Understanding Technology-Induced Value Change: a Pragmatist Proposal

Philosophy and Technology 35 (2):1-24 (2022)
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Abstract

We propose a pragmatist account of value change that helps to understand how and why values sometimes change due to technological developments. Inspired by John Dewey’s writings on value, we propose to understand values as evaluative devices that carry over from earlier experiences and that are to some extent shared in society. We discuss the various functions that values fulfil in moral inquiry and propose a conceptual framework that helps to understand value change as the interaction between three manifestations of value distinguished by Dewey, i.e., “immediate value,” “values as the result of inquiry” and “generalized values.” We show how this framework helps to distinguish three types of value change: value dynamism, value adaptation, and value emergence, and we illustrate these with examples from the domain of technology. We argue that our account helps to better understand how technology may induce value change, namely through the creation of what Dewey calls indeterminate situations, and we show how our account can integrate several insights on moral change offered by other authors.

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