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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 17, Issue 1, Winter 2013

Extending Feenberg: Toward the Instrumentalization of the Critical Theory of Technology

Yoni Van Den Eede
Pages 144-162
DOI: 10.5840/techne20131718

The Mailman Problem
Complementing Critical Theory of Technology by Way of Media Theory

Critical theory of technology (CTT) and postphenomenology (PostPhen) complement each other finely. Yet whereas CTT runs the risk of negating the interwovenness of humans and technology, a problem partly resolved by PostPhen, PostPhen itself threatens to neglect its very own base, i.e., the condition of technology and society being first and foremost human endeavors. This paper suggests not to decry these two approaches but to add a third component in order to compensate for their deficiencies. That third partner consists of a new-fledged version of philosophical anthropology elaborated on the basis of the media theory of Marshall McLuhan. I am here mainly concerned with how such an approach can supplement CTT, which it does by offering an account of technological mediation that harbors not only a relational-ontological but also—in contrast with PostPhen—a substantivist-ontological aspect, and in addition a proper theory of technological blindness, much needed to make sense of perceptive biases and meaning-constituting activities in everyday life. I will illustrate these issues by way of what I dub ‘the Mailman Problem’: a sketch of a very mundane instance of “deworlding” that is, however, not perceived as such.