From Essentialism to Constructivism: Philosophy of Technology at the Crossroads

Andrew Feenberg

in Technology and the Good Life?

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2000 | ISBN: 9780226333861
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226333885 | DOI:
From Essentialism to Constructivism: Philosophy of Technology at the Crossroads

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This chapter directly criticizes Borgmann's theory in light of a philosophy of technology. Borgmann contends that devices or hyperreality need to be “counterbalanced,” not eliminated. On this view, to restrain devices appropriately, we need to counterbalance them with focal things (which can be in the normal sense technological) whose very meaning would be ruined if procured by a device. The device does not need to be redesigned so much as restrained in light of something non-device-like; that is, in the strict technical sense of Borgmann's theory, something “nontechnological.” This appropriation of technology is termed “a spiritual movement of some sort.”The chapter argues that the unifying powers of Borgmann's and Heidegger's “essentialist theories” need to be mitigated with an awareness of the significant differences between various technological designs and developments. The sophisticated developments of modern technology, on his account, allow for a “subversion” of their design for purposes that are more fully engaging and contextual. Roughly, the chapter's two-level theory shows how this subversion can take place between the essentialist theories of philosophers and the attention to “differences” of the social sciences.

Keywords: philosophy of technology; Borgmann's theory; focal things; essentialist theories; technological designs; social sciences

Chapter.  9309 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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