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Dorsality: Thinking Back through Technology and Politics

Author: David Wills
Publisher: Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2008
Review Published: April 2009

 REVIEW 1: David Gruber
 REVIEW 2: Matthew Holtmeier
 REVIEW 3: Travis Vogan

I am very grateful to the three reviewers of my book for their insightful readings of Dorsality. An author cannot ask for more than such a level of good faith investment in one's project. That they seem to agree for the most part with what I develop is, as it were, beside the point; for they have put into practice an ethics of understanding, or a desire to represent what is developed in the book on its own terms, that is already generous in the extreme. If the readers do raise a question that might imply a critique, it relates to the complexity of my arguments, or the lack of clarity of the book's organization. Here again, though, they have read very well, both in the sense of appreciating the complexity by following it through, and in not allowing that to be a serious objection. Indeed, they have all, in their own way, read beyond (or further behind) what I thought I was saying, and so complicated things further, both productively and inventively: David Gruber sees poiesis in focus, or in effect, in many more places than in the Heidegger discussion; Matthew Holtmeier describes an important distinction between performativity and rhetoricity; Travis Vogan points to how the images and quotations separating chapters exist in a different, as if dorsal, field of vision.

It's true that my book isn't simple. I tried to put it seven different ways, albeit in long and often digressive contexts. I'll try once more, this time in the form of seven theses, or six theses leading to a conclusion:

  1. The human is not self-contained.

  2. The non-self-containedness of the human is demonstrated by its relation to "things" outside of it.

  3. Technology is a name we give to (some of) those things.

  4. Such things (as technology) are essential, rather than contingent to the human.

  5. What is essential is traditionally situated in various places -- (deep) within, underneath, above, behind -- but never in front or ahead (which is where we normally place technology).

  6. Technology, as a function of invention, is constantly out of reach, or out of sight of the human.

Ergo, technology is behind.

David Wills


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