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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 21, Issue 2/3, 2017
Special Issue on the Anthropocene

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Displaying: 1-13 of 13 documents

1. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Pieter Lemmens, Vincent Blok, Jochem Zwier Toward a Terrestrial Turn in Philosophy of Technology
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2. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Vincent Blok Earthing Technology: Toward an Eco-centric Concept of Biomimetic Technologies in the Anthropocene
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In this article, we reflect on the conditions under which new technologies emerge in the Anthropocene and raise the question of how to conceptualize sustainable technologies therein. To this end, we explore an eco-centric approach to technology development, called biomimicry. We discuss opposing views on biomimetic technologies, ranging from a still anthropocentric orientation focusing on human management and control of Earth’s life-support systems, to a real eco-centric concept of nature, found in the responsive conativity of nature. This concept provides the ontological and the epistemological condition for an eco-centric concept of biomimetic technologies in the Anthropocene. We distinguish five principles for this concept that can guide future technological developments.
3. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Massimiliano Simons The Parliament of Things and the Anthropocene: How to Listen to ‘Quasi-Objects’
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Among the contemporary philosophers using the concept of the Anthropocene, Bruno Latour and Isabelle Stengers are prominent examples. The way they use this concept, however, diverts from the most common understanding of the Anthropocene. In fact, their use of this notion is a continuation of their earlier work around the concept of a ‘parliament of things.’ Although mainly seen as a sociology or philosophy of science, their work can be read as philosophy of technology as well. Similar to Latour’s claim that science is Janus-headed, technology has two faces. Faced with the Anthropocene, we need to shift from technologies of control to technologies of negotiations, i.e., a parliament of things. What, however, does a ‘parliament of things’ mean? This paper wants to clarify what is conceptually at stake by framing Latour’s work within the philosophy of Michel Serres and Isabelle Stengers. Their philosophy implies a ‘postlinguistic turn,’ where one can ‘let things speak in their own name,’ without claiming knowledge of the thing in itself. The distinction between object and subject is abolished to go back to the world of ‘quasi-objects’ (Serres). Based on the philosophy of science of Latour and Stengers the possibility for a politics of quasi-objects or a ‘cosmopolitics’ (Stengers) is opened. It is in this framework that their use of the notion of the Anthropocene must be understood and a different view of technology can be conceptualized.
4. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Hub Zwart From the Nadir of Negativity towards the Cusp of Reconciliation: A Dialectical (Hegelian-Teilhardian) Assessment of the Anthropocenic Challenge
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This contribution addresses the anthropocenic challenge from a dialectical perspective, combining a diagnostics of the present with a prognostic of the emerging future. It builds on the oeuvres of two prominent dialectical thinkers, namely Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881–1955). Hegel himself was a pre-anthropocenic thinker who did not yet thematise the anthropocenic challenge as such, but whose work allows us to emphasise the unprecedented newness of the current crisis. I will especially focus on his views on Earth as a planetary process, emphasising that (in the current situation) the “spirit” of technoscience is basically monitoring the impacts of its own activities on geochemistry and evolution. Subsequently, I will turn attention to Teilhard de Chardin, a palaeontologist and philosopher rightfully acknowledged as one of the first thinkers of the Anthropocene whose oeuvre provides a mediating middle term between Hegel’s conceptual groundwork and the anthropocenic present. Notably, I will discuss his views on self-directed evolution, on the on-going absorption of the biosphere by the noosphere, and on emerging options for “sublating” the current crisis into a synthetic convergence towards (what Teilhard refers to as) the Omega point. I will conclude that (a), after disclosing the biomolecular essence of life, biotechnology must now take a radical biomimetic turn (a shift from domesticating nature to the domestication of domestication, i.e., of technology); that (b) reflection itself must become distributed and collective; and (c), that the anthropocenic crisis must be sublated into the noocene.
5. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Byron Williston The Question Concerning Geo-Engineering
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The Anthropocene, as we encounter it now, is the age in which we can no longer avoid postnaturalism, that is, a view of the ‘environment’ as largely ‘built.’ This means that we exist in a highly technologically mediated relationship to the rest of the earth system. But because the Anthropocene has barely emerged this time is best thought of as a transition phase between two epochs, i.e., it is ‘the end-Holocene.’ The end-Holocene is essentially a period of ecological crisis, the most salient manifestation of which is anthropogenic climate change. Given our political inertia, some have suggested that we should we respond to the climate crisis through technological manipulation of the global climate: geoengineering. The proposal raises many questions. The one I am interested in here is whether or not geoengineering represents an objectionable species-level narcissism. Will deployment of these technologies effectively cut us off from contact with anything non-human? This is what I’m calling ‘the question concerning geoengineering.’ I show how Heidegger’s philosophy of technology, especially his concept of ‘enframing,’ can help us think about the issue with the seriousness it demands.
6. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Jochem Zwier, Vincent Blok Saving Earth: Encountering Heidegger’s Philosophy of Technology in the Anthropocene
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In this paper, we argue that the Anthropocene is relevant for philosophy of technology because it makes us sensitive to the ontological dimension of contemporary technology. In §1, we show how the Anthropocene has ontological status insofar as the Anthropocenic world appears as managerial resource to us as managers of our planetary oikos. Next, we confront this interpretation of the Anthropocene with Heidegger’s notion of “Enframing” to suggest that the former offers a concrete experience of Heidegger’s abstract, notoriously difficult, and allegedly totalitarian concept (§2). In consequence, technology in the Anthropocene cannot be limited to the ontic domain of artefacts, but must be acknowledged to concern the whole of Being. This also indicates how the Anthropocene has a technical origin in an ontological sense, which is taken to imply that the issue of human responsibility must be primarily understood in terms of responsivity. In the final section (§3), we show how the Anthropocene is ambiguous insofar as it both accords and discords with what Heidegger calls the “danger” of technology. In light of this ambiguity, the Earth gains ontic-ontological status, and we therefore argue that Heidegger’s unidirectional consideration concerning the relation between being and beings must be reoriented. We conclude that the Anthropocene entails that Heidegger’s consideration of the “saving power” of technology as well as the comportment of “releasement” must become Earthbound, thereby introducing us to a saving Earth.
7. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Agostino Cera The Technocene or Technology as (Neo)Environment
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Abstract: While putting forward the proposal of a “philosophy of technology in the nominative case,” grounded on the concept of Neoenvironmentality, this paper intends to argue that the best definition of our current age is not “Anthropocene.” Rather, it is “Technocene,” since technology represents here and now the real “subject of history” and of (a de-natured) nature, i.e. the (neo)environment where man has to live.This proposal culminates in a new definition of man’s humanity and of technology. Switching from natura hominis to conditio humana, the peculiarity of man can be defined on the basis of an anthropic perimeter, the core of which consists of man’s worldhood: man is that being that has a world (Welt), while animal has a mere environment (Umwelt). Both man’s worldhood and animal’s environmentality are derived from a pathic premise, namely the fundamental moods (Grundstimmungen) that refer them to their respective findingness (Befindlichkeit).From this anthropological premise, technology emerges as the oikos of contemporary humanity. Technology becomes the current form of the world – and so gives birth to a Technocene – insofar as it introduces in any human context its ratio operandi and so assimilates man to an animal condition, i.e. an environmental one. Technocene corresponds on the one side to the emergence of technology as (Neo)environment and on the other to the feralization of man. The spirit of Technocene turns out to be the complete redefinition of the anthropic perimeter.While providing a non-ideological characterization of the current age, this paper proposes the strategy of an ‘anthropological conservatism,’ that is to say a pathic desertion understood as a possible (pre)condition for the beginning of an authentic Anthropocene, i.e. the age of an-at-last-entirely-human-man.
8. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Langdon Winner Rebranding the Anthropocene: A Rectification of Names
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Recent attempts to rename the geological epoch in which we live, now called the “Holocene,” have produced a number of impressive suggestions. Among these the leading contender at present is the “Anthropocene.” Despite its possible advantages, there are a number of reasons why this term is ultimately misleading and unhelpful in both philosophical and policy deliberations. Especially off-putting is the word’s tendency to identify the human species as a whole as the culprit in controversial changes in Earth’s biosphere whose proximate sources can be more accurately identified. The new candidate term echoes discussions of “Man and . . .” in countless twentieth-century publications, an outmoded conceit rightly overcome in more recent writings on science, technology and society.
9. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Arianne Conty How to Differentiate a Macintosh from a Mongoose: Technological and Political Agency in the Age of the Anthropocene
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Many scholars have understood the Anthropocene as confirming the patient work in the social sciences to deconstruct the nature/culture divide, for the human being is now present in the entire eco-system, from deet-resistant mosquitoes to the ozone hole in the heavens. Scholars like Bruno Latour have claimed that nature and culture have always been co-determined and thus that their separation was a case of modern bad faith with disastrous consequences. Because Latour blames this divide on the human exceptionalism that pitted a human subject against a world of objects, and thus denied agency to other living and nonliving actants, the solution for Latour lies in recognizing their agency in an ‘enlarged democracy.’ Such scholarship has inspired many scholars to adopt a ‘flat ontology’ that treats all forms of agency, whether animate or inanimate, as equivalent and autonomous material forces. This article will elucidate Latour’s ‘democracy of things’ and explore the beneficial consequences for the Anthropocene of attributing autonomous agency to non-human actants, while at the same time discussing the negative repercussions of reifying the agency of technological tools as separate from human agency. Due to such widespread reification of technological agency, it will be shown that causal analysis that traces such agency back to its source in human political organization is required in order to adequately respond to the Anthropocene.
10. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Yuk Hui On Cosmotechnics: For a Renewed Relation between Technology and Nature in the Anthropocene
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This article aims to bring forward a critical reflection on a renewed relation between nature and technology in the Anthropocene, by contextualizing the question around the recent debates on the “ontological turn” in Anthropology, which attempts to go beyond the nature and culture dualism analysed as the crisis of modernity. The “politics of ontologies” associated with this movement in anthropology opens up the question of participation of non-humans. This article contrasts this anthropological attempt with the work of the philosopher Gilbert Simondon, who wants to overcome the antagonism between culture and technics. According to Simondon, this antagonism results from the technological rupture of modernity at the end of the eighteenth century. This paper analyses the differences of the oppositions presenting their work: culture vs. nature, culture vs. technics, to show that a dialogue between anthropology of nature (illustrated through the work of Philippe Descola) and philosophy of technology (illustrated through the work of Simondon) will be fruitful to conceptualize a renewed relation between nature and technology. One way to initiate such a conversation as well as to think about the reconciliation between nature and technology, this article tries to show, is to develop the concept of cosmotechnics as the denominator of these two trends of thinking.
11. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Alexander Wilson Techno-Optimism and Rational Superstition
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This article examines some of the implications of technological optimism. I first contextualize, historically and culturally (Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar [2014] is considered as a particularly salient example), some contemporary variants of techno-optimism in relation to the equally significant contemporary exemplars of techno-pessimism, skepticism and fatalism. I show that this techno-optimism is often instrumentalized in the sense that the optimistic outlook as such is believed to have some influence on the evolving state of affairs. The cogency of this assumption is scrutinized. I argue that in the absence of explicit probabilities, such optimism presupposes some form of retro-causation, where the future is held to somehow have a retroactive effect on the past. This suggests that the underlying mechanism by which techno-optimism is supposed to be instrumental in bringing about the future is fundamentally superstitious. Such superstition, of course, goes against our common understanding of reason and rationality, for adopting rational expectations about the world requires that we avoid the emotional over-determination of our assessments. I show that applied reason is conceptually entangled with this superstitious optimism in the continued successes of technology. The article thus reveals a curious sense in which reason is intrinsically superstitious. I offer an evolutionary explanation for this, showing that the biological origins of reason will by nature tend to produce rational agents which are superstitiously bound to realism and causality, and thus implicitly optimistic about technology’s capacity to overcome contingency.
12. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Danika Drury-Melnyk Beyond Adaptation and Anthropomorphism: Technology in Simondon
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This paper attempts to bring the work of Gilbert Simondon into conversation with contemporary discourse on climate change and the Anthropocene. Though his work pre-dates the coining of the term, Simondon, with his non-anthropomorphic view of technology, is in many ways a philosopher of the Anthropocene. In this paper I contrast Simondon’s philosophy to the popular idea that technology is something we can use to adapt to the practical problems of the Anthropocene. I will begin by looking briefly at the narrative of adaptation in the Anthropocene. I will then discuss Simondon’s philosophy of individuation in order to understand why he rejects these narratives of adaptation. Next, I will look at his own ideas on the role that can be played by technology. Ultimately, I hope to describe why, for Simondon, a view of technology that centres on relation rather than on a particular view of the human subject is crucial to human life. The significance of a non-anthropomorphic approach to technology extends beyond the current ecological crisis to all manner of injustice, violence, and misunderstanding between human groups as well as the environment.
13. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 21 > Issue: 2/3
Bernard Stiegler, Daniel Ross What Is Called Caring?: Beyond the Anthropocene
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This article addresses the question under what conditions it is still possible to think in today’s era of the Anthropocene, in which the human has become the key factor in the evolution of the biosphere, considering the fact, structurally neglected by philosophy, that thinking is thoroughly conditioned by a technical milieu of retentional dispositives. The Anthropocene results from modern technology’s domination of the earth through industrialization that is currently unfolding as a process of generalized, digital automation, which tends to eliminate reflection and to block any genuine questioning of its own development, producing a state of generalized entropy at all levels—ecological, psychic, social, economic, and, in particular, the noetic or thinking. The radical undermining of the very possibility of thinking and questioning, thought by Martin Heidegger in terms of Enframing, should be understood as a pharmacological situation that calls for a therapeutic reversal of the toxicity of current digital technologies into a remedial instrument for realizing a negentropic turn beyond the Anthropocene and toward the Neganthropocene. This requires that thinking starts to understand itself as caring, i.e., as a taking care of itself by taking care of the technical pharmaka that thoroughly constitute and condition it and that can render human life as noetic life both deeply unlivable and profoundly worthwhile.