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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 24, Issue 1/2, 2020

Critical Constructivism and Postphenomenology: Ethics, Politics, and the Empirical

Bas de Boer
Pages 62-82

Discovering Subjectivity in the Technosystem
Developing a Critical Position Towards Contingent Forms of Rationality

Two of the main approaches of what is often referred to as the ‘empirical philosophy of technology’ are postphenomenology and critical constructivism. Critical constructivists charge postphenomenologists for paying too little attention to the fact that our society is co-constituted not only by technologies, but also by forms of rationality exercised on a political level. Postphenomenologists, then, charge critical constructivism for insufficiently recognizing that the way technologies are appropriated in the lifeworld often evades forms of institutionalized rationality. The goal of this paper is to show how these different approaches should not be juxtaposed, but can better be seen as complementary in the development of a political philosophy of technology. This will be made clear through a discussion of the role of STS in the work of Peter-Paul Verbeek, and in the work of Andrew Feenberg. I suggest that developing an ‘empirically informed’ political philosophy of technology requires to both recognize how technologies constitute particular forms of subjectivity and to understand the rational processes through which particular technologies are designed. When combining both of these insights, it becomes possible to articulate a normative position with regard to technological developments.

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