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Evolution of philosophical thought on technology

XIA BAOHUA | 2022-04-15 | Hits:
Chinese Social Sciences Today

A History of Philosophy of Technology 

A History of Philosophy of Technology, edited by Chen Fan and Zhu Chunyan, professors of philosophy with Northeastern University, begins with “deriving dao [way or truth] from ji [technique]” and the philosophy of technology in traditional Chinese culture, and ends with the philosophy of technology in contemporary China. In the middle, it runs through the history of the Western philosophy of technology that starts with ancient Greek understanding of technology. 
There are usually two paths to study the philosophy of technology in contemporary China. One is based on Chinese culture, and the other introduces the Western philosophy of technology and then studies its localization in China. The book integrates the advantages of both paths, opening with technology philosophy in traditional Chinese culture. Then it threads together research results on foreign philosophy of technology since the 1980s made by scholars from the Northeastern University, while, with an inclusive and open principle, inviting other scholars in the field to join in compiling and writing. In the epilogue, the book reveals the inherent inevitability of technology philosophy’s ethical transformation from three aspects: technology and related concepts, the human nature of technology, and the evolution and development of technology, pointing out the path for the development of technology philosophy in contemporary China. 
The book adopts the periodic division which is basically consistent with Western philosophical history, in order to discuss technology philosophy in each period. Starting from the understanding of the concept of technology in ancient Greece, it comprehensively analyzes technology philosophy from Socrates to Hegel. As for modern Western philosophy of technology, it elaborates upon two traditions, the engineering philosophy of technology formed since Ernst Kapp, and the humanities philosophy of technology. At the same time, the book touches upon four forms of technological development including techno-anarchism and techno-optimism, and three theories of technology including technological determinism. 
Centering on the “relationship between dao and ji,” the book constructs a framework system of technology philosophy oriented towards the traditional Chinese thinking of xin [heart and mind], explaining eight technological views in traditional Chinese culture, such as technology ontology, functional view, and values. Considering the introduction of modern Western technology into China and the five contradictions in traditional Chinese technological and cultural concepts including “nature and man” and “ti [fundamental structure] and yong [practical use],” the book argues that the development of ancient and modern technology philosophy in China has always been restricted by traditional cultural concepts, calling for further research on technological and cultural concepts in China. 
Xia Baohua is deputy dean of the School of Humanities at Southeast University.