Volume 24, Issue 1/2, 2020
Critical Constructivism and Postphenomenology: Ethics, Politics, and the Empirical
Yoni Van Den Eede
The Purpose of Theory
Why Critical Constructivism Should “Talk” and Postphenomenology Should “Do”
This paper zooms in on a recent development in the discussion between postphenomenology and critical constructivism: the attempt at working out a political philosophy in the framework of postphenomenology, specifically Peter-Paul Verbeek’s. Verbeek contrasts mediation theory to critical theory, arguing that critical theorists only “talk”; they don’t “do.” While the latter reproach postphenomenology/mediation theory for its lack of politics, Verbeek actually poses that “real” politics cannot be done by critical theorists—indeed exactly because of their not doing, that is, doing in the sense of helping to design and develop good real-world technological solutions. But this brings up pertinent questions, about whether a theory should “do” something, what that means, and whether calls for “doing” do not carry their own presuppositions with them that, if not made explicit, will bias the theory and its “use” toward certain directions. These issues are explored by way of among others an excursion into Rortyan pragmatism. Eventually, I conclude, it is perfectly acceptable that critical constructivism should “talk” and postphenomenology “do”—as long as we keep the meanings of those terms sufficiently clear.