The Mirror: Key Digital Media


Ancient Philosophy and Emerging Technology

In Metaphysics Book One, Aristotle says “All human beings by nature desire to know.” (980a) In the same paragraph, he backs up his statement by citing a “liking for the senses” as they are at the root of our attainment of knowledge. His main argument seems to be that the senses, primarily sight, give us knowledge of things and clarifies the differences between things. The senses are how we know and how we learn.

As a philosopher, Aristotle is thirsting knowledge. Considering this and his thesis that all men desire to know, one must wonder what he would have thought of the interactive communication technology of today. If the senses are how we learn, how we know, one can argue that the evolution of technology is an extension of those senses as technology not only stimulates the senses, but gives man the opportunity to use his senses to assimilate more information more quickly.

In the world of interactive technology (Internet, mobile, etc.) there is a long-standing philosophical paradox: Has technology evolved because of man’s increasing desire for more information at a faster pace or has man’s desire evolved due to the onset of more powerful and faster technology? While the answer is likely to be “a little bit of each,” I believe Aristotle would argue more in favor of the former.

Man desires to know. He desires knowledge. This is Aristotle’s opinion, so it stands to reason that he would have thought highly of the advance of technology and would have credited man’s thirst for knowledge for that advance.

Technologies like the internet, mobile web and smart phones give man instant access to information and knowledge. While critics say these technologies only distract us and destroy our society, the truth is they make what we seek (knowledge) much more accessible than it ever has been. Man’s desire to know is being fulfilled in ways that Aristotle himself never could have imagined, but would have loved. News, weather and information are at our fingertips. Why? Because we desire knowledge and we desire it now.
If Aristotle were alive today, I believe he would praise these advances in human communication. He clearly sees man’s desire for knowledge and would fully embrace the new tools we have to fulfill that knowledge.

So, in case you’re wondering, yes, Aristotle would own an iPhone.

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