David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Due to the rapid development and ubiquitous impact of modern technology, many people feel that nature is in danger of becoming extinct. From the 13th century until today, philosophers and theologians have been seeking advice from Aristotle to define both nature and technology in a way that the former restricts the latter. In this paper, I reconsider three corresponding theses usually attributed to Aristotle. 1) Technology imitates nature, such that there is no place for authentic human creativity. 2) Technology in supplementing and completing nature fulfils but the inherent aims of nature. 3) There is an ontological hiatus between natural things and artifacts such that technology cannot reproduce or change natural things. I argue that 3) is inconsistent with 1) and 2) and that Aristotle’s writings support none of the three theses in general. Instead, his proper concept of technology places little restrictions on technological innovation. While the putative ontological hiatus has been most influential in the history of chemistry/alchemy, Aristotle himself rather holds a relative distinction that he levels out just in the realm of chemistry. Moreover, the case of genetic engineering shows that current problems are beyond the scope of Aristotelian theory. Rather than presenting solutions, I argue that claiming Aristotle’s authority to support criticism of modern technology does justice neither to Aristotle nor to the complexity of today’s problems.
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