published on December 15, 2015
The Internet as Idea
For a Transcendental Philosophy of Technology
This article has two related aims: to examine how the Internet might be rendered an object of coherent philosophical consideration and critique, and to contribute to divesting the term “transcendental” of the negative connotations it carries in contemporary philosophy of technology. To realise them, it refers to Kant’s transcendental approach. The key argument is that Kant’s “transcendental idealism” is one example of a more general and potentially thoroughgoing “transcendental” approach focused on conditions that much contemporary philosophy of technology misunderstands or ignores, to the detriment of the field. Diverse contemporary approaches are engaged to make this claim, including those of Verbeek, Brey, Stiegler, Clark and Chalmers, Feenberg, and Fuchs. The article considers how these approaches stand in relation to tendencies towards determinism, subjectivism, and excessive forms of optimism and pessimism in contemporary considerations of the Internet. In terms of Kant’s transcendental idealism, specifically, it concludes by arguing that contemporary philosophy of technology does not go far enough in considering the Internet as a “regulative idea”; in terms of transcendental approaches more generally, it concludes by arguing that openness to the transcendental has the potential to call into question presuppositions regarding what constitutes an “empirical” object of enquiry in philosophy of technology, thereby, opening the field up to important new areas of research.