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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 14, Issue 1, Winter 2010

Special Anniversary Issue

Andrew Feenberg
Pages 3-15

Ten Paradoxes of Technology

Though we may be competent at using many technologies, most of what we think we know about technology in general is false. Our error stems from the everyday conception of things as separate from each other and from us. In reality technologies belong to an interconnected network the nodes of which cannot exist independently qua technologies. What is more we tend to see technologies as quasi-natural objects, but they are just as much social as natural, just as much determined by the meanings we give them as by the causal laws that rule over their powers. The errors of common sense have political consequences in domains such as, development, medicine and environmental policy. In this paper I summarize many of the conclusions philosophy of technology has reached reflecting on the reality of our technological world. These conclusions appear as paradoxes judged from our everyday perspective. This paper presents a philosophy of technology. It draws on what we have learnt in the last 30 years as we abandoned old Heideggerian and positivist notions and faced the real world of technology. It turns out that most of our common sense ideas about technology are wrong. This is why I have put my ten propositions in the form of paradoxes, although I use the word loosely here to refer to the counter-intuitive nature of much of what we know about technology.

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