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Analysing through two dimensions: perceptions and practice

In step 2.2 we introduced you to the philosophical tradition of phenomenology. You learned about the differences between phenomenology and post-phenomenology. We also already noticed that one could either start at the “human side” or the “world side” of the arrow that illustrates the directedness of experience (e.g. you are conscious of something). These two approaches refer to different traditions in phenomenology: hermeneutics, which focuses on interpretation (how the world is there for human beings) and existential philosophy, which focuses on the structure of human existence (how humans are there, in the world). Both approaches have a counterpart in contemporary approaches to technology.

Hermeneutic-phenomenological approach

This approach takes the perspective of the world as the point of departure. The key question is the role technology plays in the way in which the world is present to human beings. How does technology help to shape meaning and interpretations? As we saw last week, the work of Heidegger offers a specific answer to this question: technology, for him, is in fact a way of understanding the world. In the following steps we will see that there are other hermeneutic approaches to technology as well. These approaches, like the one of Don Ihde, do not focus on ‘technology’ in general but rather on concrete technologies and their impact on human perception and interpretation. Technologies help shape the way in which reality is present to human beings; not only how they perceive the world, but also how they interpret it.

Existential-phenomenological approach

This approach takes the perspective of humans as point of departure, since existential philosophy studies the ways in which humans realise their existence. The key question within this approach, therefore, is how to understand the role technology plays in the way in which human existence takes shape. As we saw last week, Karl Jaspers sees technology as a threat to human existence, because it creates mass-rule, which hardly leaves any room for individual authenticity. Contemporary approaches, like the ones of Bruno Latour and Albert Borgmann, investigate how technologies help to shape human actions and ways of living life.

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This article is from the free online course:

Philosophy of Technology and Design: Shaping the Relations Between Humans and Technologies

University of Twente

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