Unwin.
technics, technique, tactics of living, life, Spengler, habit, addiction, human/animal