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Prospectus

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Philosophy of Technology

Course
2021-2022

Admission requirements

Admission to this course is restricted to:

  • BA students in Philosophy, who have successfully completed their first year, and who have also completed at least 10 EC’s of the mandatory components of their second year, including Philosophy of Mind or Concepts of Selfhood.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.

Description

In this course we will analyse the relationship between ‘mind’ (the who) and ‘technology’ (the what) by looking at two trajectories in continental philosophy that build on Martin Heidegger’s famous tool-analysis in Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), published in 1927. We will first establish how Heidegger analyses das Zeug (the tool; equipment) and how this relates to the distinction between Zuhandenheit (readiness-to-hand) and Vorhandenheit (presence-at-hand). We will contextualize this further by relating it to Heidegger’s analysis of the human being or Dasein. Once Heidegger’s conception of the relation between mind and technology has been clarified, we will look at two contemporary trajectories that critically respond to Heidegger by questioning the anthropocentric nature of his philosophy.

The first trajectory is that of Bernard Stiegler’s pharmacology, in which the ambiguous nature of technology highlighted as both a poison and a medicine. We will tackle this in two steps. Firstly, we will analyse Jean Pierre Vernant’s essays on the Prometheus myth in Hesiod and Plato. Secondly, we will study Stieglers’s La technique et le temps, 1: La faute d'Épiméthée (Technics and Time 1: The Fault of Epimetheus), published in 1994. This book questions Heidegger’s attempts to strictly separate the who (the human being; Dasein) from the what (the pro-theses of technics). Instead, Stiegler argues, the Prometheus myth allows us to show how the who, as a being without qualities, has to invent its own qualities and, as such, continuously runs the risk to be overtaken by the what, the pro-theses, it keeps inventing. Contra Heidegger, Stiegler argues that the temporality of the who is constituted in the actuality of the what.

The second trajectory is that of Graham Harman’s ‘object-oriented ontology (OOO)’ which he first articulated in Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects, published in 2002. In this book, that the concept of Zuhandenheit (which he calls tool-being) has a much broader application than is usually acknowledged. In his view, Heidegger’s tool-analysis should be understood as an ontology of objects themselves and, more importantly, that is holds true for all entities (including the human being).

These two contemporary trajectories, be it in very different ways, take up Heidegger’s tool-analysis and draw from it a new understanding of the relationship between mind and technology.

Course objectives

This course aim to provide the students with a clear view of:

  • Heidegger’s tool-analysis and its larger context;

  • two contemporary trajectories that critically respond to and advance upon Heidegger’s tool-analysis;

  • the interrelation of ‘mind’ (the who) and ‘technology’ (the what) in these discourses.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • selections from the texts of Heidegger, Vernant, Stiegler, and Harman;

  • three different conceptualizations of the interaction between human beings and the tools/pro-theses/objects they invent;

  • the way in which Heidegger’s ideas have been taken up by Stiegler and Harman.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • critically understand and connect Heidegger’s tool-analysis with the two trajectories that respond to it: pharmacology (Stiegler) and ‘object-oriented ontology’ (Harman);

  • present a consistent view of the problems that motivate contemporary discourses on the relation between the who and the what.

Timetable

The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method

Assessment

  • Attendance and participation in class discussions

  • Book review

  • Final research paper

Non-graded practical exercises

  • Each student has to write at least once a commentary on one of the weekly readings.

  • Each student has to hand in a proposal for the final essay and discuss it in smaller groups.

These three exercises will not be graded, but are required for getting admission to the exam (book review + final paper).

Weighting

The final mark for the course is established by determination of the weighted average of the graded subtests:

  • Attendance and participation in class discussions (10%)

  • Book review (30%)

  • Final research paper (60%)

Resit

The resit covers the entire exam (100%) and consists of a paper.
Active participation in class is required for admission to the resit.
Students who have obtained a satisfactory grade for the first examination cannot take the resit.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Selections from Martin Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit (Being and Time) and related texts;

  • Selections from Bernard Stiegler, La technique et le temps, 1: La faute d'Épiméthée (Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus);

  • Graham Harman’s Tool-Being: Heidegger and the Metaphysics of Objects;

  • Selected secondary material, most notably Jean Piere Vernant’s essays “The Myth of Prometheus in Hesiod” and “Prometheus and the Technological Function.”

All texts will be distributed or can be found online through the library. As we will use extensive selections from the three main sources – Heidegger, Stiegler, Harman – students are advised to purchase their own copies.

Registration

Enrolment through uSis for this course is not possible. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.

Contact

  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga

Remarks

Not applicable.