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Title: Either technological pessimism or proleptic Christian resistance : a constructive reading of Jacques Ellul's dialectical writings on technology with Paul Virilio as an evocative interlocutor
Author: Morelli, Michael Stephen John
ISNI:       0000 0004 7972 5214
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis develops a constructive reading of Jacques Ellul's dialectical writings on technique, technology, and propaganda. Focusing on the critical concepts of myth, justification, and power in Ellul's sociological and theological work, I argue that Ellul's persistent resistance to optimistic appraisals of technology can be read illuminatingly as a sustained effort to demythologise and desacralise a pervasive, powerful, and threatening iteration of works based salvation in the modern world. I also uncover a novel and valuable avenue of inquiry for theology and ethics that is provisionally and constructively explored in this dissertation: the degree to which Ellul's work influenced a younger French scholar named Paul Virilio, who also wrote extensively and critically about technology after the Second World War; and reciprocally, the degree to which Virilio's work caught Ellul's attention and was engaged with by Ellul before he died in 1994. Ellul's life and work features prominently in this dissertation whereas Virilio's life and work is featured primarily as an evocative point of comparison, contrast, and complement at the conclusion of each chapter. I adhere to this structure, except in chapter six, where I offer a more balanced examination of the constructive ethics offered by Ellul and Virilio. With (1) the socio-historical setting of postwar France (2) sociology and phenomenology (3) myth and the sacred (4) the Fall account in Genesis 3 (5) social power and spiritual powers and (6) theological ethics as the principal fields of inquiry for this dissertation, I demonstrate that the writings of Jacques Ellul and Paul Virilio are stronger, and as a consequence of more value, for theology and ethics when they are read in conversation. Accordingly, this dissertation concludes with an examination Ellul's contribution to theology and ethics, highlighting Virilio as an important figure for further study both in relation to and beyond Ellul's legacy. I also conclude with a constructive response to both author's work which thickens the thinner areas in their theology and ethics and I comment on areas for further research.
Supervisor: Brock, Brian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Technology ; Religious ethics