The Imaginative Conservative on why Tocqueville has a better understanding of technology
What is technology? Tocqueville rather than Heidegger makes a good introduction to this question for Americans, for Tocqueville made the technological view of nature a key element of the democratic desire for "present material enjoyments." For us, he wrote, "every new method that leads to wealth by a shorter path, every machine that shortens work, every instrument that diminishes the costs of production, every discovery that facilitates pleasures and augments them seems to be the most magnificent effort of human intelligence." Commenting on the sources of poetic imagination in Democracy in America, Tocqueville observed that the European image of America is that of the untouched wilderness. But Americans themselves hardly see the forests before they have felled them to make lumber. The technological view does not see the forest as a forest before it resolves it into its constituent parts to be unlocked and put to productive use. Where Heidegger would prophesy catastrophe, Americans saw the image of human conquest, and so of human liberation. In the vision of putting nature to our use we see the image of modern liberty.