Vincent F. Hendricks: Professor, Director | Center for Information and Bubble Studies | University of Copenhagen

The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Technology

The Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Technology

The Blackwell Companion to The Philosophy of Technology
Edited by
Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen
Stig Andur Pedersen
Vincent F. Hendricks
Blackwell Publishing, April 2009
592 pages
ISBN 978-1405146012 (Hardback)
ISBN 978-1-1183-4631-0 (Paperback / October 2012)


No major reference work in philosophy of technology is in existence. The aim of this Companion is to provide an up to date review of philosophy of technology bringing it into close contact with cutting-edge technology and contemporary technology policy.

Philosophy of technology is highly interdisciplinary: it consists of insights from different kinds of technologies, from a variety of epistemological approaches, the humanities, social science, natural science, sociology, psychology, engineering sciences, different philosophical schools of thought, i.e. pragmatism, analytical philosophy, and phenomenology. Philosophy of technology taken as a whole is an understanding of the consequences of technological impacts relating to the environment, the society and human existence.


We expect that A Companion to Philosophy of Technology will be the primary navigator of understanding technology and its various roles in the modern complex society. Technology refers to many different concepts and phenomena and it is therefore impossible to give a clear-cut definition of what is to be understood by technology. However, the Companion should cover the main features of technology, its historical development, its future potentials and risks, etc. We propose the following structure for the Companion:

1. An introductory chapter: Technology in the Modern World. The paper includes an overview of the multi-dimensionality of modern ‘technology’ as well as an account of the history of philosophy of technology. This chapter will concentrate on what technology ‘is’ by way of exploring the diverse modes of technology-governances present in modern society; the exploration of the political emphasis on biotechnology, nanotechnology and information technology; by way of investigating the various ‘schools’ of technology related philosophies – the different disciplines; epistemological trends; the way the variety of technological practices is viewed; what role design has in the creative process; and so forth.

2. Seven main pillars each covering major areas where technology plays a central role: (1) History of Technology, (2) Technology and Science, (3) Technology and Philosophy, (4) Technology and the Environment, (5) Technology and Politics, (6) Technology and Ethics, (7) Technology and the Future: Prosperity and Risks. Each part consists of several short encyclopaedia-like case studies, or specialized chapters, describing all issues that add up to actual problems, insights, fleshing out how far technology has come in this particular area or field. There will be an introductory chapter to each part.

Philosophers, and others who work with issues related to technology, often define technology differently. We come from different cultures and therefore emphasize certain things differently. All existing definitions of ‘technology’ rest upon specific schools of thought. However, for ‘technology’ there cannot be any simple definition pledging allegiance to one or another school. There are ‘metaphysical’ complications that have to be overcome. The structure of the Companion will guarantee this diversity. Definitions are always related to the values of a tradition, a specific group of thinkers, to a school of thought, and of course to whoever provides the definition. The problem is of that ‘technology’ is not one ‘thing’ but a complex of practices, methods, hopes, intentions, goals, needs and desires, besides all the actual technologies in hand. The lack of unity is in turn due to the interdisciplinary nature of technology and technology studies. A single definition simply cannot fathom the complexity of technology in its entirety. In sum, a thorough definition of ‘technology’ needs a ‘companion’.

Short descriptions of the main parts:

History of Technology:
This chapter describes the technological development in western culture and other cultures as well. It will bring into attention both the Islamic technology, the Chinese and other developed technological societies. It is important to see to what extent these societies became dependent upon various technologies and what kinds of technologies were preferred. There is an intimate link between our societies today and the choices made in the past. The ‘Introduction’ to the entries in this section will be written by Thomas Misa.

Technology & Science:
Here the focus is on the close connection between technology and science – and on the independence between these two. Among other things the old and still present issue about technology as applied science will be described, the differences between epistemologies, methodologies, etc. The connection with the previous part is obvious, modern science grew out of a society which put more and more emphasis on developing technologies to penetrate the core of nature’s secrets. The ‘Introduction’ to the entries in this section will be written by Don Ihde.

Technology & Philosophy:
Here we find the story from the first attempts to create an engineering philosophy of technology to the more influential humanistic philosophy of technology, towards what we today call ‘philosophy of technology’. The ‘Introduction’ to the entries in this section will be written by Val Dusek.

Technology & Environment:
Technology has had a tremendous impact on nature. Technologies have been, in the hands of man, a destructive tool. We are today facing the severest consequences imaginable. And it is only going to get worse. Our rescue and damage control also lies in our best technologies at hand. Only by developing intricate instruments can we detect pollution and build complex enough models of the forthcoming developments caused by global warming, global dimming and the greenhouse effects. Here, management, science and technology are intimately joined. The ‘Introduction’ to the entries in this section will be written by Mary Tiles.

Technology & Politics:
Political and social aspects concerning technology will be scrutinized thoroughly. Technology is highly political. Governments, the military, all have high hopes and expectations related to technological innovations. However, technology is also most fundamental in order to secure safety and prosperity for society. Therefore the political and economic dimensions of technology must be studied carefully within some specific contexts, such as: ‘European Politics, Economy and Technology’; ‘Asian Politics, Economy and Technology’; ‘American Politics, Economy and Technology’; ‘Islamic Politics, Economy and Technology’, where differences in policymaking, in addition to differences in economic and cultural emphasis on technology, stand out in clarity. This is an entangled web pulling in issues related to all the previous parts of the ‘companion’, but which also extends to the next section. The ‘Introduction’ to the entries in this section will be written by Langdon Winner.

Technology & Ethics:
Here the responsibilities and values of engineers, scientists, policymakers, and others will be dealt with. Included are also consequences of technologies on the environment. Ethics and technology concerns technology in agriculture; within stem cell research; and in weapons research. The ‘Introduction’ tothe entries in this section will be written by Carl Mitcham.

Technology & Future: Prosperity and Risks:
Technologies are undergoing constant changes and they influence all sides of human life. In order to assess new developments in technology it is necessary to discuss our expectations for the future with respect to human prosperity and possible risks involved therein. It must be discussed to which extend new technologies contribute to the realisation of a desirable future or whether it will be harmful or risky. Some steps have already been taken. The political decision makers in the EU have drawn up ‘the Lisbon strategy for economic, social and environmental renewal’ (The Lisbon Strategy). Here a colossal emphasis has been put on the development of environmental friendly technologies – cleaner technologies – that can make use of alternative energy sources like hydrogen. Needless to say that hydrogen power would revolutionize the transport industry if implemented in full scale. This would again have severe consequences for the economy. Other important areas are nanotechnology with both military and civilian applications. Again, the balance between prosperity and risk in future development must be discussed. Technologies also have positive consequences for society and human lives. The ‘Introduction’ to the entries in this section will be written by Sven Ove Hanson.

3. Besides introductory chapters the various parts consist of short encyclopaedia-like entries, and when the topic or problem demand it, short articles/essays of approximately maximum 2000 words, or from 1-3œ pages.


Thomas Misa

Western Technology – James E. McClellan III

Technology in Non-Western Cultures – Gregory K. Clancey

Chinese Technology – Francesca Bray

Muslim Technology – Ahmad Y. al Hassan

Japanese Technology – David Wittner

War and Technology – Bart Hacker


Don Ihde

The Increasing Reflexivity of Co-evolution of Science, Technology and Society – Arie Rip

Positivism in Science and Technology, Past and Present – Hans Radder

Engineering Science – Louis Bucciarelli

Knowledge – Anthonie Meijers

The Interplay between Science and Technology (1000 words) – Bart Gremmen

Physics and Technology – Mieke Boon

Social Construction of Science – Harry Collins

Social Construction of Technology – Wiebe E. Bijker

Theory Change and Instrumentation – Joseph C. Pitt

Biology and Technology – Sheldon Krimsky

Nuclear Technologies – Leslie J. Jardine

Design – Peter Kroes

Medical Technologies (anaesthetics, surgery, diagnostic imaging, etc.) – Joseph Dyro

Cybernetics – Andrew Pickering

Chemistry and Technology – Helge Kragh


Val Dusek

Semiotics of Technology – Robert E. Innis

Critical Theory of Technology – Andrew Feenberg

Technology and the Virtual and Material World – Ann Johnson

Cyborgs – Evan Selinger

Simulation – Evan Selinger

Technology as Applied Science – Robert C. Scharff

Technological Artefacts – Peter Paul Verbeek and Pieter Vermaas

Technology as Practice – Bart Gremmen

Technological Pragmatism – Larry Hickman

Technology and Hermeneutics – Don Ihde

Analytical Philosophy of Technology – Philip Brey

Technological Rationalism – Lorenzo Charles Simpson

Machines and Human Nature – Sunny Y. Auyang

Phenomenology – Iain Thomson

Expertise – Evan Selinger

Imaging Technologies – Don Ihde

Restoration Ecology – Andrew Light

Large Technological Systems – Bernward Joerges

Socio-Technical Systems – Peter Kroes and Maarten Franssen

Search Engine Technology and the Construction of Knowledge – Lawrence Hinman

Information Technology – Luciano Floridi

AI – Sir Roger Penrose

Internet – Andrew Light


Mary Tiles

Precautionary Principle – Andy Stirling

Philosophical Aspects of the Bio-Environment –Andrew Brennan

Nature and the Technological Impact – Robert Frodeman

Energy – Joel Swisher

Transportation – Michael J. Bruton

Global Warming – Sir John Houghton

Global Dimming – Graham Farquhar?

Urban Water Supply – Larry W. Mays

Transcritical CO2 Technology: The Reinvention of CO2 – Jan Hurlen

Environmental Science and Technology – Mary Tiles

Agriculture – Andrew Kimbrell

Urban Environment – Karl Kim ([email protected])

Construction Technologies and Architecture – Christian Illies


– Langdon Winner

The Idea of Progress – Daniel Sarewitz

Technology and Power – Daniel Sarewitz

Technology and Culture –Lucien Scubla

Technology, Policymaking and Environment –Arie Rip

Democratic Theory – Edward Munn Sanchez

Ideology – Langdon Winner

Energy Technology and Policy – Odd-Even Bustnes

Computers and Society – Brian D. Loader

Military Technologies, Economics and Politics –Bart Hacker

Democracy and the Internet (for example Voting by Machine, etc.) – Brian D. Loader

Technology Transfer – Evan Selinger

Technology and Capitalism (for example Technology and the Consumer Society, etc.) – David Kaplan

Technology and Globalization – David Kaplan

Technology and Political Oppression (race and gender) – Rosalind Gill

Terrorism and Technology – Hans Achterhuis

European Politics, Economy and Technology – Erik Jones

Asian Politics, Economy and Technology –Robert W. Compton

US Politics, Economy and Technology – David M. Hart


— Carl Mitcham [5000 word overview]

Agriculture Ethics [1000 words] — David Kaplan

Architecture Ethics [1000 words] — Warwick Anthony Fox

Bioengineering Ethics [1000 words] — Philip Brey and Tsjalling Swierstra

Bioethics [including pharmaceuticals, [2000 words] — Paul B. Thomson

Biotechnology: Plants and Animals [1500 words] —Bart Gremmen

Biotechnology: Humans [including cloning, stem cells, etc.1500 words] – Tsjalling Swierstra

Computer Ethics [2000 words] — Philip Brey

Consumerism [750 words] — Ned Woodhouse

Development Ethics [1500 words] — Thomas Kesselring

Energy Ethics [2000 words] — Caroline Whitbeck

Engineering Ethics [2000 words] — Christelle Didier

Environmental Ethics [2000 words] — Thomas Søbirk Petersen

Food Ethics [1000 words] — David Kaplan

Future Generations [1250 words] — Jesper Ryberg

Genethics [including prenatal diagnostics, 1500 words] — Nils Holtug

Law and Technology [1000 words] — Richard Susskind

Media Ethics [1000 words] — Deni Elliott

Medical Ethics [including anaesthetics and euthanasia, 1500 words] — Dan W. Brock

Nanotechnology Ethics [500 words] — Jeroen van der Hoven

Nuclear Ethics [1500 words] — Koos van der Bruggen

Religion and Technology [2000 words] — Carl Mitcham

Technology and Mainstream Ethics [2000 words] —Albert Borgmann

Terrorism [2000 words] — Lawrence Hinman

Technology and Personal Moral Responsibility [1000 words] — Jesper Ryberg

Value-sensitive Design [1000 words] – Jeroen van der Hoven

Water Technology [1000 words] — Irene Klaver


Sven Ove Hansson

The Risk Society – Ulrich Beck

Risk Analysis – Sven Ove Hansson

Prosperity and the Future of Technology –William Sims Bainbridge

Converging Technologies (1000 words) – William Sims Bainbridge

Nanotechnology – Alfred Nordmann

Energy and Technology – Amory B. Lovins

Weapons Technology – Lawrence Hinman

Warfare – Lawrence Hinman

Biotechnology – Jennifer Kuzma

Transportation – Jonathan L. Gifford

The Governance of Knowledge – Robert Frodeman

Global Challenges – Jennifer Kuzma

Chemicals – Joseph J. Bozell

Future of Humanity – Nick Bostrom