Contemporary Philosophy of Technology Research Group
Our definition of technology proceeds from the concept of originary technicity that has emerged from contemporary philosophies of human evolution, and seeks to elucidate the effects of complex cybernetic, informatic, virtual-aesthetic and biotechnological systems on the social, biological and psychical life of human beings.
We consider that the evolution of philosophy is, to a degree that has gone largely unrecognized in the humanities and social sciences, a reflection of the stage of technological development that human societies have reached. From this perspective, the world appears to be founded on certain foundational structures that are beyond artificial manipulation or analysis. Philosophical ontology, as the pursuit of foundational principles for the establishment of the good life therefore, should be understood as essentially related to the development of humanity’s powers of techno-scientific manipulation. In Classical Greek thought the ethical constitution of the polis was seen as dependent on the contemplation of paradigmatic forms that underpinned the secular institutions of the social and political life. This contemplative attitude towards existence determined a specific place for philosophy in the life of society: it is the form through which the essential harmony of creation is given explicit expression in the law, aesthetics and moral authority of the state. This raises the question of what philosophy is for once nature and society has been subjected to increasingly powerful systems of observation, control and manipulation. For, once the concept of reality is shifted away from the idea of intellectual essences that form the ethical horizon of the social world, the status of philosophy becomes ambiguous.
Enlightenment philosophy, despite Kant and Hegel’s attempts to salvage moral and ethical teleology, is essentially materialist: the account of reason as a systemic totality formed the basis of a utilitarian outlook, whose primary purpose is the control of both nature and society. As the Frankfurt School critique of modernity pointed out, the original aim of the Enlightenment to liberate human beings from the tyranny of irrational superstition and religious belief, mutated into a regime of rational capitalization that has invaded every aspect of social and individual existence. The concept of philosophical critique that emerged from the Frankfurt School therefore was concerned with tracing the fate of humanity within the rational-technological organization of late capitalism. The interface between human and the technological is presented as the site of a profound mutilation of sensibility, intellect and self-expression, and so philosophy becomes a critical discourse orientated towards the de-capitalization of human culture.
We maintain that critical theory in the Frankfurt School tradition should be modified to reflect the social, economic and political effects of the latest technoscientific developments. We believe that the task of philosophy is now that of thinking through the effects of technoscientific capitalism, and in particular, of sketching out the folds and spaces that virtual, aesthetic and informatic technologies open up within the hyperindustrial organization of work, satisfaction and desire. This project will involve the following modes of philosophical investigation:
- The future of philosophy in the epoch technoscience
- The evolution of the interface between human beings and technological programmes
- The relationship between biotechnologies and the capitalization of life itself
- The impact of virtual and informatic programmes on the symbolic order of human culture
- The evolving relationship between neoliberalism and technological transhumanism and posthumanism
- Marxist critique in the time of programming industries, flexible labour and proletarianized consumption
- The future of politics in the sphere of virtual-aesthetic sociability
- The evolution of ‘technoscience’ as an instrumental paradigm and its effect on the organization of the social, biological and psychical life of human beings
- Globalization, conflict and the geopolitics of remote controlled warfare
- Surveillance and the end of private life
- The medicalization of human society
- Cosmesis, immortality and the culture industries
- New materialisms and the politics of race and gender identities.