What Next after Determinism in the Ontology of Technology? Distributing Responsibility in the Biofuel Debate

Science and Engineering Ethics 17 (3):525-538 (2011)
Abstract
This article builds upon previous discussion of social and technical determinisms as implicit positions in the biofuel debate. To ensure these debates are balanced, it has been suggested that they should be designed to contain a variety of deterministic positions. Whilst it is agreed that determinism does not feature strongly in contemporary academic literatures, it is found that they have generally been superseded by an absence of any substantive conceptualisation of how the social shaping of technology may be related to, or occur alongside, an objective or autonomous reality. The problem of determinism emerges at an ontological level and must be resolved in situ. A critical realist approach to technology is presented which may provide a more appropriate framework for debate. In dialogue with previous discussion, the distribution of responsibility is revisited with reference to the role of scientists and engineers
Keywords Technical determinism  Social determinism  Critical realism  Technology  Biofuels  Responsibility
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