On Dwarves and Scientists: Probing for technological ethics in the creative imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes


In this paper, I look more closely at J.R.R. Tolkien's writing to probe for a broader philosophy of technology. I suggest that (after a survey of his letters and literature), according to Tolkien none of the activities of technology, inquiry, making or use can be morally neutral. As a result, in Tolkien's account careful scrutiny must be made to ensure that these three types of technological activity occur within an ethically ordered economy, directed by appreciation for the intrinsic good of making and not for the extrinsic profit or power that can be "derived" (as in Moria), lest one dig too deeply and unleash a Balrog. Along with this negative account, Tolkien provides a positive affirmation of creaturely sub-creation and inquiry into the depths of mystery as an intrinsic part of human creatureliness. I conclude that this critique of technology lies at the heart of Tolkien's project.


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2009


  • philosophy of technology, J.R.R. Tolkien