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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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4. Philosophical Explorations

The historical studies mentioned above made sense to philosophers (see, e.g., Ropohl 1997 and Pitt 2001 for a response to Vincenti’s taxonomy), but the way they were derived from case studies was seen as fairly ad hoc. It was acknowledged that a more systematic approach is needed and that these reflections have to be integrated in philosophical debates. One such debate is about the question whether or not technology can indeed be described as only “applied natural science.” Two characteristics of technology challenge this idea: collectivity and context-dependentness.

(a) Collectivity

Technical norms and standards are part and parcel of technological knowledge. They differ from natural phenomena in that they require a community of professionals for their existence; obviously, these norms and standards are often the result of collective decision-making, they are social constructs. This is reflected in the epistemic standards that apply to them. In contrast to natural science knowledge, justification criteria are purely social, because in the latter case it is entirely up to the group members to decide about the truth (or effectiveness) of the beliefs; in principle there is no need to check against the external (natural) world. It can even be the case that certain members of the group are authorized to make decisions about what beliefs to accept.

(b) Context-dependentness

In the natural sciences one aims for rigorous theories that can be applied to any ...

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