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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 10, Issue 1, Fall 2006

Technology and Normativity

Krist Vaesen
Pages 95-108

How Norms in Technology Ought to Be Interpreted

This paper defends the claim that there are — at least — two kinds of normativity in technological practice. The first concerns what engineers ought to do and the second concerns normative statements about artifacts. The claim is controversial, since the standard approach to normativity, namely normative realism, actually denies artifacts any kind of normativity; according to the normative realist, normativity applies exclusively to human agents. In other words, normative realists hold that only “human agent normativity” is a genuine form of normativity. I will argue that normative realism is mistaken on this point. I will mainly draw on material of Daniel Dennett and Philip Pettit to show that it makes sense to talk about artifactual normativity. We claim that this approach can also make sense of human agent normativity — or more specifically “engineer normativity”. Moreover, it avoids some of the problems formulated by opponents of normative realism. Thus I will develop a strategy which: (i) makes sense of artifactual normativity; and (ii) makes sense of “human agent normativity”, specifically “engineer normativity”.

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