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  4. Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the End of Knowledge : A New Beginning

However, there were few academic journals in the early 21 st century dedicated specifically to philosophy of technology and covering the entire range of themes in the field. There is an ongoing discussion among philosophers of technology and scholars in related fields e. One would expect to find a clear answer to this question in the available introductory texts, along with a general of agreement on the central themes and questions of the field, as well as on who are its most important authors and which the fundamental positions, theories, theses and approaches.

In the case of philosophy of technology, however, comparing recent textbooks reveals a striking lack of consensus about what kind of endeavor philosophy of technology is. Rapp, ; ix; Ihde, ; Nordmann, Rather, its job is to deal with all the traditional questions of philosophy, relating them to technology.

All of philosophy would be philosophy of technology, as long as some attention is paid to technology. But first, the kinds of questions philosophers of technology ask with respect to technology must be explicated. Philosopher of technology Don Ihde defines philosophy of technology as philosophy that examines the phenomenon of technology per se , rather than merely considering technology in the context of reflections aimed at philosophical issues other than technology.

However, there are a number of different ways in which one can approach the project of illuminating characteristic features of the phenomenon of technology. While different authors have presented different views of what philosophy of technology is about, there is no generally agreed upon taxonomy of the various approaches to or traditions in, or styles of doing philosophy of technology. In this section, a number of approaches that have been distinguished in the recent literature are discussed with the aim of providing an overview of the various kinds of questions that philosophers ask with respect to technology.

In an early review of the state of the field, philosopher of science Marx W. Wartofsky distinguished four main approaches to philosophy of technology Wartofsky, First, there is the holistic approach that sees technology as one of the phenomena generally found in human societies on a par with phenomena such as art, war, politics, etc. The philosophical question in focus here is: What is technology? Second, Wartofsky distinguished the particularistic approach that addresses specific philosophical questions that arise with respect to particular episodes in the history of technology.

Relevant questions are: Why did a particular technology gain or lose prominence in a particular period? Why did the general attitude towards technology change at a particular time? And so forth. Third is the developmental approach that aims at explaining the general process of technological change and as such has a historical focus too. In this approach, technology is seen as a product of human actions that should be critically assessed rather than characterized, as in the holistic approach.

Besides critical reflection on technology, a central question here is how technology has come to be what it is today and which social factors have been important in shaping it. The four approaches as distinguished by Wartofsky clearly are not mutually exclusive: while different approaches address similar and related questions, the difference between them is a matter of emphasis. A similar taxonomy of approaches is found with Friedrich Rapp, an early proponent of analytic philosophy of technology see also below.

For Rapp, the principal dichotomy is between holistic and particularistic approaches, that is, approaches that conceive of technology as a single phenomenon the nature of which philosophers should clarify vs. It basically consists in a philosophy of technology that parallels philosophy of nature, but focuses on the Aristotelian domain of poiesis instead of the domain of physis see Section 1. The anthropological paradigm asks one of the traditional questions of philosophy — What is man?

The historical-philosophical paradigm examines the various manifestations of technology throughout human history and aims to clarify what characterizes the nature of technology in different periods. In this respect, it is closely related to the anthropological paradigm and individual philosophers can work in both paradigms simultaneously. Finally, the epistemological paradigm inquires into technology as a form of knowledge in the sense in which Aristotle did See Sec.

Engineering philosophy of technology is the philosophical project aimed at understanding the phenomenon of technology as instantiated in the practices of engineers and others working in technological professions. As representatives of engineering philosophy of technology Mitcham lists, among others, Ernst Kapp and Friedrich Dessauer. Humanities philosophy of technology, on the other hand, consists of more general philosophical projects in which technology per se is not principal subject of concern. Rather, technology is taken as a case study that might lead to new insights into a variety of philosophical questions by examining how technology affects human life.

The above discussion shows how different philosophers have quite different views of how the field of philosophy of technology is structured and what kinds of questions are in focus in the field. Still, on the basis of the preceding discussion a taxonomy can be constructed of three principal ways of conceiving of philosophy of technology:.

All three approaches are represented in present-day thinking about technology and are illustrated below.

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Perhaps most philosophy of technology has been done — and continues to be done — in the form of reflection on the nature of technology as a cultural phenomenon. As clarifying the nature of things is a traditional philosophical endeavor, many prominent representatives of this approach are philosophers who do not consider themselves philosophers of technology in the first place.

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Rather, they are general philosophers who look at technology as one among the many products of human culture, such as the German philosophers Karl Jaspers e. Related to the conception of technology as a human cultural product is the approach to philosophy of technology that reflects on and criticizes the social and environmental impact of technology. As an examination of how technology affects society, this approach lies at the intersection of philosophy and sociology, rather than lying squarely within philosophy itself. A central question in contemporary versions of this approach is whether technology controls us or we are able to control technology Feenberg, 6; Dusek, ; Nye, Chapter 2.

Langdon Winner, for example, thought of technology as an autonomously developing phenomenon fundamentally out of human control. As Dusek 84 points out, this issue is in fact a constellation of two separate questions: Are the societies that we live in, and we ourselves in our everyday lives, determined by technology? And are we able to control or guide the development of technology and the application of technological inventions, or does technology have a life of its own?

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As it might be that while our lives are not determined by technology we still are not able to control the development and application of technology, these are separate, albeit intimately related issues. The challenge for philosophy of technology, then, is to assess the effects of technology on our societies and our lives, to explore possibilities for us to exert influence on the current applications and future development of technology, and to devise concepts and institutions that might enable democratic control over the role of technology in our lives and societies.

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  5. The third principal approach to philosophy of technology examines concrete technological practices, such as invention, design and engineering. The practical orientation of this approach, as well as its comparative distance from traditional issues in philosophy, is reflected in the fact that none of these three early philosophers of technology were professional philosophers see Section 2. A guiding idea in this approach to philosophy of technology is that the design process constitutes the core of technology Franssen and others, Sec.

    Thus, philosophers working in this approach often examine design practices, both in the strict context of engineering and in wider contexts such as architecture and industrial design for example, Vermaas and others, In focus are epistemological and methodological questions, such as: What kinds of knowledge do engineers have? Is there a kind of knowledge that is specific to engineering?

    What is the nature of the engineering process and the design process? What is design? How do reasoning and decision processes in engineering function? How do engineers deal with uncertainty, failure and error margins? Is there any such thing as a technological explanation?

    If so, what is the structure of technological explanations? What is the relation between science and technology and in what way are design processes similar to and different from investigative processes in natural science? This approach to philosophy of technology is closely related to philosophy of science, where also much attention is given to methodology and epistemology. This can be seen from the fact that central questions from philosophy of science parallel some of the aforementioned questions: What is scientific knowledge? Is there a specific scientific method, or perhaps a clearly delimited set of such methods?

    How does scientific reasoning work? What is the structure of scientific explanations?

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    However, there still seems to be comparatively little attention for such questions among philosophers of technology. According to Pitt, philosophers of technology have largely ignored epistemological and methodological questions about technology and have instead focused overly on issues related to technology and society. Thus, philosophers of technology should orient themselves anew with respect to the questions they ask.

    But there are more parallels between the philosophies of technology and science. An important endeavor in philosophy of science that is also seen as central in philosophy of technology is conceptual analysis. In addition, in both philosophy of science and philosophy of technology a renewed interest in metaphysical issues can currently be seen. For example, while philosophers of science inquire into the nature of the natural kinds that the sciences study, philosophers of technology are developing a parallel interest into the metaphysics of artifacts and kinds of artifacts e.

    A difference between the states of affairs in philosophy of science and in philosophy of technology, however, lies in the relative dominance of continental and analytic approaches. While there is some continental philosophy of science e. In contrast, continental-style philosophy of technology is a domain of considerable size, while analytic-style philosophy of technology is small in comparison.

    Philosophy, Rhetoric, and the End of Knowledge : A New Beginning

    Analytic philosophy of technology has existed since the s and only began the process of becoming the dominant form of philosophy of technology in the early 21 st century Franssen and others, Sec. Overviews of analytic philosophy of technology can be found in Mitcham Part 2 , Franssen and Franssen and others Sec. After having mapped out three principal ways in which one can conceive of philosophy of technology, two discussions from contemporary philosophy of technology will be presented to illustrate what philosophers of technology do.

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    The first example will demonstrate philosophy of technology as the systematic clarification of the nature of technology. The second example shows philosophy of technology as systematic reflection on the consequences of technology for human life, and is concerned with biotechnology. Illustrations of philosophy of technology as the systematic investigation of the practices of engineering, invention, designing and making of things will not be presented.

    Examples of this approach to philosophy of technology can be found in Vermaas and others or Franssen and others The question, What is technology?