Philosophy of Technology

\”In addition to man’s ageless obligation to meet the threat of things, he bears for the first time the responsibility of prime agent in the threatening disposition of things. Hence nothing is more natural than the passage from the objects to the ethics of technology, from the things made to the duties of their makers and users.” Hans Jonas, The Imperative of Responsibility.

Miraculous, breathtaking, cool – we ooh and aah over the latest architectural accomplishments! These are achievable because of technology. Half of what architects do is technological (assuming that the other half is aesthetic). We are taught how to use technology and have learned the lessons well – we can build anything. But the corollary question of “Ought we build it?” is seldom addressed and we do not possess the tools to answer this query. This course will provide the background to make an informed ethical decision.

To examine historical and contemporary philosophical ideas regarding technology and its effect on the environment and on man. To develop a critical ability in observing technical elements of the built environment. By the end of the course for each student to arrive at a personal philosophy and ethic regarding the use of technology.

Using seminar method, not lectures, to discuss the readings for the week. Examples of architectural, planning and historic preservation technology will be used to illustrate concepts. Students will be expected to make the connections from the general theme of technology to that of how the particular reading impacts architecture, preservation and planning. Students must come to each class fully prepared; they must be able to complete each week\’s assignment prior to class.

For each week\’s class there will be a series of readings, many of them from online sources. These will cover a wide range of viewpoints on the subject.

Each year a different sector of the philosophy of technology is explored in some depth. For Spring 2014, we will consider the socio-political influences on technology and vice-versa. We will answer four questions:
– Is technology neutral?
– Is technology autonomous?
– Is technology determinate?
– Is technology a social construction?

Do all readings before each class session so that seminar method can be successful and attend all classes; attendance will be recorded. Come to each class with two questions prepared, based on the readings and the topic of the week’s class. Write a number of short papers (approximately two three-page and one four-page papers) and one final paper. There will not be exams.