Harmonising physis and techne : The mediating role of philosophy
An interesting way of looking at the history of cultures is in terms of the increasing distance of human life from the natural course of events, thanks to an everthickening layer of technological mediations. A culture (not necessarily a good culture, let alone a civilization) emerges when a society is able to detach itself from the physical world (physis), and generate sufficient resources to express itself with some stability. From the division of labour to sheer oppression, from the invention of tools to the creation of weapons, there must be at least a fissure between surviving and living, where the seeds of a culture can take root non-ephemerally. A culture therefore can be pre-historical (no recordings) but hardly pre-technological; “hardly” because, exceptionally, such breaking away from physis may be achievable by barehanded individuals in unaided contexts. In theory, nothing prevents extraordinary people from planting some cultural seeds even when life is flattened into survival twodimensionally, here and now. In practice, however, cultures tend to emerge and flourish only behind the dam provided by some techne. Even embittered stylites need pillars on which to stand, and peasants to bring food.