Philosophy of technology is the study of philosophical issues related to technology. This subfield of philosophy was previously overlooked and only recently recognized for its significance (Achterhuis, 2001).
Philosophy of technology emerged as its own discipline during the 19th century, spurred on by rapid advances in science. However, its roots go much deeper than that; early examples include works by philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle and Francis Bacon.
Some philosophical approaches to technology address philosophical questions relevant to engineering, such as how knowledge is acquired in engineering or what type of expertise engineers possess. Other philosophies examine the social consequences of technology, including its effects on society or the environment.
Philosophies such as Neo-Kantian critique of technology by Dessauer or Simondon’s exploration of parts, artifacts and technical systems aim to explain the origins and development of technological artifacts.
Another example is the biotechnology approach, which views various techniques for manipulating genetic material as part of technology. This perspective holds that such methods should be examined from a philosophical standpoint since they are typically seen as ethically questionable and thus should be assessed according to their philosophical ramifications.
This approach to technology philosophy is distinguished by its focus on design. Scholars working in this area have suggested that understanding technology through design is a vital step.
The philosophy of technology is intimately tied to the study of science, where much emphasis is placed on methodology and epistemology. As such, many central questions within this field overlap with those addressed by philosophers of technology.
However, there is a distinct distinction between philosophy of science and technology: while most philosophers who deal with science seek to clarify traditional philosophical questions such as how knowledge is acquired or what explanations can be made, many who study technology seek answers about its origins, nature of artifacts produced through it, use and production patterns of technologies, their effects on people’s lives and the natural world.
In the philosophy of technology, many questions remain unanswered or partially answered. While these topics remain central to the field, their lack of comprehensive resolution contributes to why it’s considered such a young field (Wartofsky, 1979).
At the dawn of the 20th century, technology saw a meteoric rise and change in philosophy’s perspective of its nature – particularly due to Heidegger’s argument that technology was no longer simply an imitation but has now become its own kind of reality.