Concrete/abstract: Sketches for a Self-Reflexive Epistemology of Technology Use

Foundations of Science 22 (2):433-442 (2017)
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Abstract

This essay takes an epistemological perspective on the question of the ‘art of living with technology.’ Such an approach is needed as our everyday notion and understanding of technology keep being framed in the old categories of instrumentalism and essentialism—notwithstanding philosophy of technology’s substantial attempts, in recent times, to bridge the stark dichotomy between those two viewpoints. Here, the persistent dichotomous thinking still characterizing our everyday involvement with technology is traced back to the epistemological distinction between ‘concrete’ and ‘abstract.’ Those terms are often contrasted, and a tendency can be found, in the literature as well as in popular discourse, to either conceptually favor one of both or let them collapse into each other. The current essay makes a plea, in an exploratory manner, and on the basis of insights hailing from among others Gregory Bateson and Alfred Korzybski, to not choose either one of those options, but to practice ourselves in navigating ladders of abstraction.

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