Technology and Society: A Philosophical Guide
  • Publication Date: July 23, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554812806 / 1554812801
  • 224 pages; 6" x 9"

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Technology and Society: A Philosophical Guide

  • Publication Date: July 23, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554812806 / 1554812801
  • 224 pages; 6" x 9"

Technology and Society provides an up-to-date introduction to the basic issues that have come to define the philosophy of technology: What is “technology”? Does technology control our lives? What is technology’s relation to ethics? How does technology influence us? Is the widespread belief in technological progress justified? Later sections of the book examine the application of philosophy of technology to social issues such as climate change, urban sprawl, and automation. Major issues and arguments are presented in an accessible and non-technical fashion, giving the reader a firm foundation in the field.

Comments

“James Gerrie has compiled an extremely useful primer for issues relating to technology and society, including discussion of basic ethical principles and influential philosophies of technology. Canonical as well as contemporary sources are addressed with clarity and succinctness. This guide will prove to be a useful overview for students, as well for any general readers interested in strengthening the foundations of their thought about a set of urgent issues that dominate our world with comprehensive force.” — Mark Kingwell, Professor of Philosophy, University of Toronto

“An enjoyable, easy-to-read, conversational introduction to some major ideas and thinkers in the philosophy of technology. Gerrie covers the main problems: the challenges with definitions, the inescapable issue of determinism, and the problems with progress. It’s not just philosophy for the sake of it—there are plenty of real-world concerns, and this book definitely opens doors to deeper critical thinking. Easily the basis of an excellent junior undergraduate course.” — Scott Campbell, Director of the Centre for Society, Technology and Values, University of Waterloo

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY

  • What Is Philosophy?
  • Philosophies of
    • Philosophy of Science
    • Philosophy of Technology
  • Technological Criticism and Twentieth-Century Social Movements
  • Chapter 1 Questions

CHAPTER 2: DEFINING TECHNOLOGY

  • The Problem of Definition
  • Origins of the Word
  • Ancient Origins of the Root Words
  • The Origins of Modern Philosophical Definitions
  • Some Preliminary Philosophical Definitions
  • Arguments for the Pre-eminence of Science in Our Understanding of Technology
  • Arguments For and Against Broadening Our Conceptions of Knowledge and Intelligence
  • Arguments for More Narrow Definitions
  • Arguments for Broadening the Definition
    • Technology as Media
    • Technology as Systems or Networks
    • Technology as Process
  • Andrew Feenberg’s Concerns about “Substantivist” Definitions
  • Chapter 2 Questions

CHAPTER 3: TECHNOLOGICAL DETERMINISM

  • Technology Control Our Lives?
  • The Classic Philosophical Problem of Free Will
  • Causal Determinism
  • Cartesian Dualism and Compatibilism
  • Historical Determinism and the Birth of the Social Sciences
    • Marx’s Materialist Historical Dialectic
    • Technological Determinism
  • Counter Arguments to Technological Determinism
  • Social Constructionism versus Technological Determinism
  • Defenses of Technological Determinism
  • The Luddites
  • What about Free Will?
  • Chapter 3 Questions

CHAPTER 4: TECHNOLOGY’S RELATION TO ETHICS

  • Ethical Theory
    • Cultural Relativism
    • Divine Command Theory
    • Natural Law Theory
    • Kantian Ethics
    • Utilitarianism
  • Technological Instrumentalism: “Guns Don’t Kill People”
  • Non-Instrumentalism
    • The Non-Instrumentalist Thesis
    • Technological Fixes
    • Limits to Technological Fixes?
  • Media Ecology: McLuhan’s Four Laws of Media
    • Law 1: Enhancement
    • Law 2: Obsolescence
    • Law 3: Retrieval
    • Law 4: Reversal
  • Actor-Network Theory: Technologies as Mediators versus Intermediaries
  • Chapter 4 Questions

CHAPTER 5: AUTONOMOUS TECHNOLOGY/TECHNOLOGICAL DEPENDENCY

  • Autonomous Technology
  • Four Images of Technological Dependency
    • Herbert Marcuse
    • Jacques Ellul
    • Marshall McLuhan
    • Bruno Latour
  • Dependency versus Determinism
  • Chapter 5 Questions

CHAPTER 6: TECHNOLOGY AND PROGRESS

  • The Belief in Progress
  • Defining the Issue
  • Inductive Arguments
    • Thomas Malthus
    • The Population Bomb and Ehrlich’s Commodities “Bet”
    • Julian Simon’s Argument for “Unlimited Resources”
    • Bjørn Lomborg the Skeptical Environmentalist
    • Gregg Easterbrook and the “Progress Paradox”
  • Arguments from the Unlimited Power of Science
    • The Singularity
    • Moore’s Law
  • Kurzweil’s Metaphysical Argument for Progress
  • Rebuttals to the Inductive Argument
    • Joseph Tainter
    • Ronald Wright, Jared Diamond on Past Examples of Societal Collapse
    • Thomas Homer-Dixon on Ingenuity Gaps
  • Rebuttals to the Scientific Argument
    • Science Is Not Limitless: John Horgan
    • Thomas Kuhn and Paradigm Shifts
    • Big Science
  • Rebuttals to the Metaphysical Argument
    • Evolution Is Directionless
    • Scientism
    • Methodological versus Metaphysical Naturalism
  • Chapter 6 Questions

CHAPTER 7: APPLICATION OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY TO SPECIFIC SOCIAL ISSUES

  • The Relationship between the Philosophy of Technology and Ethical Theory
  • Three Main Moral Lessons of the Philosophy of Technology and Their Application
    • Denialism (Smoking and Cancer)
    • Leveraging Scientific Uncertainty and Disparaging Science (Environmental Toxins and Climate Change)
    • Reverse Adaptation (Nuclear Power)
    • Technological Featherbedding (Urban Sprawl)
    • Tech Fixes as Panaceas and Red Herrings (Bio Fuel and the Electric Car)
    • Excessive Deferral to Technocratic Experts and Institutions (Industrial Agriculture)
    • Self-Regulation and Victim Blaming (Automation)
    • The Gattaca Effect (New Information and Communication Technologies)
  • Temptations to Instrumentalism/Social Determinism
  • Albert Borgmann and the Influence of the “Device Paradigm”
  • The Non-Technological Approach and the Limits of the Approach of the Technological Fix

Bibliography
Index

James Gerrie is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Cape Breton University.

  • — Introduces many of the central conceptual and ethical questions of the philosophy technology.
  • — Examines the history of technology and of the philosophy of technology.
  • — Requires no prior knowledge of philosophy or technology studies, and can be profitably read by the layperson or beginner student.
  • — Includes practical discussion of how the philosophy of technology relates to social issues such as climate change, urban sprawl, and automation.
  • — Questions for reflection and discussion are provided at the end of each chapter.