De technologia: On beginning to think about technology in a philosophical way

Carl Mitcham, Fordham University


This study aims to identify the stance and distinctions proper to beginning to think about technology philosophically. It begins with a personal background and some historical events (with ethical implications) that have influenced the philosophy of technology. Chapter two then considers the historico-philosophical traditions of engineering and humanities philosophy of technology (EPT and HPT for short). With EPT, technological activity is primary, and other aspects of human experience are explained as aspects of a technological monism. With HPT, technology itself is placed within a pluralistic framework. Following arguments for HPT as the proper stance for beginning to think about technology, chapter three surveys the relevant philosophical issues.^ But the philosophy of technology must also be a philosophy of technology. Chapter four articulates such a transition, which is then pursued in chapters five and six by means of a series of detailed distinctions. Chapter five examines technology as object and as knowledge. Types of technology as object include structures, tools, machines, automata, etc. The engineering analysis of machines is contrasted with their general human experience. As knowledge, types of technology range from sensorimotor skills through maxims and rules to technological theories. Such distinctions in artifact and technical cognition suggest various conceptual, epistemological, ethical-political, and metaphysical issues echoing those surveyed by chapter three.^ Chapter six extends the exploration into technology as activity and as volition. Types of the former include the action of making and the process of using. With regard to making, there is an explication of engineering discussions of the nature design. With regard to using, there are analyses of maintaining and management. Analyses of technology as volition revive those historico-philosophical and ethical considerations from which the study began. All four models of the manifestation of technology point toward a fundamental distinction between ancient and modern technology in beginning to think about technology philosophically.^ A final chapter reviews the study and considers some objections while pointing out the centrality of the philosophy of technology for science-technology-society studies and for the humanities in a technological culture. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy|Social structure

Recommended Citation

Mitcham, Carl, "De technologia: On beginning to think about technology in a philosophical way" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8818468.