Philosophy of technology notes: 2

The technological perspective requires that we engage with the history of technology, to unwittingly effect a rapprochement between the analytic and continental perspectives. Of course, some have been calling for a dismissal of such distinctions, saying they are meaningless, that any such distance between these two schools is manufactured and (if existent) exaggerated. Brian Leiter sticks in mind for this, but his position is interesting for suggesting that it is a one-way distinction, made my “continentals” to preserve themselves, to stand apart from criticism. I can agree with elements of Leiter’s specific charge, but I would disagree with the wider notion that the distinction is some hangover of the culture wars, as would any number of students wishing to take one or the other approach to a specific problem, and being sidelined in a department for this crime (and this is by no means solely one-way, as Leiter suggests). This fairy-tale of sorority and fraternity tells us that we are all lovers of wisdom together, and so we should de facto be friends by virtue of this. This is not what I propose.

The problem with this fairy-tale of philosophical tolerance is that it is implausible. We need a reason for these approaches to come closer to one another, for the very fact that the continental and the analytic developed as different functions of a different awareness of what constitutes a problem, and what might serve as a solution. Both mindsets (if I might call them that) are tuned to quite different wavelengths. Accordingly, when we are told one can be both analytic and continental, this is to some extent correct, but wrong. We can be, but we need to know why and how we are bringing these two approaches back together. Richard Rorty‘s neo-pragmatic solution is that so many philosophical problems are pseudo-problems (a clear throwback to the positivism of Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic), and that as a consequence that different approaches are pseudo-approaches. He articulated such a vision implicitly, with his valorization of irony and his of praxis of borrowing from different schools, but ultimately I consider his effort to drop the distinction between analytic and continental to be a long-cut.

[ + ] ———-x————————————–x—————————————–x——- [ – ]

Acceptance                     Understanding of difference                      Tolerance

I am aware that I seem to be calling for the maintenance of a distinction which betrays my original scholastic training in philosophy, but this is for a good reason. We need a reason for two approaches to come together, as I have noted. This is to say, they cannot continue to look across the battlements, except now with “tolerance”. As above, I consider tolerance just to be a word we use to paper over a gap. Acceptance effectively translates to mean co-option. It is the middle option here that is of significance. We need to come to realize that whatever reason there may be for an individual to follow one path rather than another, then there is a validity in that choice by the very following of the path. We must investigate the reason for their following it, and consider it in the light of their desires, interests, goals. The goal is where the different ways of doing philosophy can meet, because then we can understand the difference between various ways of doing philosophy  so as to add to our toolbox of thought. They developed for different reasons, so let them work together again for a specific reason.

This would mean that the literary and stylistic perspective of philosophies must be accounted for. Beryl Lang gives us one set of insights on the philosophy of style, and the style of philosophy. Willi Goetschel focuses on Kant to give us more. Kuhn, Feyerabend, Ellul et al. have interrogated the philosophy of science to note in their own respective ways that a purely objective style, that of plain “common sense”, is a fiction whispering over a multitude of sins. So we can account for philosophy as a technology, in my view, if we consider its form qua articulation as carrying information, as well as it’s basic semantic function of communicating content. Philosophy of technology as I sketch it turns into philosophy as technology. Via this route, we might still achieve what Rorty wished for, so that we drop the essentialized notion of difference, effectively ironizing it (as ever, I find Rorty’s terminology unhelpfully clunky here). Difference is maintained, and via a philosophy of technology, we might develop a common vocabulary predicated on function.

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