Ethics in Technology: A Philosophical Study

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9780739168646: Ethics in Technology: A Philosophical Study
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This book inquires into the question: How to think about ethics in a technological world? This question has three facets: technological advance poses new challenges for ethics, traditional ethics may become poorly applicable in a technological world, and the progress in science and technology has undermined ethical thinking itself. A thematic treatment of these three dimensions of the problematic is followed by an analysis of three central approaches to the questions framed. These are Hans Jonas’ ethics of responsibility, Albert Borgmann’s phenomenological analysis of everyday life in a technological civilization, and Larry Hickman’s pragmatist philosophy of technology. The inquiry concludes with a sketch of future directions for ethics of technology. This includes assessing the roles of applied ethics, science and technology studies (STS), and philosophy of technology in ethics of technology. While the author agrees on the need for an interdisciplinary dialogue between these three traditions, he argues for the primacy of philosophy of technology in thinking about ethics in technology. Furthermore, the centrality of “mid-level ethics” is elaborated on in the conclusion. Here mid-level refers to ethically pregnant phenomena in the realm between instantaneous choices by an individual (micro level), and questions about fundamental principles of justice and societal goods (macro level). Mid-level thus concerns, for instance, habits, practices, and communal institutions.

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About the Author:

Topi Heikkerö is tutor at St. John's College, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Review:

Overall, Heikkerö succeeds in identifying an amazing number of issues in an accessible way...In fundamental ways, Heikkerö is surely right. We cannot continue to treat science, technology, and ethics traditionally and unreflectively. Nor can we continue to separate technoscience studies into applied ethics, phenomenologies and sociologies of the particular, and Big Question philosophies. Heikkerö makes the case for their integration with an impressive amount of material, in accessible prose, accompanied by sensible criticisms. (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

Heikkerö’s book has several qualities. First of all, it is well-written: it manages to be clear, to limit the use of jargon and to always explain technical terms. This is an important quality that makes it suitable both for teaching purposes and for a non-specialised audience. The second important merit of the book is that it tackles extremely important issues and questions. In the age of the Anthropocene and global climate change, at a time when the radical lifestyle and cultural changes effected by the internet strike any parent who struggles to make sense of the life of their "digital native" offspring, the questions of how radical and fundamental is the impact of technologies on human life and how should we live with these technologies can no longer be ignored. Heikkerö’s book provides many valuable concepts and ideas for thinking more deeply about how to relate to technology both at an individual and social level. The third outstanding quality of the book is the clear, exhaustive and fair reconstruction of the thought of Jonas, Borgmann and Hickma n. Heikkerö’s book thus deserves attention and repays the attentive reader. (Nanoethics)

Heikkerö ... has made a valuable contribution to how we should think about ethics in a technological age. (Technology and Culture)

This book is a godsend for all who ponder the vexing ethical and political questions that confront the new millennium. Drawing upon evidence from the field of science and technology studies, the book explores contributions of major philosophers who have questioned our society’s often uncritical reliance on powerful technologies. As Topi Heikkerö sorts through the themes and theories, he outlines a compelling vision of our environmental and social obligations. His lucid, engaging style makes it possible for scholars, students and everyday citizens to grasp the issues and join the debate. (Langdon Winner, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

Why is it that most of us rarely think about technology in philosophical terms yet technology is one of the most influential dimensions of human life? In addition to contributing to a much needed genre of studies of technology in contemporary society like Turkle’s Alone Together, this book clearly and eloquently remind us of the importance to ask philosophical questions about technology. It does so by tracing this line of inquiry to key influential philosophers of technology–Jonas, Borgmann, Hickman–and distilling from them frameworks to help us ask questions about technology and the good life. This book is a 'must read' for anyone embarking in teaching or research of ethics, philosophy, or social studies of technology. It belongs in the library collection of any university that wants its faculty and students to think seriously about technology.
(Juan Lucena, Colorado School of Mines)

This book works toward general ethics of technology. It thus studies the somewhat uncharted territory between critical thinking on technology in continental philosophy, practically motivated applied ethics, and sociological studies on science and technology.

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