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William Leiss on Lifting Technology's Thumb*

  • Frederick Ferré (a1)
Extract

Philosophers need not be located in departments of philosophy in order to be worth reading. Here is a work eminently warranting attention from professional philosophers, perhaps all the more because its author, William Leiss (who earned a Ph.D. in philosophy in 1969 but has never held a formal faculty position in that subject) writes from a variety of alternative perspectives. His first academic position was in Political Science and Environmental Studies at the University of Regina. From there he travelled to York University as Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, taking a year out to serve as Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto before returning to York and again adding Political Science to his duties in Environmental Studies. Since 1980 he has been Professor of Communication at Simon Fraser University. Although originally a New Yorker, with academic credentials from south of the border, he now writes with distinctly Canadian examples, outlook and style.

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Notes

1 Marx Leo, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Idea in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1964).

2 Roszak Theodore, “The Monster and the Titan: Science, Knowledge, and Gnosis,” Daedalus (Summer, 1974): 1732.

3 Interestingly, Leiss now distances himself from Marcuse's position much more sharply than he did in his doctoral dissertation at the University of California at San Diego and in his first book, The Domination of Nature (New York: George Braziller, 1972), which he dedicated to his embattled fellow graduate student, Angela Davis. See the Appendix to The Domination of Nature for Leiss's carefully argued defence of the “consistent features” in Marcuse's thought.

4 Perhaps it would be pedantic to be much concerned about such matters, but it appears at least to this reviewer that employing the four Baconian “Idols” as a framework to give retrospective structure to the four chapters in question is only partially successful. All four essays could have been interpreted under the Idols of the Market-Place and Theatre, particularly the latter. It is a harmless enough device, however, until one comes to the supposed Idols of the Tribe, where a substantial question —can anything be done about our errors of dominion? — comes to be at stake.

5 Leiss acknowledges his strong indebtedness to Meyerhoff's MiltonOn Caring (New York: Harper & Row, 1971).

* William Leiss, Under Technology's Thumb (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1990), xii + 169 p., $34.95, $15.95 paper. Page references are to this work.

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Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review / Revue canadienne de philosophie
  • ISSN: 0012-2173
  • EISSN: 1759-0949
  • URL: /core/journals/dialogue-canadian-philosophical-review-revue-canadienne-de-philosophie
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