Jump to Content Jump to Main Navigation

Philosophy Philosophy of Technology
by
Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis, Søren Riis, Evan Selinger, Stig Andur Pedersen

Introduction

Philosophy of technology is a rapidly growing branch of philosophy. Many philosophers now regard it as imperative to systematically inquire into the basis and consequences of innovation. This increasing interest in technology is primarily due to the fact that artifacts, techniques, and technical systems have fundamentally changed the lives of human beings, the ways in which politics and science are carried out, and the pervasive ways that we conceptualize our near and long-term futures. Will technologies create a new Leviathan? Will they be able to stabilize and protect our fragile biology? Or, can they propel us ever closer to salvation? And, how do engineers and scientists really work with innovation? These are some of the wide-ranging questions philosophers of technology are dealing with today. Due to the pervasive impact of new technologies, classic philosophical disciplines such as epistemology, ontology, and ethics are in the process of being redefined. Below are some of the main works in philosophy of technology that clarify what technology is and critique some of its consequences.

Textbooks

Philosophy of technology textbooks are bounded by a pronounced problem that does not dramatically affect many of the other branches of the profession—at least not the ones oriented around perennial problems addressed in canons dating back to historically distant origins. While several books exist that do a superb job of detailing the historical issues that have led to the development of technology being examined from a philosophical perspective (Dusek 2006, Ihde 1993, Mitcham 1994, Harris, et al. 2008), and while many of these books clarify the main conceptual resources needed to analyze technological issues from a philosophical point of view (Achterhuis 2001, Borgmann 1984, Ihde 1990), the rapid pace of innovation simply makes it a near certainty that the concrete examples that authors focus upon, and their claims about crucial trends to be on the look out for, quickly become outdated. Since students tend to be interested in the concrete applications of philosophical theory, and since they often are attracted to the philosophy of technology precisely because they posses a powerful desire to understand how technology affects contemporary modes of social, cultural, and professional existence, it is hard to imagine a successful philosophy of technology class being taught that exclusively revolves around textbooks. Still, it is worth noting that there are some books that focus on more contemporary issues, such as online education (Feenberg 2002). Supplemental readings are a genuine necessity, and the anthology market does a fine job of filling this niche.

  • Achterhuis, Hans. American Philosophy of Technology: The Empirical Turn. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A text written by Dutch philosophers that clarifies what the “empirical turn” entails in the context of recent American philosophy of technology. Contains chapters summarizing the key ideas of the following philosophers: Albert Borgmann, Hubert Dreyfus, Andrew Feenberg, Donna Haraway, Don Ihde, and Langdon Winner.

    Find this resource:

  • Borgmann, Albert. Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By articulating a distinction between “focal practices” and the “device paradigm,” this seminal text articulates Borgmann’s main orientation to assessing whether technology promotes or impedes the good life. It is not written as a textbook but has become widely adopted as one.

    Find this resource:

  • Dusek, Val. Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a wide-ranging survey of the field. Some of the varied topics are: defining technology, technological determinism, technocracy, feminist criticisms of technology, phenomenology, autonomous views of technology, and technological rationality.

    Find this resource:

  • Feenberg, Andrew. Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This seminal text, which has much to say about online education, is the locus classicus of how to analyze technology from a critical theory perspective. It is not written as a textbook but has become widely adopted as one.

    Find this resource:

  • Harris, Charles E., Michael S. Pritchard, and Michael J. Rabins. Engineering Ethics: Concepts and Cases, 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This comprehensive text integrates theory and practice by providing the reader with the following: a careful review of the central, yet contextually relevant concepts from meta- and professional ethics; a judicious choice of case studies that traverses canonical and controversial territory; and a well-structured methodology for critically assessing a range of complex cases.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. Technology and the Lifeworld: From Garden to Earth. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This text is the locus classicus of how to analyze technology from an applied, phenomenological perspective that accounts for historical specificity and cultural diversity. Not officially a textbook, but has become widely adopted as one.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction. New York: Paragon House, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A lively, reader-friendly, historically sensitive introduction to many of the core issues in the philosophy of technology. Although cutting edge at the time of its publication, the discussions of new and emerging trends have become dated.

    Find this resource:

  • Mitcham, Carl. Thinking Through Technology: The Path between Engineering and Philosophy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Written as a critical introduction to the philosophy of technology, this extremely detailed text provides a historically rich analysis of the leading ideas and movements that allowed the philosophy of technology to emerge as a distinctive field. It includes a twenty-four-page epilogue detailing three ways of “being-with” technology.

    Find this resource:

Anthologies

Anthologies are currently the best and most expedient way to publish seminal work within the philosophy of technology. Journals (such as the Internet-based Techné) alone cannot meet the growing demand for theory in an increasingly technologically complicated era. Readers not only have to understand technologies as they function in the delimited sense of technical capacity but also need to understand how the interaction between technology and science takes form (Berg Olsen, et al. 2009b), how politics influences the direction of their development (Berg Olsen, et al. 2009a), how humans cope with information overload, and the senses in which the economy is dependent on new but not necessarily sustainable technologies (Berg Olsen, et al. 2008 and Berg Olsen, et al. 2007). The study of technology is performed by a plurality of investigative fields (see especially Kaplan 2009 and Scharff and Dusek 2003). Philosophy interacts with history, science and technology studies (STS), political science, and sociology, to mention only a few of the leading collaborations, not to forget the engineering sciences (Meijers 2009). The following volumes all have the requisite interdisciplinary character and satisfy the academic need to see the relevant issues from multilayered perspectives.

  • Berg Olsen, Jan K., and Evan Selinger. Philosophy of Technology: 5 Questions. Automatic Press/VIP, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Twenty-four of the most influential philosophers of technology and science respond to five thought-provoking questions. This book is an excellent introduction to the philosophy of technology, since it provides the reader with a glimpse into the personal motives and unique circumstances underlying the theories that different authors advocate.

    Find this resource:

  • Berg Olsen, Jan K., Evan Selinger, and Søren Riis. New Waves in Philosophy of Technology. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230227279Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This collection bridges the divide between analytic and continental philosophy and presents new forms of critical philosophical reflection.

    Find this resource:

  • Berg Olsen, Jan K., Stig Andur Pedersen, and Vincent Hendricks. A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology. Chichester, UK, and Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009a.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Drawing on ninety-eight essays from leading international scholars, this is the first and, thus far, the only authoritative reference source to cover the many key issues of technology’s impact on society, science, human existence, morality, and politics.

    Find this resource:

  • Berg Olsen, Jan K., F. V. Christensen, Stig Andur Pedersen, Søren Riis, P. G. Hansen, and U. Jørgensen. “Special Edition: Technology and Science: Epistemological Paradigms and New Trends.” Synthese 168 (2009b).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of essays that critically discusses the various ways engineering, science, and technology interact. It places strong emphasis on the “empirical turn” within philosophy of technology, scientific and technological rationality, and engineering knowledge.

    Find this resource:

  • Kaplan, David M. Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This text has proved to be appropriate for a wide range of undergraduate courses. The collection is distinct in two ways: the selections of applied issues and the inclusion of philosophically rich writings from authors who are not professional philosophers.

    Find this resource:

  • Meijers, Anthonie, ed. Handbook of the Philosophy of Science. Vol. 9, Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences. Elsevier, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An excellent collection that focuses on various aspects of science in relation to the engineering sciences in particular and the development of technology in general. This collection presents a broad variety of opinions and perspectives.

    Find this resource:

  • Mitcham, Carl, and Robert Mackey. Technology and Philosophy: Readings in the Philosophical Problems of Technology. New York: Free Press, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The readings are mostly from the late 1960s; some are from the 1930s and 1940s. It is a valuable collection of early philosophy of technology, when the field was dominated by philosophers who construed technology as a “technique” of knowledge that restructures the entire social world as an object of control.

    Find this resource:

  • Scharff, Robert C., and Val Dusek. Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition; an Anthology. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In addition to being a collection containing both historical and contemporary essays on the nature of technology and its relation to humanity, this comprehensive anthology places significant emphasis on Heidegger and Heideggerian approaches to technology.

    Find this resource:

Precursors to the Contemporary Debates

Mumford 1966 points out that the philosophy of technology has no single or clear origin. The first piece of work using the concept “philosophy of technology” in its title was written in 1877 by the German philosopher Ernst C. Knapp: Grundlinien einer Philosophie der Technik (Fundamental Aspects of a Philosophy of Technology). Some years before Knapp, the archaeologist Christian Jürgensen Thomsen (b. 1788–d. 1865) advocated the profound role of technology in understanding prehistoric cultures. By the mid–19th century, as Thomsen’s three-age system correlating technology and progress (the Stone, Bronze, and Iron ages) had become widely accepted and Karl Marx’s material turn in philosophy had generated much attention, technologies were considered a crucial indicator for understanding the past, present, and future of physical, social, and mental transformations. However, the explicit relation between philosophical problems and technology dates much earlier than the 19th century (see Heidegger 1977) and is an issue Plato vigorously discusses in The Republic as he tries to establish a model of knowledge and to differentiate a craftsperson from an artist. The pieces of work presented below were written in the 20th century when technology had become key to a number of classic philosophical problems. Sources such as Foucault 1977 and Marcuse 1964 have either initiated or deeply influenced many of the debates in philosophy of technology occurring today. Some focus on broad fields such as engineering (Price 1975) and politics (Winner 1977); others use case studies, such as the impact of bicycles as discussed by Pinch and Bjiker 1987.

  • Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Pantheon, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this work Foucault makes a philosophical historical investigation of punishment techniques. Especially Foucault’s study of Bentham’s idea for a prison, Panopticon, has furthered philosophical interest in architecture as a technology of shaping and controlling human behavior. Originally published in French in 1975.

    Find this resource:

  • Heidegger, Martin. “Basic Writings.” In The Question concerning Technology, and Other Essays. Edited by F. K. David, 312–341. New York: Harper and Row, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues profoundly in favor of the fundamental importance of technology to philosophy. He describes the essence of technology as extremely dangerous, as it is responsible for turning everything into resources, which have no intrinsic significance. However, Heidegger also stresses that there is a positive lesson to be learned from the study of technology, which is the fundamental transformative character of material praxis to ontology, epistemology, and ethics. Originally published in German in 1953.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. Technics and Praxis. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: D. Reidel, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this, Ihde’s first major piece of work, he develops a phenomenology of instrumentation, which has laid the groundwork of a typology of technology. In the center of the work stands Ihde’s analysis of the various mediating roles of technology in relation to humans and the world.

    Find this resource:

  • Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon, 1964.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Marcuse argues that advanced industrial societies use a range of technologies such as mass media, new types of organization, and reasoning to create false needs and shape new forms of control, which eventually leads to a one-dimensional world. To counter this ideological framing of society, Marcuse advocates critique, disputes, and “negative thinking.”

    Find this resource:

  • Mumford, Lewis. The Myth of the Machine. Vol. 1, Technics and Human Development. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Mumford’s lifelong investigations of the origin and nature of technological developments. Crucial to Mumford’s analysis is the close relation between technical development and the formation of social structures. To highlight this hybrid unity, Mumford both coins and uses the term “megamachine.”

    Find this resource:

  • Pinch, Thomas J., and Wieber E. Bijker. “The Social Construction of Facts and Artifacts: Or How the Sociology of Science and the Sociology of Technology Might Benefit Each Other.” In The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. Edited by Wieber E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes, and Trevor J. Pinch, 17–50. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This programmatic article of Pinch and Bijker is built up around a case study of the invention of bicycles in the late 19th century. The authors demonstrate the significant influence of different social groups upon the development of this new technology and thus relativize technological determinism. By doing so, attempts in philosophy of technology to understand the construction and future prospects of technology are being thoroughly questioned.

    Find this resource:

  • Price, Derek J. de Solla “The Difference Between Science and Technology.” In Science since Babylon. Edited by Derek J. de Solla Price, 117–135. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1975.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Price argues that science and technology have a number of common traits; however, his primary concern in this text is to understand their differences. Scientists have to publish in order to gain recognition, whereas engineers keep their knowledge secret until they have manufactured new technologies. Price also maintains that science is almost globally invariant, while technology is rooted locally and has greater variation.

    Find this resource:

  • Winner, Langdon. Autonomous Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the importance of technology to politics. The key issue Winner investigates and criticizes is what he calls technological politics, which proceeds according to large undemocratic technical systems operating in agreement with their own laws.

    Find this resource:

Postphenomenology and Pragmatism

Pragmatic approaches to technology take their departure from classical pragmatists Charles Peirce, William James, G. H. Mead, and John Dewey. They emphasize antifoundationalism, fallibilism, and a functionalist variety of instrumentalism that rejects hard ontological distinctions between tangible and intangible tools. “Technology” is treated as analogous with “biology,”—not as a thing or force but as a family of methods of inquiry into the invention, development, and ameliorative deployment of tools and techniques to define and resolve perceived problems (see Hickman 1990 and Hickman 2001 for further discussion; they focus especially on Dewey). Postphenomenology aligns itself with the core commitments of pragmatism but emphasizes the role embodiment plays in technologically mediated experience. Specifically, postphenomenologists treat embodiment as a central focus in their analyses of how artifacts and technical systems transform—at micro and macro levels—the manner in which users, ranging from technical experts to late adopters of devices, think, perceive, feel, and act (see Ihde 2009 and Selinger 2006). Typically, the emphasis upon embodiment is attuned to cultural diversity and ontological pluralism. Postphenomenologists thus favor “multi-stable” perspectives on technological meaning and use, and have abandoned the essentialist commitments that were expressed by such thinkers as Martin Heidegger, Jacques Ellul, Karl Jaspers, and Herbert Marcuse. Additionally, postphenomenologists place greater emphasis on applied case studies than do the phenomenologists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, whose primary focus tends to be on the debated nuances of phenomenological theory (see Ihde 2008). Two environmentally focused sources worth mentioning are Light and Katz 1996 and Keulartz, et al. 2002.

  • Hickman, Larry. John Dewey’s Pragmatic Technology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An introduction to the work of John Dewey that examines his logic, ethics, aesthetics, and political philosophy as contributions to a critique of technology. Contains a chapter on Dewey’s reading of the history of technology.

    Find this resource:

  • Hickman, Larry A. Philosophical Tools for Technological Culture: Putting Pragmatism to Work. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for a vision of “productive pragmatism,” rooted in the later Dewey’s dissatisfaction with “instrumentalism,” that clarifies how philosophy can branch out beyond its narrow, internalist culture of specialization, such that philosophers of technology can become cultural critics and reformers.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. Postphenomenology and Technoscience: The Peking Lectures. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A succinct, historically sensitive, and example-rich presentation of the core methodological and thematic issues that (1) distinguishes postphenomenological inquiry from leading alternatives and (2) justifies its status as a useful bridge between the humanities/social sciences and the natural sciences/engineering disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don, ed. “Special Issue: Postphenomenology Research.” Human Studies: A Journal for Philosophy and the Social Sciences 31.1 (2008).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This special issue on postphenomenology research contains five articles and one book review that clarify what postphenomenology is and how it can be applied to shed new light on central issues related to the following topics: technology transfer, the technological mediation of morality, the use of imaging technology in the natural sciences, and the manner in which cultural influences influence scientific training.

    Find this resource:

  • Keulartz, Jozef, Michiel Korthals, Maartje Schermer, and Tsjalling Swierstra. Pragmatist Ethics for a Technological Culture. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This cutting-edge anthology clarifies why pragmatist resources are well suited for addressing both descriptive and prescriptive matters related to technological change. Emphasis is given to issues in biotechnology, bioethics, environmental philosophy, and healthcare.

    Find this resource:

  • Light, Andrew, and Eric Katz. Environmental Pragmatism. London: Routledge, 1996.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of seventeen essays that address environmental issues from the perspective of classical pragmatism.

    Find this resource:

  • Selinger, Evan. Postphenomenology: A Critical Companion to Ihde. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A collection of twenty essays that features leading thinkers in the philosophy technology and science and technology studies. Critically assesses key themes in Don Ihde’s oeuvre. The book concludes with Ihde’s forward-looking response to his interlocutors.

    Find this resource:

Determinism and Social Constructivism

Technological determinism and social constructivism are opposing views within the science and technology studies (STS) movement and the philosophy of technology. The social constructivist view, especially in its earliest form, sets out to criticize technological determinism (see Berger and Luckmann 1966). This form of determinism comprises two general ideas: that technology develops according to a traceable pattern that extends beyond social influence, and that technological development influences social development in ways that citizens typically are unaware of and which they have not explicitly endorsed. Society regroups in order to further the development of the technology as soon as it has been assimilated into the social fabric. In short, technology is not seen as part of culture. The social constructivism of technology—which, according to Wiebe Bijker (Bijker, et al. 1987), grew out of the STS movement, the sociology of scientific knowledge, and the history of technology—criticizes determinism by clarifying the social roles of scientists and engineers (see also Bloor 1976, Collins and Pinch 1993). Constructivism in technology builds on constructivism in science. The movement has managed to change the curricula of engineering studies and science education in universities throughout the United States and Europe. Toward this end, Pickering 1995 has explored the evolving role of instruments in technology, and MacKenzie 1993 has focused specifically on the development of missile-guidance systems. Hacking 2000 frames the social construction issue as part of a larger “culture war.” Some of the literature is characteristically overlapping with the construction of knowledge, technology, and science. Even though Bruno Latour has been held as a co-founder of social constructivism (Latour and Woolgar 1979), he has in later life denied this. Instead Latour claims to be a full-blooded constructivist in the sense that “science is a better analyser of society than vice versa.” Latour has never embraced, and thus has tried to steer away from, the relativism of social constructivism.

  • Berger, Peter L., and Thomas Luckmann. The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. New York: Doubleday, 1966.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This is the first book to espouse the idea that reality is socially constructed. It focuses on the construction of ordinary knowledge used in daily life.

    Find this resource:

  • Bijker, Wiebe, Thomas Hughes, and Trevor Pinch. The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This work has been credited as a “first”—namely, as the starting point for debate about the social construction of technology.

    Find this resource:

  • Bloor, David. Knowledge and Social Imagery. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1976.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Another classical work, albeit not one that emphasizes technology. Nevertheless, it is essential reading for grasping the essence of the social constructivist movement. Second edition published in 1991 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

    Find this resource:

  • Collins, Harry M., and Trevor J. Pinch. The Golem: What Everyone Should Know about Science. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch argue for the case of social construction of scientific facts and knowledge. Scientific knowledge is not the social and subject-independent outcome of theorization, observation, and experimentation that many professionals and nonexperts believe.

    Find this resource:

  • Hacking, Ian. The Social Construction of What? Harvard University Press, 2000.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ian Hacking describes this book as “a primer for non-combatants in the culture wars.” This volume aims at balancing the weights for the two positions participating in this war, namely the social constructivists on the one hand and the “realists” on the other, who sees scientific knowledge as distinct from any social interference. The book clarifies what social construction is and why it is a contested concept.

    Find this resource:

  • Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Social Construction of Scientific Facts. London and Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1979.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Yet another classic work. A study of the day-to-day life of the scientist and the way scientists conduct their scientific practices in the laboratory. A close look at the construction of order, the observer’s dilemma, and the materials and methods of the researcher. An overlap between constructed artifacts and facts as a construed platform for scientific knowledge.

    Find this resource:

  • MacKenzie, Donald. Inventing Accuracy: A Historical Sociology of Nuclear Missile Guidance. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A great example of sociological research that explains social constructivism by detailing historical changes in a strategic ballistic missile guidance system.

    Find this resource:

  • Pickering, Andrew. The Mangle of Practice: Time, Agency, and Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Through the “performative idiom,” this materialist text explores the roles of instruments within the production of scientific knowledge. The book offers an insightful perspective on the question of “material agency” that sheds new light on the debates about constructivism.

    Find this resource:

Analytic Philosophy of Technology

In 1966 the journal Technology and Culture published a special issue on the philosophy of technology. It may be considered the beginning of analytic philosophy of culture. Henryk Skolimowski’s paper in this issue stresses that technology is different from science in the sense that it is concerned with what is or ought to be whereas science is about what is. In the same issue Mario Bunge defends the view that technology can be considered applied science if the difference between science and technology, as described by Skolimowski, is respected. According to Bunge, there are two types of theories in technology: substantive theories, which provide information about the object of action, and operative theories, which are about actions themselves. Whereas substantive theories are primarily applied science, operative theories are developed during concrete technological practices by applying scientific methods. Given this classification, the analytic philosophy of technology is primarily concerned with using methods from the philosophy of science to characterize technological knowledge (for example, engineering science, design, skills, and the like), technological objects (for example, artifacts and their life cycles), and technical processes (for example, design, construction, and the like). The field has matured since the 1960s and a deeper, more nuanced understanding both of engineering knowledge (see especially Hendrichs, et al. 2000, Franssen 2005) and work of the nature of technological objects and processes (Pitt 1999, Rapp 1981, Soavi 2009, Hughes 2007) dominates the professional literature. Philosophers now acknowledge that the relation between science and technological knowledge production is extremely complex. In some cases science and engineering are so intertwined that it makes sense to talk about the distinctive culture in which knowledge is produced as technoscience. In other cases the production of engineering knowledge production resembles craftwork found in the arts. Similarly, the nature of artifacts is now viewed as complex mainly because they are conceived as dual objects: they can only be defined and understood by viewing them both as causal and intentional objects (Kroes and Meijers 2006). Finally, the question of technological uncertainty and risk has become a central issue (Hansson 2009).

  • Franssen, Maarten. “Arrow’s Theorem, Multi-criteria Decision Problems and Multi-attribute Preferences in Engineering Design.” Research in Engineering Design 16 (2005): 42–56.

    DOI: 10.1007/s00163-004-0057-5Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Engineering decision making is a multi-criteria problem, as efficiency, safety, sustainability, and cost must be taken into account. Argues that these dilemmas are similar to well-known problems of social choice.

    Find this resource:

  • Hansson, Sven Ove. “From the Casino to the Jungle.” Synthese 168.3 (2009): 423–432.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11229-008-9444-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses important differences between decision making under risk (known probabilities) and under genuine uncertainty where probabilities are unknown.

    Find this resource:

  • Hendricks, Vincent, A. Jakobsen, and Stig Andur Pedersen. “Identification of Matrices in Science and Engineering.” Journal for General Philosophy of Science 31 (2000): 277–305.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1026512011115Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Engineering is characterized as a science governed by its own epistemology, methodology, and ontology. This point is systematically argued by comparing the different sciences with respect to a particular set of characterization criteria.

    Find this resource:

  • Hughes, Jesse. L., Peter A. Kroes, and Sjoerd D. Zwart. “A Semantics for Means-End Relations.” Synthese 158 (2007): 207–231.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11229-006-9036-xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This paper discusses the nature of means-ends reasoning, a kind of reasoning that involves both the identification of ends and design and construction of means for realizing such ends.

    Find this resource:

  • Kroes, Pieter, and Anthony Meijers, eds. “Special Issue: The Dual Nature of Technical Artifacts.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 37 (2006): 1–158.

    DOI: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2005.12.001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Technical artifacts are dual aspect objects. The paper gives a comprehensive analysis of how the two aspects, causal and intentional, are intertwined in artifacts and how they mutually affect each other.

    Find this resource:

  • Pitt, Joseph. Thinking about Technology: Foundations of the Philosophy of Technology. New York: Seven Bridges, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Technology is broadly defined as “humanity at work” so that the theory of action and choice becomes a focal point in philosophy of technology.

    Find this resource:

  • Rapp, Friederich. Analytical Philosophy of Technology. Dordrecht, The Netherlands, and Boston: D. Reidel, 1981.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Friedrich Rapp summarizes the development of philosophy of technology in the 20th century and continues with a discussion of the nature of artifacts and the complexity of technological phenomena. He discusses the nature of actions from a system theoretical point of view and considers the features of “self-reinforcement” as a driving force in the dynamics of modern technology.

    Find this resource:

  • Soavi, Marzia. Realism and Artifact Kinds: Functions and More: Comparative Philosophy of Technical Artifacts and Biological Organisms. Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology. Edited by Ulrich Krohs and Peter A. Kroes. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    States that some technical artifacts share an operational principle that makes them uniform with respect to physical features and, as such, makes them similar to “natural kinds” in science. They behave in a law-like manner.

    Find this resource:

  • “Special Issue: Analytic Philosophy of Technology. ”Technology and Culture 7.3 (Summer 1966).

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A first collection of papers on analytic philosophy of technology including the papers by Skolimowski and Bunge.

    Find this resource:

  • Thomasson, Amie L. “Artifacts and Human Concepts.” In Creations of the Mind: Essays on Artifacts and their Representation. Edited by Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence, 52–73. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    It is difficult to classify artifacts, as purpose, intention, and operational principles are aspects that must be taken into account, and it must be possible to distinguish between, for instance, useful objects, waste objects, and by-products.

    Find this resource:

Heideggerian Approaches

Martin Heidegger is probably the single most influential thinker in the field of philosophy of technology. His contributions have been rather small in total, but they have been controversial and radical in scope and closely tied to comprehensive and sophisticated philosophical projects (see Dreyfus 2006 and Scharff 2003 for introductions to Heidegger’s philosophy of technology). For that reason, Heidegger’s contributions immediately generated much attention upon publication in as well as outside traditional philosophy. Three of Heidegger’s texts in particular have inspired contemporary scholars to engage with philosophy of technology. The first of these texts is only a section of his Being and Time (1927), in which he analyzes the being of tools (section 15). His second contribution is a short paper called “The Question concerning Technology” (1953); the third is “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking” (1969). In Being and Time Heidegger maintains that tools have a paradigmatic status in understanding human experience of objects. Tools are clearly structural things: that is, they do not make sense on their own; they only make sense in a larger network of projects, tools, and human beings (see Herman 2002). Heidegger’s claim is that all things in the human world have to be understood first and foremost through this network model. Ihde 2001 and Thomson 2009 discuss this trend in Heidegger’s work. In “The Question concerning Technology” Heidegger shapes a profound critique of technology as he strives to show how the essence of modern technology leads to a radical change of the world toward becoming an assemblage of resources (see Feenberg 2005, Riis 2008, Zimmerman 1990). In the third text Heidegger ascribes an original responsibility for this negative development to philosophy itself. Thus Heidegger establishes the philosophy of technology as one of the most fundamental and pressing issues of human reflection.

  • Dreyfus, Hubert. “Heidegger on the Connection between Nihilism, Art, Technology, and Politics.” In The Cambridge Companion to Heidegger. Edited by C. B. Guignon, 345–372. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dreyfus elucidates many of Heidegger’s fundamental insights and concepts in relation to his thinking about technology. As his point of departure for this investigation, Dreyfus reflects on Heidegger’s particular style of philosophizing.

    Find this resource:

  • Feenberg, Andrew. Heidegger and Marcuse: The Catastrophe and Redemption of History. New York: Routledge, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Feenberg examines how Heidegger’s philosophical project is inherently connected and dedicated to a historical understanding of technology and how this approach has profoundly influenced Herbert Marcuse.

    Find this resource:

  • Harman, Graham. Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects. Chicago: Open Court, 2002.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reinterprets Heidegger’s influential “tool” analysis in Being and Time and touches upon broad trends in Continental and analytic philosophy. Focuses on how Heidegger’s analysis may help to sketch a new ontology of objects themselves.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. “Was Heidegger Prescient concerning Technoscience?” In Existentia: An International Journal of Philosophy 11.3–4 (2001): 373–386.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    At the base of this inquiry, one finds Heidegger’s asserted primacy of technology over science. Ihde offers a nuanced critique of Heidegger’s insights into the subsequent merging of technology and science, that is, the emergence of the so-called technoscience.

    Find this resource:

  • Riis, Søren. “The Symmetry between Bruno Latour and Martin Heidegger: The Technique of Turning a Police Officer into a Speed Bump.” Social Studies of Science 38.2 (2008): 285–301.

    DOI: 10.1177/0306312707081379Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this paper Riis invigorates the legacy of Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of technology by linking it to contemporary science and technology studies (STS) and debates over the significance of technical artifacts to epistemic, social, and anthropological issues.

    Find this resource:

  • Scharff, Robert. “On Philosophy’s ‘Ending’ in Technoscience: Heidegger vs. Comte.” In The Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition. Edited by Robert Scharff and Val Dusek, 265–276. Oxford: Blackwell, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This text deals with Heidegger’s and Comte’s common interest in technology as the culmination of the Western intellectual tradition. From here it explains the profound difference the two thinkers draw from this mutual assessment.

    Find this resource:

  • Thomson, Iain. “Understanding Technology Ontotheologically, or: The Danger and the Promise of Heidegger, and American Perspective.” In New Waves in Philosophy of Technology. Edited by Jan K. Berg Olsen, Evan Selinger, and Søren Riis, 146–166. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By phenomenologically inquiring issues pertaining to Heidegger’s late understanding of technology, Thomson offers an account of how the danger of technology can be transformed to a future promise.

    Find this resource:

  • Zimmerman, Michael. Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity: Technology, Politics, and Art. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This comprehensive piece of work traces the development of Heidegger’s thinking about technology from his early preoccupation with Ernst Jünger to his late ontological critique of the essence of modern technology.

    Find this resource:

Technology and Science

Philosophers and sociologists of science have only recently begun to investigate how the material culture of science—single instruments as well as complex laboratories—affect the production of scientific knowledge (see Galison 1987, Galison 1997, Hacking 1983, and Ihde 1991). Until recently, the typical philosopher of science was content to write about the metaphysically complex and reversible micro-universe of subatomic particles: thus venturing off into issues that lie beyond the concreteness of observable material reality. Today, the philosophical community acknowledges that theories alone do not always drive scientific progress and that active participation with technical devices that mediate perception, action, and cognition can play a crucial role in structuring the content of knowledge. Latour 1987 and Radder 2003 illustrate this shift. In short, to understand scientific culture, including the norms embedded in experimental practice, we need to understand how inquirers apply and build machines that simultaneously constrain behavioral trajectories and open up possibilities for new insights to be generated (see Crease 2003). Thus, at least two essential issues require philosophical understanding: How do we in fact interact with the machines? And, do our apparatuses really convey a reality that has truth independent of our interventions? (See Tiles and Oberdiek 1995 for further discussion.)

  • Crease, Robert. The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science. New York: Random House, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Crease takes us through two thousand years of science. Here he presents ten of the most important experiments in forming modern worldviews, including Foucault’s pendulum and Galileo’s study of falling bodies.

    Find this resource:

  • Galison, Peter. How Experiments End. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Peter Galison narrates the history of three experimental episodes that have been crucial to the development of modern science. Galison’s argument challenges the view that science is a practice dominated by theory. Experiments, scientifically applied technology, and numerous laboratory instruments have upheld their epistemological utility throughout all of the conceptual changes that have taken place within the sciences.

    Find this resource:

  • Galison, Peter. Image and Logic: A Material Culture of Microphysics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this book Galison clarifies how modern technology has influenced and continues to influence the development of experimental physics. The very size and complexity of the machines has seduced physicists away from the theoretical sciences that inspired them in the first place. Galison describes how microphysics has fragmented into a variety of different technical traditions, including ones in which physicists have become administrators and computer programmers.

    Find this resource:

  • Hacking, Ian. Representing and Intervening: Introductory Topics in the Philosophy of Natural Science. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A two-part introduction to the philosophy of natural science. The central theme is scientific realism. The first part, “Representing,” addresses different philosophical views of realism and antirealism, including those articulated by Kuhn, Putnam, and van Fraassen. The second part is called “Intervening” and provides us with a thorough discussion of experimental science. Experimentation, according to Hacking, is misunderstood when depicted as a theory-driven endeavor. Examples of scientific practice are discussed, including the use of microscopes in cell biology.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. Instrumental Realism: The Interface between Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Technology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Ihde argues that scientific instrumentation connects the philosophy of science to philosophy of technology. He argues that this fusion of perspectives can yield an enhanced understanding of experimentation, observation, and theory building.

    Find this resource:

  • Latour, Bruno. Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book has been heralded as a seminal sociology of science text. Latour clarifies what the sociology of science entails, especially when it focuses on the material culture embedded throughout the sciences—its laboratories and instruments.

    Find this resource:

  • Radder, Hans, ed. The Philosophy of Scientific Experimentation. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This volume proves to be an excellent source for those who wish to learn about scientific experimentation. It has been claimed that several of its papers deserve to be recognized as classics in both the philosophy of science and epistemology. It includes a number of prominent philosophers directly addressing basic theoretical questions concerning the links between science and technology, the impact of modeling and computer simulation, and the implications that follow from designing and using scientific instruments in distinctive ways.

    Find this resource:

  • Tiles, Mary, and Hans Oberdiek. Living in a Technological Culture: Human Tools and Human Values. London and New York: Routledge, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Instead of focusing on physics or biology, this book elevates environmental science to the center of analysis. This orientation proves to be an excellent lens for examining the various complex relations between natural science and technology. Furthermore, this book adds another dimension to the matrix of analysis, namely “culture.” Discussions extend to the topics of instrumental rationality, pure and applied science, and moral responsibility.

    Find this resource:

Technology, Engineering, and Design

In recent years there has been made significant progress in philosophy of technology on bridging the gap between a humanities-centered philosophy of technology and engineering-based philosophy of technology. A number of researchers in the humanities have realized the complexity in engineering praxis and education, which calls for a more detailed case-study approach to technologies in philosophy of technology (see especially Latour 1998). On the other hand, philosophers with engineering backgrounds have stressed the importance of expanding the context of engineering design to encompass a range of cultural factors (Bucciarelli 2003, Ihde 2008, Kroes, et al. 2008, Pitt 2008). This convergence is stimulated by an increasing consensus that real progress in engineering is complex and hard to attain—only possible through a multidisciplinary approach (Verbeek 2005, Vincenti 1990). Today, many research contributions in philosophy of technology are therefore dedicated to the convergence of disciplines in the understanding of engineering and design, including such new fields as nanotechnology and gene therapy (Nordmann 2007).

  • Bucciarelli, Louis L. Engineering Philosophy. Amsterdam: Delft University Press, 2003.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Through case studies and intriguing reflections Bucciarelli demonstrates how philosophy is important in engineering education and praxis. Engineers today are required to make multidisciplinary assessments, and from philosophy they can learn to organize and analyze different disciplinary insights and implement them creatively in praxis.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. “The Design Fallacy and Technological Imagination.” In Ironic Technics. Edited by Don Ihde, 19–30. Copenhagen, Denmark: Automatic Press/VIP, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this text, Ihde borrows from insights in hermeneutics and literary criticism concerning the fallacy of equating authorial intention with the work produced. By examining a number of cases, Ihde shows that technology often develops ironically and at times opposed to the intention of the designers. For that reason much more attention has to be given to the multi-stability of design.

    Find this resource:

  • Kroes, Peter, Andrew Light, Stephen A. Moore, and Pieter E. Vermaas. “Design in Engineering and Architecture.” In Philosophy and Design: From Engineering to Architecture. Edited by Pieter E. Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Andrew Light, and Stephen A. Moore, 1–17. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This programmatic text strives to show the common denominators of design as they pertain to engineering and architecture. In the 20th century these two disciplines have been converging because engineers were encouraged to reflect on the impact of their products on human agents, and authorship in architecture has become even more collaborative, being increasingly distributed among teams and organizations. The point is to therefore learn from one another and not to essentialize the differences between the two disciplines.

    Find this resource:

  • Latour, Bruno. Aramis, or the Love of Technology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A comprehensive case study of a grand, flexible subway system that was to be implemented at the end of the 1980s in Paris. Latour studies the tragic fate of the master plan and tries to answer the question of why the system was never fully realized. In this examination he takes on the perspective of a number of involved people and organizations—one of these people being a young engineer. The book thus uses explanatory possibilities from prose as well as fiction. Originally published in French in 1993.

    Find this resource:

  • Nordmann, Alfred. “Technology Naturalized: A Challenge to Design for the Human Scale.” In Philosophy and Design: From Engineering to Architecture. Edited by Pieter E. Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Andrew Light, and Stephen A. Moore, 173–184. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2007.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Nordmann sees a danger in the development of technologies beyond the human threshold of experience such as nano- and gene technology. Posits that these novel technologies might end up being as incomprehensible and frightening as nature once was. Nordmann thus calls for the design on human-scale interfaces in order to better assess these new technologies and improve control measures.

    Find this resource:

  • Pitt, Joseph. “Design Criteria in Architecture.” In Philosophy and Design: From Engineering to Architecture. Edited by Pieter E. Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Andrew Light, and Stephen A. Moore, 317–327. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2008.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a pragmatic answer to overcoming the postmodern deflation of operative criteria for evaluating architectural design. Pitt does not want to offer new universal principles of design but stresses the concept of variation and a sort of manifested harmony, which stems from reflections on the context of the construction site and the culture at stake. This approach amount to what Pitt calls “Common Sense Design.”

    Find this resource:

  • Verbeek, Peter-Paul. What Things Do. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Inspired by E. Husserl, Verbeek turns to “the things themselves,” but quite differently from his predecessor. Verbeek’s project is concerned with the specific agency of designed objects and with examining how they alter and interfere with our everyday praxis. Implicit in this study is the programmatic ambition of rearticulating the importance of a technological turn in philosophy.

    Find this resource:

  • Vincenti, Walter G. “Engineering as Knowledge.” In What Engineers Know and How They Know It: Analytical Studies from Aeronautical History. Edited by Walter G. Vincenti, 3–16. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Vincenti argues that engineering is not to be understood as applied science. Engineers do not understand knowledge as a goal in itself but always a means to a utilitarian goal: For example, science did not really have much to do with the invention of the airplane. Vincenti instead identifies the practical design process at the center of an epistemology of engineering, which he explores in detail.

    Find this resource:

Technology, Sustainability, and the Environment

Philosophy of technology has a long tradition of analyzing and debating environmental issues. Early philosophical critiques have accused proponents of technical inventions for being short-sighted and abusing nature. The critical voices have been developing their arguments around classic philosophic topoi, such as the idea of nature, the distinction between facts and values, and the ascription of rights to human and nonhuman beings (Frodeman 1999, Hale 2008). In contemporary debates there have been many efforts to find common ground between philosophy of technology and environmental philosophy (Pickering 2009). This entails developing new conceptions of technology and analyzing the implications of creating and using technology in more integrative frameworks (Ihde 1999). To this end, several scholars have tried to view the connection between philosophy of technology and environmental concerns through the lens of pragmatism (Hickman 1999, Norton 2005). Ward 2009 has emphasized that environmental issues and problems thus have become inseparable from a comprehensive understanding of technology.

  • Frodeman, Robert. “The Rebirth of Gaia and the Closure of Homo Technologicus.” Research in Philosophy and Technology 18.(1999): 95–113.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Delineates the transformation from modernity to postmodernity within the context of geological history. In modernity, geology has been understood as an economic subdiscipline concerned with measuring resources. Today the earth sciences are primarily concerned with human flourishing, as is made evident by the authority given to the geological survey.

    Find this resource:

  • Hale, Benjamin. “Technology, the Environment, and the Moral Considerability of Artifacts.” In New Waves in Philosophy of Technology. Edited by Jann K. Berg Olsen, Evan Selinger, and S. Riis, 216–240. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230227279Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In an attempt to overcome some of the conceptual dichotomies that hinder mainstream discussions in environmental ethics, Hale appeals to the intellectual resources espoused in pragmatism. He argues for the methodological and practical advantages of adopting an “interaction-centred approach” to environmental disputes. Inspired by Jürgen Habermas’s philosophy, this approach critically examines the extent to which the idea of moral considerability applies to nature and artifacts.

    Find this resource:

  • Hickman, Larry. “Green Pragmatism: Reals without Realism, Ideals without Idealism.” Research in Philosophy and Technology 18 (1999):39–56.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Motivated by the philosophy of John Dewey, Hickman makes a pragmatist meta-argument that enables him to critically revisit the current discussion between scientific realism and humanist critiques concerning the status of and the approach to environmental problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Ihde, Don. “Phil-Tech Meets Eco-Phil: The Environment.” Research in Philosophy and Technology 18 (1999): 27–38.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clarifies the affinities that link the philosophy of technology and environmental philosophy. He argues that for a long time both traditions have supported technological dystopianism and an ethics of fear. As a more pragmatic alternative, Ihde argues that both subdisciplines need to reorient their priorities around more nuanced and hopeful distinctions, while collaborating better with one another.

    Find this resource:

  • Norton, Bryan G. Sustainability: A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Applies the tools of classical pragmatism to the problems of environmental philosophy, with concrete proposals, from a leading environmental philosopher. It presents an especially clear and important analysis of the difference between “tame” and “wicked” problems.

    Find this resource:

  • Pickering, Andrew. “Beyond Design: Cybernetics, Biological Computers, and Hylozoism.” Synthese 168 (2009): 469–491.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this article in a special issue titled “Technology and Science: Epistemological Paradigms and New Trends,” Pickering identifies two different paradigms of technology. The first paradigm is modern; it understands nature as being underwritten by values that validate consumerist practices—endless production and consumption. The other paradigm is nonmodern: This perspective views nature as intrinsically valuable and can be identified with the development of the early British approach to cybernetics.

    Find this resource:

  • Ward, Peter. The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this book Ward argues against James Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. Instead of seeing the earth as a balanced system that favors life, he argues that the ecological system of the earth is capable of turning back on itself to threaten strength and diversity of life on earth. However, Ward’s Medea Hypothesis also sees hope for humankind. Through geo-engineering, humans have a unique chance to stabilize the earth and make it a habitable and supportive place to live.

    Find this resource:

  • Zimmerman, Michael E. Contesting Earth’s Future: Radical Ecology and Postmodernity. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Zimmerman analyzes three branches of radical ecology: deep ecology, social ecology, and ecofeminism. Zimmerman strives to unfold their different ways of giving philosophical justifications of their insight and outlook. Common to the three kinds of ecology is a profound critique of the human desire to technically master nature.

    Find this resource:

Philosophy, Society, and Politics

Technology, politics, economy, and science are the four pillars of Western societies. Politics and technology are interdependent components of the modern social fabric. The Lisbon Agenda, for example, explicitly states that the development of sustainable technologies, such as nanotechnology and biotechnology, should be prioritized by the political leadership of all European nations and thus become official research policy informing these nations’ research councils. Nevertheless, the Lisbon Agenda is only a small glimpse into the complicated constellation of politics and technological development. There is an obvious interdependency between economic growth, technological development, and the political intention motivating it all. The philosophical debates since the 1980s thus constitute a formidable body of philosophical insight into the sociopolitical aspect attached to technological development. In the 1960s Jacques Ellul foresaw a rather gloomy future for humanity (Ellul 1964). (Postman 1993 builds on Ellul’s work.) Other studies, such as Feenberg 1999, argue that despite all the devastating consequences resulting from war, pollution, greed, and an increasing lack of natural resources, the power behind development is not in the hands of the political authorities but instead lies with those who design, construct, or finance these projects. Technologies are not determined or neutral; technologies are not a result of an authoritarian hierarchy. Technological development is instead the result of democratic contributions that theorists typically misunderstand. Others such as Winner 1988 argue that technological artifacts have political connotations. Roads, bridges, overpasses, boulevards, buildings, are never constructed without some kind of political motivation: either to include or exclude wanted or unwanted population groups. Similarly, McKibben 2004 discusses the slippery slope that is therapeutic cloning, and Sclove 1995 explores the development of bureaucracies and regulation in response to technological changes. In short, it is of the utmost importance to analyze the sociopolitical aspect of technological development. This may prove to be one of the most important philosophical research areas in the years ahead.

  • Ellul, Jacques. The Technological Society. New York: Vintage, 1964.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    A rather dated publication in this context. Nevertheless, it is required reading for those who want to better understand the interrelated issues of politics, technology, and society from a philosophical point of view. It is, however, a rather dystopian view of technology’s impact on society and human existence.

    Find this resource:

  • Feenberg, Andrew. Questioning Technology. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This book has been heralded as a “must read.” Technology has transformed the earth and given us humans the power to realize our highest ideals or destroy ourselves. Feenberg appeals to insights from critical theory and related domains to convince us that it is of utmost importance that we learn about technology in order to coexist with it and control it.

    Find this resource:

  • Hughes, James. Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Hughes argues for a “democratic transhumanism,” which means that we will achieve the best possible future when we make sure that technologies are safe and made available to everyone. The author provides controversial responses to pressing issues, such as assisted suicide, cloning, and more.

    Find this resource:

  • Lightman, Allen, Daniel Sarewitz, and Christina Desser. Living with the Genie: Essays on Technology and the Quest for Human Mastery. Washington, DC: Island, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Sees technology as a growing force full of promise and danger. The authors look into various situations in which we rarely consider the consequences of technological innovations on society and human life.

    Find this resource:

  • McKibben, Bill. Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age. New York: Holt, 2004.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Offers a critical view of human engineering. McKibben explains human germline engineering and therapeutic cloning, which to him represents a slippery slope. They do not only cure disease, they are “improving” human beings to the point that they no longer can be classified as humans—with the consequence of transforming society in a detrimental fashion.

    Find this resource:

  • Postman, Neil. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. New York: Vintage, 1993.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a thorough analysis of education, media, and technology. Postman argues that culture suffers from an increasing dependence upon technology and that as a result, human life has to adjust to a society where an increasing number of inhabitants are clinging to scientism and quantification as a means of achieving and expressing meaning. A seminal dystopian text that follows in the tradition of Jacques Ellul.

    Find this resource:

  • Sclove, Richard. Democracy and Technology. New York: Guilford, 1995.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The book centers on technological decisions created via a secret politics occurring within corporate headquarters and government bureaucracies or, for that matter, through the politics of the marketplace. Sclove argues that better procedures and institutions need to be developed so that citizens can participate in regulating the development of new technologies.

    Find this resource:

  • Winner, Langdon. The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Winner clarifies the relationship between technical change and political power, arguing that technology is inherently political.

    Find this resource:

Emerging Topics

Due to the rapid pace of innovation, selecting emerging topics of analysis for philosophers of technology can be as difficult—and error prone—as making prognostic predictions about innovation itself. Inevitably, questions related to idiosyncratic taste and professional bias arise. Given these difficulties, we acknowledge making an imperfect but justified selection of texts by turning to ones that shed new light on how to think about the complexity of innovation—especially innovation that has a widespread, if not global, impact. These texts should traverse overlapping systems and call for new ways to think about emerging patterns of behavior and novel formations of reality that conventional theories of personal, collective, and professional responsibility cannot adequately deal with (Ess 2009 and Allenby 2007). Within this context, issues of sustainability, cultural development through technology transfer, and the reorganization of human experience through integrated advancements in scientific and technical fields are especially salient (Selinger 2008, Oosterlaken 2009). Questions about human rights and cultural flourishing have a renewed sense of urgency. And so do questions about the limits of human decision making, which are now the subject of radical pronouncements in behavioral economics and cognitive science and subject to critical interrogation in relation to possible futures, in the literatures related to climate change (Sarewitz and Nelson 2008), enhancement, nanotechnology, and converging technologies (Thaler and Sunstein 2009, Bostrom and Savulescu 2009, Schummer and Baird 2006).

  • Allenby, Braden. “Earth Systems Engineering and Management: A Manifesto.” Environmental Science and Technology. 41.23 (2007): 7960–7965.

    DOI: 10.1021/es072657rSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The Industrial Revolution and associated changes in demographics, technology, economics, and social systems have led to the emergence of a world increasingly characterized by complex integrated human/built/natural systems. Designing and managing such systems requires a very different approach from that usually provided by existing disciplines and policy practices.

    Find this resource:

  • Bostrom, Nick, and Julian Savulescu, eds. Human Enhancement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    In this anthology, leading authorities clarify and assess the core issues surrounding human enhancement. These are issues that can be expected to dominate public and scholarly discussions for some time to come.

    Find this resource:

  • Ess, Charles. Digital Media Ethics. Cambridge, MA: Polity, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The first textbook to address the central issues of digital media ethics from a global perspective that emphasizes issues of cultural diversity and developmental complexity. The theoretical and practical contributions it makes to the philosophical dimensions of its carefully selected subject matter are unique and first rate.

    Find this resource:

  • Oosterlaken, Ilse. “Design for Development: A Capability Approach.” Design Issues 25.4 (2009): 91–103.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses the relevance of the capability approach of Nussbaum and Sen, which offers a philosophical perspective on the ends of development, for technological design in the context of developing countries. It introduces the concept “capability sensitive design,” which is analogous to the term “value sensitive design” already existing in the ethics of technology. Explores what this entails and what further research is necessary. Available online.

    Find this resource:

  • Sarewitz, Daniel, and Richard Nelson. “Three Rules for Technological Fixes.” Nature 456 (2008): 871–872.

    DOI: 10.1038/456871aSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    With an eye toward advancements in thinking about complexity, this article revisits the long reviled notion of “technological fix” to clarify the restricted context in which it can be expected to be effective. The authors argue that both technology policy and technology theory will be hindered until this context is better appreciated. They conclude with a provocative application of their argument to debates on global climate change.

    Find this resource:

  • Schummer, Joachim, and Davis Baird. Nanotechnology Challenges: Implications for Philosophy, Ethics, and Society. Hackensack, NJ: Wadsworth, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1142/9789812773975Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clarifies the main metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical challenges associated with advances in nanotechnology.

    Find this resource:

  • Selinger, Evan. “Technology Transfer and Globalization: A New Wave for Philosophy of Technology?” In New Waves in Philosophy of Technology. Edited by Jan K. Berg Olsen, Evan Selinger, and Søren Riis, 267–291. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230227279Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Clarifies why philosophers pay insufficient attention to globalization, development, and technology transfer. Turning to an initiative that enables Bangladeshi women to rent out mobile phone calling time, the argument is made that the existing nonphilosophical appraisals are too reductive. The case is made that extant frameworks conceal how technology facilitates relations of dependence and independence while simultaneously diminishing our capacity to understand innovative development initiatives.

    Find this resource:

  • Thaler, Richard, and Cass Sunstein. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New York: Penguin, 2009.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for the position of “libertarian paternalism” by placing behavioral economic research about cognitive bias in dialogue with political theory. Within this context, provocative analysis of how artifacts influence behavior through “nudges” is offered and can be understood as providing new empirical support for the postphenomenological thesis of technological mediation. The main political thesis is provocative and raises a variety of deep questions related to technocracy and moral agency.

    Find this resource:

LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195396577-0118

back to top

Article

Up

Down