Philosophy of Technology

One hundred story buildings.  Parametric design.  Zero net energy.  3-D printing of exotic structures.  What marvels technology brings us!

We acknowledge that we live in the age of technology and as builders of the environment, we wield a tremendous amount of technological power.  What guides us in the application of this power?  Ultimately the answer to this question is grounded in the study of ethics.  The theme of Philosophy of Technology for the Spring 2017 semester will be “Technology and Responsibility.”   What are our responsibilities as we design the built environment?  What do we owe to the future? 

Classical and modern philosophy has addressed these issues.  We will look at Aristotle’s ideas on the topic and then see how Heidegger expanded them to acknowledge the vast changes occasioned by modernity.  The 20th century philosopher, Hans Jonas, has written the definitive tract on the topic of responsibility and technology.   The course will examine the relationship of technological responsibility with respect to social, governmental and legal issues; our obligations to the future; traditional concepts of duty; and the specific ethical problems raised by the exercise of technological power.  In addition the philosophical doctrines of Pragmatism and Utilitarianism will be contrasted with Contract theory in terms of the role of technological responsibility in each.  Philosophers including Hannah Arendt, William James, John Rawls, Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill will be consulted.  

Implicit in all of these writings is the emphasis on the corollary of responsibility – freedom.  The readings will explore the tensions between freedom and responsibility and students will be asked to voice their personal opinions about this dynamic.