Elements of a Philosophy of Technology (Paperback)

On the Evolutionary History of Culture (Posthumanities)

By Ernst Kapp, Jeffrey West Kirkwood (Editor), Leif Weatherby (Editor), Lauren K. Wolfe (Translated by), Siegfried Zielinski (Afterword by)

Univ Of Minnesota Press, 9781517902261, 336pp.

Publication Date: November 13, 2018

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (11/13/2018)

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The first philosophy of technology, constructing humans as technological and technology as an underpinning of all culture

Ernst Kapp was a foundational scholar in the fields of media theory and philosophy of technology. His 1877 Elements of a Philosophy of Technology is a visionary study of the human body and its relationship with the world that surrounds it. At the book’s core is the concept of “organ projection”: the notion that humans use technology in an effort to project their organs to the outside, to be understood as “the soul apparently stepping out of the body in the form of a sending-out of mental qualities” into the world of artifacts.

Kapp applies this theory of organ projection to various areas of the material world—the axe externalizes the arm, the lens the eye, the telegraphic system the neural network. From the first tools to acoustic instruments, from architecture to the steam engine and the mechanic routes of the railway, Kapp’s analysis shifts from “simple” tools to more complex network technologies to examine the projection of relations. What emerges from Kapp’s prophetic work is nothing less than the emergence of early elements of a cybernetic paradigm.

About the Author

Ernst Kapp (1808–1896) was a German philosopher of technology and geographer. He was prosecuted for sedition in the late 1840s and subsequently emigrated to Texas where he became a noted early Free Thinker and abolitionist.

Jeffrey West Kirkwood is assistant professor of art history at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Leif Weatherby is assistant professor of German at New York University.

Lauren Wolfe is a translator in the Department of Comparative Literature at New York University.

Siegfried Zielinski is head of the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design and is Michel Foucault Chair at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee.

Praise For Elements of a Philosophy of Technology: On the Evolutionary History of Culture (Posthumanities)

"I am convinced that, with this newly available translation, Kapp's ideas and concepts—like organ projection or the state as disciplinary machine comprised of parts functioning in circular full-closure—will enter and fortify the international field of media studies as well as, and more so, the more comprehensive field concerned with thinking the relationship of technology and civilization."—Siegfried Zielinski, from the Afterword

"Ernst Kapp's book is long overdue in translation. This edition masterfully introduces the English speaking world to a text that is essential to both the history and the future of media theory. Elements of a Philosophy of Technology is required reading for anyone interested in the study of media and technology."—Bernhard Siegert, Bauhaus-University Weimar

"With its Hegelian inflection, Ernst Kapp’s Elements of a Philosophy of Technology tells us of the spirit of a techno-philosophy that anticipates the centrality of the modern question of technology in the reconfiguration of the human and the meaning of civilization. He invites us not to overcome but to re-invent the human condition through an expanded techno-philosophical enquiry into the possibilities of the projection of techne today."—Luciana Parisi, Goldsmiths University of London

"Elements of a Philosophy of Technology lays out a theory of culture and technology rooted in humans’ instinctual drive to make tools, a faculty that is called “organ projection.”" —LA Review of Books