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Philosophy of technology

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Title: Philosophy of technology  
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Subject: Philosophy of science, Engineering, Technology assessment, Technology, Technological somnambulism
Collection: Media Studies, Philosophy by Field, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Technology, Science and Technology Studies
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Philosophy of technology

The philosophy of technology is philosophical field dedicated to studying the nature of technology and its social effects.


  • History 1
    • Greek philosophy 1.1
    • Middle ages to 19th century 1.2
    • 19th century 1.3
    • 20th century 1.4
    • Contemporary philosophy 1.5
    • Technology and neutrality 1.6
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • External links 5
    • Journals 5.1
    • Websites 5.2


Greek philosophy

The western term 'technology' comes from the Greek term techne (τέχνη) (art, or craft knowledge) and philosophical views on technology can be traced to the very roots of Western philosophy. A common theme in the Greek view of techne is that it arises as an imitation of nature (for example, weaving developed out of watching spiders). Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus and Democritus endorsed this view.[1] In his Physics Aristotle agreed that this imitation was often the case, but also argued that techne can go beyond nature and complete "what nature cannot bring to a finish."[2] Aristotle also argued that nature (physis) and techne are ontologically distinct because natural things have an inner principle of generation and motion, as well as an inner teleological final cause. While techne is shaped by an outside cause and an outside telos (goal or end) which shapes it.[3] Natural things strive for some end and reproduce themselves, while techne does not. In Plato's Timaeus, the world is depicted as being the work of a divine craftsman (Demiurge) who created the world in accordance with eternal forms as an artisan makes things using blueprints. Moreover, Plato argues in the Laws, that what a craftsman does is imitate this divine craftsman. Greek craftsmen also became wealthy and often attracted women and men alike.

Middle ages to 19th century

Sir Francis Bacon

During the period of the Roman empire and late antiquity, practical works such as Agricola's De Re Metallica (1556) were produced. Medieval Scholastic philosophy generally upheld the traditional view of technology as imitation of nature. During the Renaissance, Francis Bacon was one of the first modern authors to reflect on the impact of technology on society. In his utopian work New Atlantis (1627), Bacon put forth an optimistic worldview in which a fictional institution (Salomon's House) uses natural philosophy and technology to extend man's power over nature. This is to be done for the betterment of society, through works which improve living conditions. The goal of this fictional foundation is "...the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible."

19th century

The native German philosopher and geographer Benjamin Franklin and Karl Marx.

20th century

Five prominent 20th-century philosophers to directly address the effects of modern technology on humanity were John Dewey, Martin Heidegger, Herbert Marcuse, Günther Anders and Hannah Arendt. They all saw technology as central to modern life, although Heidegger, Anders,[5] Arendt[6] and Marcuse were more ambivalent and critical than Dewey. The problem for Heidegger was the hidden nature of technology's essence, Gestell or Enframing which posed for humans what he called its greatest danger and thus its greatest possibility. Heidegger's major work on technology is found in The Question Concerning Technology.

Contemporary philosophy

Contemporary philosophers with an interest in technology include George Grant.

While a number of important individual works were published in the second half of the twentieth century, Paul Durbin has identified two books published at the turn of the century as marking the development of the philosophy of technology as an academic subdiscipline with canonical texts.[7] Those were Technology and the Good Life (2000), edited by Eric Higgs, Andrew Light, and David Strong and American Philosophy of Technology (2001) by Hans Achterhuis.

Technology and neutrality

With improvements in technology comes progress and a great concern over its shadowing effect on society. Lelia Green uses recent gun massacres such as the Port Arthur Massacre and the Dunblane Massacre to bring out the concepts of technological determinism and social determinism. Technological determinism argues that "it was features of technology that determined its use and the role of a progressive society was to adapt to [and benefit from] technological change."[8] The alternative perspective would be social determinism which looks upon society being at fault for the "development and deployment"[9] of technologies. Reactions to the gun massacres were different in various regions. Tasmanian authorities made gun laws even stricter than before, while there was a demand in the US for the advocacy of fire arms. And here lies the split, both in opinion and in social dimension. According to Green, a technology can be thought of as a neutral entity only when the sociocultural context and issues circulating the specific technology are removed. It will be then visible to us that there lies a relationship of social groups and power provided through the possession of technologies.

See also


  1. ^ Franssen, Maarten; Lokhorst, Gert-Jan; van de Poel, Ibo; Zalta, Edward N., Ed. (Spring 2010). "Philosophy of Technology".  
  2. ^ Aristotle, Physics II.8, 199a15
  3. ^ Aristotle, Physics II
  4. ^ * Ernst Kapp: Grundlinien einer Philosophie der Technik. Zur Entstehungsgeschichte der Cultur aus neuen Gesichtspunkten (Braunschweig/Brunswick 1877, Reprint Düsseldorf 1978, Engl. Translation Chicago 1978).
  5. ^ # The Outdatedness of Human Beings 1. On the Soul in the Era of the Second Industrial Revolution. 1956 # The Outdatedness of Human Beings 2. On the Destruction of Life in the Era of the Third Industrial Revolution.
  6. ^ Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, 1958.
  7. ^ Techné Vol 7 No 1
  8. ^ Green, Lelia (2001). Technoculture. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin. p. 2. 
  9. ^ Green, Lelia (2001). Technoculture. Crows Nest, Australia: Allen & Unwin. p. 3. 

Further reading

  • Joseph Agassi (1985) Technology: Philosophical and Social Aspects, Episteme, Dordrecht: Kluwer. ISBN 90-277-2044-4.
  • Hans Achterhuis (2001) American Philosophy of Technology Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-33903-4
  • Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen and Evan Selinger (2006) Philosophy of Technology: 5 Questions. New York: Automatic Press / VIP. website
  • Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen, Stig Andur Pedersen and Vincent F. Hendricks (2009) A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology. Wiley-Blackwell. [1] ISBN 978-1-4051-4601-2
  • Borgmann, Albert (1984) Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-06628-8
  • Drengson, A. (1995). The Practice of Technology: Exploring Technology, Ecophilosophy, and Spiritual Disciplines for Vital Links, State University of New York Press, ISBN 079142670X.
  • Dusek, V. (2006). Philosophy of Technology: An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, ISBN 1405111631.
  • Ellul, Jacques (1964), The Technological Society. Vintage Books.
  • Michael Eldred (2000) 'Capital and Technology: Marx and Heidegger', Left Curve No.24, May 2000 ISSN 0160-1857 (Ver. 3.0 2010). Original German edition Kapital und Technik: Marx und Heidegger, Roell Verlag, Dettelbach, 2000 117 pp. ISBN 3-89754-171-8.
  • Michael Eldred (2009) 'Critiquing Feenberg on Heidegger's Aristotle and the Question Concerning Technology'.
  • Feenberg, Andrew (1999) Questioning Technology. Routledge Press. ISBN 978-0-415-19754-0
  • Ferre, F. (1995). Philosophy of Technology,University of Georgia Press, ISBN 0820317616.
  • Green,Lelia (2001) Technoculture: From Alphabet to Cybersex. Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest pp 1–20.
  • Heidegger, Martin (1977) The Question Concerning Technology. Harper and Row.
  • Hickman, Larry (1992) John Dewey's Pragmatic Technology. Indiana University Press.
  • Eric Higgs, Andrew Light and David Strong. (2000). Technology and the Good Life. Chicago University Press.
  • Christoph Hubig, Alois Huning, Günter Ropohl (2000) Nachdenken über Technik. Die Klassiker der Technikphilosophie. Berlin: edition sigma. 2nd ed. 2001.
  • Huesemann, M.H., and J.A. Huesemann (2011).Technofix: Why Technology Won’t Save Us or the Environment, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, British Columbia, Canada, ISBN 0865717044, 464 pp.
  • Ihde, D. (1998). Philosophy of Technology, Paragon House, ISBN 1557782733.
  • David M. Kaplan, ed. (2004) Readings in the Philosophy of Technology. Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Manuel de Landa War in the Age of Intelligent Machines. (1991). Zone Books. ISBN 978-0-942299-75-5.
  • Levinson, Paul (1988) Mind at Large: Knowing in the Technological Age. JAI Press.
  • Lyotard, Jean-François (1984) The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. University of Minnesota Press.
  • McLuhan, Marshall.
  • Mitcham, Carl. (1994). Thinking Through Technology. University of Chicago Press.
  • Nechvatal, Joseph (2009) Towards an Immersive Intelligence: Essays on the Work of Art in the Age of Computer Technology and Virtual Reality (1993–2006). Edgewise Press.
  • Nechvatal, Joseph (2009) Immersive Ideals / Critical Distances. LAP Lambert Academic Publishing.
  • Nye, David. (2006). Technology Matters. The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-64067-1
  • Marshall Poe. (2011) A History of Communications. Cambridge University Press. New York, NY. ISBN 978-1-107-00435-1
  • Scharff, Robert C. and Val Dusek eds. (2003). Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition. An Anthology. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-22219-4
  • Seemann, Kurt. (2003). Basic Principles in Holistic Technology Education. Journal of Technology Education, V14.No.2.
  • Simondon, Gilbert.
    • Du mode d'existence des objets techniques. (1958). (French)
    • L'individu et sa genèse physico-biologique (l'individuation à la lumière des notions de forme et d'information), (1964). Paris PUF (French)
  • Stiegler, Bernard, (1998). Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus. Stanford University Press.
  • Winner, Langdon. (1977). Autonomous Technology. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-23078-0
  • Anthonie Meijers, ed. (2009). Philosophy of technology and engineering sciences. Handbook of the Philosophy of Science 9. Elsevier.  

External links


  • Ends and Means
  • NetFuture - Technology and Human Responsibility
  • Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology


  • Philosophy of Technology entry by Maarten Franssen, Gert-Jan Lokhorst, Ibo van de Poel in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Society for Philosophy and Technology
  • Essays on the Philosophy of Technology compiled by Frank Edler [dead link]
  • Filozofia techniki: problematyka, nurty, trudności Rafal Lizut
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