March 1, 2007 at Roskilde University. Presentations by Evan Selinger, Finn Olesen, Peter-Paul Verbeek and Andrew Feenberg. Read more at this site.
Thanks for organizing such a wonderful workshop, with contemporary philosophers such Andrew Feenberg, Peter-Paul Verbeek, Evan Selinger, and Finn Olsen in Philosophy of Technology, which certainly include futuristic perspecives on the subject matter on the broader scale.
Philosophy of technology is a recent field within academic philosophy, its roots, as both Don Ihde and Friedrich Rapp (in early 70s or mid 60s) have shown, are multiple as are its thematic questions concerning organizational, economical, and technological developments such as globalization and ecological crisis. Philosophy of technology is a critical, reflective examination of the nature of technology as well as the effects and transformation of technologies upon human knowledge, activities, societies and environments (Umwelt). Albert Borgmann, Regents Professor of Philosophy at the University of Montana has argued that, philosophy of technology has a recognizable history by now and continues to deal with fruitful and consequential issues. Technological devices shape our culture and the environment, alter patterns of human activity, and influence who we are and how we live. I claim that, we are already living in the technologically mediated lifeworld. Albert Borgmann, in his response to the five questions, urged that philosophy of technology finally has to be a moral philosophy that gets beyond the comfort of necessary conditions for ethics and points out a more nearly sufficient model of the good life in a technological society. The goal of philosophy of technology is to understand, evaluate and criticise the ways in which technologies reflect as well as change human life individually, socially and politically. It also examines the transformations effected by technologies on the natural world and non-human life and the eco-spheres.
The “philosophy of technology” is academically special. Indeed, it even differs considerably from the other sub-disciplines that the domain of professional philosophy now offers. Such a special status can be attributed to the fact that technology thoroughly permeates the lifeworld. In both the public and private spheres, the forms that individual and collective action can take are influenced by technological forces. Even when such influence is powerful, it often occurs in ways that are subtle and hard to detect. Of course this state of heightened technological affairs is not a radical departure from earlier historical epochs. As theorists are now beginning to emphasize, even the seemingly abstract history of ideas cannot be adequately understood without directly referencing and critically assessing underlying material practices and fantasies about material culture. [[Cf. Philosophy of Technology: 5 Questions, edited by Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen and Evan Selinger, Automatic Press / VIP, February 2007. Website http://www.philosophytechnology.com (Vincent F. Hendricks, Series Editor)]]
Andrew Feenberg (third generation of critical theorist, is developing a new crtical theory of technology. He is calling us to consider the impotance of the democratic inventions to the technology issues in our society) keeps thinking and expanding and is among the most interesting writers in the philosophy of technology. His latest book on “Heidegger and Marcuse” is splendid, and is challenging the STS scholars to rethink the relationship between Science, Technology and Society. Feenberg is now more sensitive to multiculturality, to less dystopian interpretations of technology, and does more specific analysis of technologies.
Don Ihde, American phenomenologist and philosopher of technology, who more than 35 years has been teaching and doing research in the field of philosophy and hermeneutics of technology, has argued elsewhere (cf. Don Ihde. Technics and Praxis, 1979 and Technology and the Lifeworld, 1990) that contemporary philosophy of technology has arisen and grown out of the ‘praxis’ traditions, particularly those of a concretist orientation, and thus stand in contrast to the earlier, dominant strands of a theoretically biased philosophy of science. And, “even if much contemporary philosophy of science has been late to arrive at such praxis phenomena as experiment, instrumentation and technologization, in science, it, too, has begun to take a similar direction” Ihde says.
In my view, The assumption underlying the philosophy of technology is that the devices and substances we make and use transform our experience in ways that are philosophically relevant. That is, technology not only enlarges and extends our capacities and effects of changes in the natural and social worlds but also does so in ways that are interesting with respect to fundamental areas of philosophical inquiry. Technology poses unique practical and conceptual problems of epistemology, metaphysics, moral philosophy, and political philosophy. The task for a philosophy of technology is to analyze the phenomenon of technology, its significance, and the ways that it mediates and transforms our experience in the life-world.
In future, I hope to see more workshops and conferences on the new waves in the philosophy of technology.
With best regards,
Andrew Feenberg’s recent contribution to the critical theory of technology, Questioning Technology, and Heidegger and Marcuse are best understood as a synthesis and extension of the critiques of technology developed by Heidegger and Marcuse.
Coming from the school of critical theory in Frankfurt (where Jürgen Habermas, Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Horkheimer have studied), Andrew Feenberg proposes the solution to the problems of philosophy of technology from the political perspectives. Currently Feenberg is the most prominent and productive philosopher in the area of technology and politics. Feenberg has made original contributions both to technology studies and political theory, Albert Borgmann says. Feenberg does not hesitate to lay bare the skeleton of his argument in clear and helpful charts in Questioning Technology. Over the course of more than two decades, Andrew Feenberg has established himself as an important representative of a new generation of critical theorists. Consistently insightful and articulate, he has developed a trenchant critique of technological culture that has taken as its point of departure the humanistic Marxism of his mentor Herbert Marcuse. In his book Questioning Technology (Routledge, 1999), he presents what is arguably his most successful attempt to date to construct a major revision of the critique of technology advanced by Marcuse and other “first generation” critical theorists,
as well as by their “second generation” heirs, such as Habermas.
Feenberg argues against both essentialism and determinism – to put forward a political theory of technology which embraces the social dimensions of technological systems, including their impact on the environment and workers’ skills and their role on the distribution of power. Feenberg wants to encompass
the technical dimension of our lives and to provide a social account of the essence of technology which enlarges our democratic concerns. On technical democracy, Feenberg reminds us – that a technological society requires a democratic public sphere sensitive to technical affairs. But it is difficult to conceive the enlargement of democracy to technology through procedures such as voting. Nevertheless, local publics do become involved in protests over technical developments that concern them. Hence the widespread recourse to protests and
public hearings in domains such as environmentalism – we are witnessing the slow emergence of a technical public sphere but that it has been largely overlooked because of its unfamiliar concerns and fragmented form.
In the 1990s, Feenberg authored three books [Feenberg’s (1999) Questioning Technology is, perhaps, the most comprehensive introductory texts in philosophy of technology. It is the third book in a trilogy dealing with technology,
including Critical Theory of Technology (1991) and Alternative Modernity (1995)] that established him as one of the leading scholars in a rapidly developing field, and he is one of the few to delineate a theory for democratizing technological design.
Professor Andrew Feenberg is the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Technology at the School of Communication, Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Details on Dr. Andy Feenberg and his important publications can be found at http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf
FESTSCHRIFT IN THE HONOR OF ANDREW FEENBERG
Democratizing Technology: Andrew Feenberg’s Critical Theory of Technology, edited by Tyler J. Veak published by SUNY Press, October 2006. This volume critically engages the work of Andrew Feenberg on the philosophy of technology.
Details at http://www.sunypress.edu/details.asp?id=61351
Contributors to the festscrift include Albert Borgmann, Simon Cooper, Gerald Doppelt, Andrew Feenberg, Trish Glazebrook, Larry A. Hickman, Andrew Light, David J. Stump, Paul B. Thompson, Iain Thomson, Tyler J. Veak, and Edward J. Woodhouse.
As the festschrift notes: Largely because of the Internet and the new economy, technology has become the buzzword of our culture. But what is it, and how does it affect our lives? More importantly, can we control and shape it, or does it control us? In short, can we make technology more democratic? Using the work of Andrew Feenberg, one of the most important and original figures in the field of philosophy of technology, as a foundation, the contributors to this volume explore these important questions and Feenberg responds.
Some Key Insights and Concepts of Andy Feenberg’s Philosophy of Technology: I) Feenberg is eschewing the notions of technological determinism. II) Using Social Constuctivist approaches, which compels to seek and explore how technologies are situated in particular social context. (SCOT approach: social construction of technology: Bijeker and Pinch). III) Ambivalence character of technologies. IV) Not only use of technologies, but also in designing.
Philosophy of technology, therefore, promises the possibility of an understanding of technology that may be important not only to public policy but also in helping to conceptualise intellectual approaches to the study of technology and, indeed, to shaping new fields of knowledge and research. Philosophy of technology may also have a role to play in relation not only to structuring a largely disparate and inchoate field but also more directly in teaching and learning about technology.
With kind regards,
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