My friends are my prostheses

Man has, as it were, become a kind of prosthetic God. When he puts on all his auxiliary organs he is truly magnificent.

~ Sigmund Freud, Civilisation and its Discontents (as quoted in The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, Electric Speech by Avital Ronell)




22 thoughts on “My friends are my prostheses

  1. Perhaps he also means ‘magnificent’ translates to ‘awe inspiring?’ I can think of many ‘auxiliary organs’ worn by ‘man’ which are awe-inspiring in a magnificently terrifying spectacle. Maybe it’s 50-50 in terms of ‘wonderful’ magnificence.


      • I had this image in my mind of something like those transformer toys after reading Freud’s quote….and went back and forth about our ‘tools’ we use and who uses which tools for what….


      • The “guns don’t kill people, people kill people (or vice versa)” argument.

        Leaving aside Freud for the minute, the “tool analysis” is the most famous part of Heidegger’s Being and Time, about who human being is when using a knife or fork or spoon. Almost 30 years later in The Question Concerning Technology, he confronts the question again. The short answer he gives is that there is no tools and us, there is only us. In QCT he says we have been “being tool” since Roman times (when the original access to Being started to get covered over), and all that that state of being entails such as calculating, rationalising, pursuing growth for growth’s sake, and so on. We ARE tool.

        In our time, The Question Concerning Technology is played out on the climate change/global warming front. There is not rape of earth and us. It’s all us. We ARE rape of earth.


      • Very interesting. We certainly are.
        And…to segue into Jung, didn’t he say something along the lines of during times of crisis ‘man’ reverts to experiencing primal symbols. I’m probably thinking of the spiral in particular around this idea. I see this symbol referencing/expressing the neolithic era (perhaps spiral ARE neolithic) being suggested quite a bit, for example Robert Smithson’s ‘Spiral Jetty’ etc… I wonder if there isn’t an unconscious/conscious movement back to, as you say, original access to Being… in an attempt to ‘disarm’ and address the climate change/global warming apocalypse we are staggering into.


      • Whether it’s Jung or Freud or Heidegger or many other artists, religious, philosophers and so on, they’re all moving in the same realm. They all have something vital to say on the matter and have given their lives to saying it. What I want to say is simple: it’s not abstract or theoretical this, it’s about your life and my life exactly as it is today. For example, if I as a human being AM rape of earth, AM tool, I look in my life and I see there are people I treat as disposable resources, I use them and toss them aside. If I look in my life I see I lied and manipulated this person or that situation yesterday. I see I paid no care to B and his concerns last month or today, was blind to them, rode roughshod over them. The point is to look at oneself, not out there. The world/climate change/global warming is a mirror of who I be. To transform myself is to transform it.


  2. This is a good one. But what of old age when friends who once were “extensions” have passed on? We are the ones who are left, and if we haven’t worked on becoming our own “best friend”, who? I questioned an 97 year old aunt who said all her friends were gone, because she was quite active in many groups containing younger members with whom she was friends. She said it was never the same as when her peers were her friends. I have many friends, but Dr. Advice is the best one.


    • Friends who are peers are extra-special, aren’t they? What to do when one’s peers pass away? I don’t know, Kayti. It’s another of the challenges of getting older. I imagine it takes enormous courage to live into old age and come face-to-face with each challenge. Huge courage and love xx


  3. This one got me scratching my head. I read the comments and still am not quite sure what Freud had in mind. What was the context of this quote? Does it matter? I’m confused!


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