The study of technology is an ancient and enduring discipline. The first philosophers to grapple with this subject were ancient Greeks. Amongst them was Aristotle, who wrote in Physics II.2, that the best way to make a weft is to “imitate nature”. Interestingly, he also disapproved of artisans, who he considered to be too occupied by their profession to devote time to the creative process.
Technology is a multi-faceted topic, but the simplest way to explain the topic is to describe it as a practice. Generally, it refers to the creation of artifacts, whose functions can be categorized in some way. These include devices that help people with specific tasks, and objects that serve certain goals.
Technology’s role in society is the subject of an increasing number of philosophical debates. Many authors claim that technology is morally neutral, despite the fact that it can be used for good or bad purposes. Other writers argue that it is value-laden, albeit in a manner that can be construed in many different ways.
As with any discipline, the history of philosophy of technology is not entirely straight-forward. It is a collection of various strands of philosophical thinking, each slowing down the process of convergence.
The early twentieth century saw a variety of foundational issues relating to technology. The oldest and most obvious one was the thesis that technology learns from nature. This theory was bolstered by an academic outsider, Ellul, who recognized technology as the dominant answer to human action.
During the first half of the twentieth century, the discipline was largely focused on the practical. In particular, analytic philosophers of technology studied issues in engineering and design. They argued that technology possesses a number of features, ranging from the smallest to the largest.
The best technology discovery process is one that can be measured and assessed. Analytic philosophers of technology may be able to point out the major issues and challenges facing the field.
Most philosophers agree that technological development is goal-oriented, although there are differences of opinion on whether and how technological artifacts have functions. There is an operational principle, however, that forms the centerpiece of engineering design.
Some authors, such as Langdon Winner, argue that technologies possess certain properties, such as norms, that are inherently useful or desirable. However, their use in the real world is limited. Despite these limitations, technological innovation is still essential to modern societies.
The study of technology is not only valuable for its own sake, but also for its potential impact on society. For instance, technology is a great source of economic force. Without it, modern science would have no way to study phenomena. Furthermore, it is the driving force behind several important social movements, including feminism and multiculturalism. Even so, the field has largely overlooked some important questions, especially regarding the moral and ethical implications of technology. Whether or not technology is a worthwhile endeavor is a question that deserves careful consideration.
Of course, the study of technology also entails the study of other related topics, such as the design process and the evolution of civilization. To fully appreciate the role of technology in our lives, it is important to understand its origins.