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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10002/440

Title: Vitalist technocratism in the times of materialist idealism on the philosophy of technology by Piotr Engelmeier in pre- and early Soviet Russia)
Authors: Goriunova, Olga
Issue Date: Nov-2007
Abstract: The talk interprets the body of work by the philosopher-engineer Piotr Engelmeier dating from the 1910s-1920s. A few stories are tangled together here: a brief history of Russian philosophy of technology; an account of Engelmeier's core theoretical concepts; a mapping of the philosophical scenery of the beginning of the century with a leading role given to Bergson and a reflection of his influence on Engelmeier; a 'materialist-idealist' dynamics of the official Soviet doctrine and its performance in banning theories and imprisoning their authors; Engelmeier's own attempts to resolve the 'materialist-idealist' tensions of the technocratic / technical / pragmatist / intuitive / creative / 'vitalist' categories. The body of theory produced by Piotr Engelmeier is of some interest for it represents not any specific hidden and forgotten 'treasure' but rather retrospectively sheds light on sets of trends, motifs, and patterns constituting some of the backbones of cultural processes of his and subsequent times. The first works of Engelmeier demonstrate engagement with understanding the system and origin of technical invention. This trend develops towards setting out to understand technical creativity, the creativity of everyday, and creativity that builds material culture that acts as an ecology within which a human being is to exist. Developing a culturalist approach to technology, Engelmeier proceeds to establishing the philosophy of technology as a new discipline describing a human being as a 'technical being', andsuggesting 'technicism' as a title for such an endeavour. Engelmeier's theory of creativity that arises from the area of the instinctive, from the sphere of the 'vital', of intuition, and 'ascends' into the sphere of conscious work, is applicable, according to his model, to any creative act, and, thus, since all human activity is saturated and based on creativity, to any human activity. Also, a human being is essentially a technical being capable of fulfilling her goals in various areas of life. And since the technical action is essentially creative in the way it is perceived and carried out, as he specifies in his theory of technical creativity, Engelmeier merges the technical and the creative, with the technical 'growing out' of the creative. In such a way, intuition / surmise / vital energy becomes the basis of his technicism. Engelmeier makes a curious junction of technicality and creativity: he is an idealistic technocrat, who believes technology is an engine of any progress, whose main precondition, however, rests in human intuition, 'dark vitalism' and creativity. Thus, Engelmeier's way of dealing with the indefiniteness of human (technical) activity and limitations of technocratic thinking is to link it to intuition and creativity; his technology is an environment, an engine and a potential for a creative action, for an improvement on usefulness, based on intuition, and emanating from an individual. For dialectical materialism, Engelmeier is truly 'idealistic' in his culturalist approach. But the Soviet ideology is 'na├»vely idealistic' despite its materialist declarations. Engelmeier's desire to marry the materiality of the technical environment and human creativity emerging from the unconscious, somewhat tragically interplays with the failures of the Soviet version of Marxism in its attempts to arrange the materiality of the idea.
Description: This text was presented at re:place the second conference on the histories of media, art, science and technology - November 15-18 2007, as a peer-reviewed scholarly work chosen for inclusion. This text may have been or will be published and/or presented elsewhere by the author.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10002/440
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