Postphenomenology and the Politics of Sustainable Technology

Foundations of Science 16 (2-3):173-194 (2011)

Abstract

In this paper I argue that Don Ihde’s ‘postphenomenology’ may constitute a proper access to the question concerning sustainable technology and I do so in three steps. First, I lay bare how a modern framework that systematically separates facts and instruments from values, choices and responsibilities yields no space for engaged decisions and responsible action towards more sustainable societies. In a second step, I elaborate how postphenomenology’s ‘in-between’ perspective opens up the possibility of questioning science and technology as an inherent part of our human existence. Building on this, I argue how a ‘normativity of the in-between’ may be developed around the concept of ‘topical measure’ and which is grounded in the foundationless foundation of postphenomenology’s relational ontology. In a last step, I show how such a ‘topical measure’ opens up two fields of normative action vis-à-vis the question concerning sustainable technology: one critical, the other empowering. Whereas ‘topical criticism’ focuses on bringing into the open the powerful subpolitics of science and technology, the field of ‘topical responsibility’ rather aims at actively assuming responsibility in these political circles. Besides its main interest, which lies in forging a genuine and adequate way into the issue of sustainability, this paper also constitutes an entry into Ihde’s philosophical oeuvre. The question concerning sustainable technology does not only touch upon Ihde’s relational trinity human-technology-world, it also deals with the degree of normative inquiry present in Ihde’s philosophy, an issue he has been repeatedly questioned about by his interlocutors

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