Philosophical Reflection on Technology

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During the last two centuries, the philosophical study of technology has emerged as a distinct discipline. It has been influenced by both the Renaissance and the industrial revolution. As a result, comprehensive works on the subject have been produced.

Philosophical reflection on technology has tended to focus on the meaning of technology for society. Early works included Aristotle’s physics II.2, which refers to technology as “a thing that imitates the natural order” or “a thing that imitates nature in the way it is”.

During the Renaissance, philosophical reflection on technology grew in scope. Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, written in 1627, expressed a positive view of technology. In the 19th century, technology was used as a term for a new field of study, “techne”.

The Unabomber Manifesto, written by Ted Kaczynski, criticized the effects of technology on society. The Manifesto was based in part on Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society.

Karl Marx believed that technological innovation was essential to society. However, he did not condemn spinning mills, which he saw as a necessary component of a socialist society.

The concept of technology has been questioned since the 1970s, particularly in regard to its effect on the environment. A new breed of critics have called for a return to traditional norms.

New thinking about technology can still sharpen analytical categories, even as it challenges the traditional tenets of the philosophy of technology.

Eric Schatzberg’s recent book is an important step in rehabilitating the concept of technology as a concept. His book will be a standard work for many years. It traces the conceptual history of technology and draws upon the best of current historiography.