"Notes Toward a Philosophy of Meta-Technology," by Carl Mitcham:  Review Questions

I.  The Power and Impotence of the Philosophy of Technology

1.  How does Carl Mitcham distinguish engineering philosophies of technology from humanities philosophies of technology?

2.  In what two ways have engineering philosophers of technology succeeded since 100 years ago?

3.  What role did engineering philosophy of technology have in the flourishing of applied philosophy?  What types of applied philosophy does Mitcham include?

4.  How did the likes of Galileo, Bacon, and Descartes contribute to the growth of technology?  Has modern philosophy of technology been able to equal this influence?

5.  From which fronts did the late eighteenth century and nineteenth century critique of technology come?

6.  What effect did these critiques have on modern technology?  What does Mitcham compare these critiques to?

7.  How does engineering philosophy of technology view this impotence of humanities philosophy of technology?

II.  The Emergence of Meta-Technology

8.  What has brought about the emergence of what Mitcham calls meta-technology?  Are traditional humanities criticism relevant to this new meta-technology?

9.  What are the characteristics of pre-modern technology or technics?  Is it above or is it within cultural or "lifeworld" contexts?  Does this phase of technology require philosophy of technology?

10.  What does Mitcham mean by decontextualization with reference to modern technology?  What is meant by disembedding of the "economy"?

11.  What does he mean by the statement, "But it is the paradox.... ....in the vortex of a world-transforming plunge."

12.  How does Mitcham describe our situation today?  Have we returned to a pre-modern "contextualization"?  What kind of a re-contextualization or re-embedding do we find ourselves in?

13.  Does "modern technology" really exist anymore?  Is there really a need for philosophy of technology as opposed to philosophy in a general sense?  Explain.

14.  How does a virtual common culture differ from traditional culture?

III.  Conclusion

15.  How does Lorenzo Simpson distinguish between meaning and value with regard to action?

16.  How does meaning differ from value with regard to the example of house painting?

17.  How does the use of time differ from the standpoints of meaning and value?

18.  What is Simpson's thesis?  Does he presuppose that use technology is meant to shorten time and increase efficiency?

19.  How does browsing the Internet contradict Simpson's thesis?  What happens to the identification of meaning with non-technological ways of doing things versus value with the technological (efficient) way of doing things?

20.  What does Mitcham mean when he says:  "The last twenty years in the philosophy of technology has been an attempt to think technology as something we do.  The next twenty years must be an attempt to think meta-technology as something we are part of."


"Philosophy and Technology After Twenty Years," by Frederick Ferre

1.  How did Frederick Ferre come to involvement with philosophy of technology?

2.  Before coming to Purdue, what had he found about philosopher's interest in technology?

3.  What did Ferre experience with regard to engineering students?

4.  What did he find positive about his "technology and Values" course?

5.  Discuss Ferre's four beliefs or credo.  What does he believe should be the relation between philosophy of technology and traditional philosophical issues?

6.  Is Ferre worried that philosophy of technology seems to be broken into many pluralistic pieces?  Why not?


"Philosophy of Technology, 1975 - 1995," by Don Ihde

I.  Retrospective

1.  How does Ihde believe the Society for Philosophy and Technology has fared in comparison with the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy and the Society for Women in Philosophy (since the 60's)?

2.  Does Ihde agree with Mitcham's distinction between engineering philosophy of technology and humanist philosophy of technology?

3.  Would Ihde agree with Mitcham that nineteenth-century philosophy of technology was the work of engineers?  Explain.

4.  How does Ihde characterize the engineering traditions (three conclusions)?

5.  How does the humanities approach differ, according to Ihde (three characteristics)?

6.  How do the humanists' views seem to deal more directly with the effects of technology on culture or the relation between technology and culture?

7.  How does Ihde characterize attitudes toward technology in the sixties to the early eighties?  What is meant by technophobia?

8.  What happened in 1989?  How did the discussion of technology change after that?

II.  Prospective

9.  What changes in emphasis have the sciences undergone?

10.  What changes have occurred with regard to things which are produced (industrial technologies)?

11.  How have cultures fared with new technologies?

12.  What does Ihde say about politics?

13.  Does Ihde believe that the old criticisms of technology have a usefulness in the face of new technologies?  Explain.

14.  What does Ihde mean by a "call for balanced, critical, and reflective thought about where we are in today's technologically saturated world."

 Return to Course Calendar