Toward a Theological Ethics of Technology: An Analysis in Dialogue with Jacques Ellul, James Gustafson, and Philosophy of Technology

Dissertation, Emory University (1990)
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Abstract

The general purpose of this dissertation is to construct an analytical framework for a theological ethics of technology. A theological ethics of technology is conceived here as an attempt to coherently and critically relate three base points: fundamental theology, social ethics, and a critical assessment of technology. The point of departure for a theological ethics of technology is the critical assessment of technology. ;In Part I, philosophy of technology is used to construct a broad-based, multifaceted, phenomenological model of "technology." Conceived in this broad sense, technology can be seen to exhibit three fundamental dimensions: the Anthropological dimension, in which technology can be described as a mode of human activity--the extension or enhancement of human capacity or power by artificial means ; the Structural dimension, which involves the material and social artifacts inherently associated with this mode of activity ; and the Ecological dimension, which encompasses the various ways the products and processes of technological activity order human life . In the final chapter of Part I, a typology of fundamental theological-ethical interpretations of technology is sketched, establishing one of the types--the view that technology is a fundamentally ambivalent reality-- as the basis for an in-depth comparative study. This ambivalence is expressed anthropologically as a dialectic of limit and possibility in human being and conduct. It is expressed ecologically in the various aspects of ambivalent technological determinism. ;Part II consists of a comparative study of two contemporary theological ethicists--Jacques Ellul and James Gustafson. The work of Ellul and Gustafson illustrates the purpose and substance of a theological ethics of technology. This comparative study delineates fundamental theological and ethical options for construing technology as an ambivalent phenomenon. ;In Part III a vision for a theological ethics is sketched which would promote the maintenance and nurture of the dialectic of limit and possibility embodied in technology. The heart of this theological ethics of technology is a theory of moral agency and responsibility based on a notion of self-limiting participation, grounded on a notion of complex responsibility

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