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Who needs
‘Philosophy of techno-science’
Federica Russo
Philosophy & ILLC | University of Amsterdam
Science&Technology Studies | University College London
russofederica.wordpress.com| @federicarusso
Prologue: why I needed Phil Techno-Sci
• Mainstream Anglo-American Phil Sci training
• Some exposure to Phil Tech questions
• Encountering PI questions as questions about technology
• Re-training in Phil Tech, PI
• Rewind and re-run classic Phil Sci questions in the light of PI
2
3
Science ~ Epistêmê
⇌
Technology ~ Technê
4
Phil Science
⇌
Phil Technology
How is knowledge generated
in techno-scientific contexts?
5
What is the role of instruments
in this process?
The Phil Sci – Phil Tech Divide
6
Parallel contexts and debates
• Distinct institutional contexts
• Consider: learned societies, conferences, job openings, …
• Distinct academic outputs
• Very little cross-reference in major publications in either field
• Very little mutual recognition in terms of authors, main themes
7
Distinct objects of investigation
• Types of knowledge
• Sci: aims at truth | Tech: usefulness for practical purposes
• Hierarchy
• First Sci, then Tech (in line with first epistêmê, then technê)
• Different relation to reality
• Sci: discovery | Tech: creation
• Different outputs
• Sci: theories | Tech: artefacts
• Objects
• Sci: unchanging objects | Tech: created objects, hence mutable
• Who is instrumental to whom
• True science is supposedly necessary for technological innovation
8
Boon, 2011
“In Defence of Engineering Sciences:
On the Epistemological Relations
between Science and Technology.”
Techné
How wide is the gap?
• Philosophy of Science in Practice
• A recent attempt to broaden up Anglo-Americal Phil Sci
• French Epistemology
• A neglected tradition in which the gap did not quite exist
9
Who needs this reconstruction?
• Scholars in either field
• Looking for clues about the divide
• Interested in questions at the intersection of (Phil)Sci – Phil(Tech)
• Trying to teach these topics
10
Turning attention to the practice
11
The practice turns
12
STS
• Laboratory Studies
• Science-as-practice
• Contemporary practices
matter (hence the need of
anthropology)
Phil Sci
• New Experimentalism
• Experiments and their
materiality matter
• Not all or only about
theory
Phil Tech
• Relevance of the design
process
• Not just about the nature
of technical objects
• Also about the practice of
engineering
How to study practice,
in practice
• An activity-based analysis:
• Activity: What is being done in the practice in question?
• Aims: What is the inherent purpose of this activity, and what external function does it serve?
• Systematic context: Does the activity constitute a part of a broader system of practices?
• Agent(s): Who is doing the activity?
• The second person: To/with whom?
• Capabilities: What must the agent be capable of, in order to carry out this activity?
• Resources: Which tools are necessary for this activity to be successful?
• Freedom: What kind of choices does the agent make?
• Metaphysical principles: What must we presume the world to be like, in order for this activity to be
coherent?
• Evaluation: Who is judging the results, and by what criteria (in addition to coherence)?
13
Chang, 2014.
“Epistemic Activities and Systems
of Practice: Units of Analysis in
Philosophy of Science After the
Practice Turn.”
In Science After the Practice Turn in
the Philosophy, History, and the
Social Studies of Science
Conceptual
|
Normative|
Historical
Sociopolitical
Who needs to go so deep into ‘practices’?
• Any practice-oriented scholar, from PSP to STS, because even
attention to the practice is not ‘monolithic’ and comes into variants
14
What is ‘knowledge’?
15
What is ‘knowledge’?
Who produces knowledge?
16
Received views
17
Mainstream PhilSci:
No instruments, all about
theory and propositional
content
PhilTech:
Instruments mediate or are
bearers of knowledge
STS:
‘Technocratic’ regimes
contribute to the
‘solidification’ of knowledge
ReDiEM Knowledge
Knowledge is a product of techno-scientific activities carried out by epistemic agents, it is often
expressed in propositional form in natural language, it is also encapsulated in material objects, and is
situated with respect to a number of social, cultural, or material aspects
Not a definition, but a broad characterisation
Elements about Relation, Distribution, Embodiment, Materiality are as important as propositional content
and vernacularity
These elements are interrelated, rather than isolated
Any element can become more prominent, depending on the specific question at hand
My question, reformulated:
How to cash out the partnership of human and artificial agents
in the process of knowledge production? 18
Who needs such a characterisation of
‘knowledge’?
• Analytic philosophers, in the hope they acknowledge the limits of JTB!

• Scholars across the Phil-Tech – PhilSci spectrum, to give focus their
specific interests
19
Why so much emphasis on instruments?
Instruments seem to do more than just
Mediating between us and the world
Augmenting our capacities to see the smaller or the bigger
Enhancing ability to analyse more data
Instruments have a proper epistemic role in the process of knowledge
production
20
Poiêsis
Or, how human and artificial epistemic agents co-produce knowledge
The legacy
From Greek thinking:
Poiêsis is about producting artefacts, it is about technê rather than epistêmê
At the root of the (alleged) superiority of epistêmê over technê
From contemporary Philosophy of Information
Poiêsis is (also) about producing the situations moral agents are in, and that are
subject to ethical assessment
Useful to reduce moral luck
22
The semantic space of the poiêsis
The poietic character of human epistemic agents:
The production of artefacts by human agents
A topos of Greek philosophy and of philosophy of technology, not my main interest here;
The production of knowledge by human epistemic agents;
An expansion of Phil Information ‘homo poieticus’ as moral agent, it includes human epistemic
agents as techno-scientists and as philosophers
The poietic character of artificial agents
The power of technical objects to interact and modify the environment
Digital and analogue technologies have this power (in degrees), we learn from Simondon
The partnership of human and artificial epistemic agents
This partnership comes with important responsibilities, both epistemic and moral ones
23
Why does it matter?
24
Knowledge production is distributed
Human and artificial epistemic agents produce knowledge
An epistemic point:
Knowledge production is not a prerogative of us human(s)
Technologies, the environment, materiality and embodiment, situatedness … are all essential
elements
A normative point
Distribution in the process of production of knowledge does not mean less responsibility from
us human epistemic agents
We still have responsibility for the knowledge we produce, the artefacts we design and develop,
the policies we implement, …
Epistemology and ethics must go hand in hand
25
A vision for the field
26
Philosophy of Science
Philosophy
of
Technology
Science and
Technology Studies
Ethics/
Political
Philosophy
Philosophy of
Techno-Science
The intellectual and academic space
where different perspectives and
traditions meet and fruitfuilly
dialogue about techno-science
27
The journey begins here
28
Thank you for your attention

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Who Needs “Philosophy of Techno- Science”?

  • 1. Who needs ‘Philosophy of techno-science’ Federica Russo Philosophy & ILLC | University of Amsterdam Science&Technology Studies | University College London russofederica.wordpress.com| @federicarusso
  • 2. Prologue: why I needed Phil Techno-Sci • Mainstream Anglo-American Phil Sci training • Some exposure to Phil Tech questions • Encountering PI questions as questions about technology • Re-training in Phil Tech, PI • Rewind and re-run classic Phil Sci questions in the light of PI 2
  • 3. 3
  • 4. Science ~ Epistêmê ⇌ Technology ~ Technê 4 Phil Science ⇌ Phil Technology
  • 5. How is knowledge generated in techno-scientific contexts? 5 What is the role of instruments in this process?
  • 6. The Phil Sci – Phil Tech Divide 6
  • 7. Parallel contexts and debates • Distinct institutional contexts • Consider: learned societies, conferences, job openings, … • Distinct academic outputs • Very little cross-reference in major publications in either field • Very little mutual recognition in terms of authors, main themes 7
  • 8. Distinct objects of investigation • Types of knowledge • Sci: aims at truth | Tech: usefulness for practical purposes • Hierarchy • First Sci, then Tech (in line with first epistêmê, then technê) • Different relation to reality • Sci: discovery | Tech: creation • Different outputs • Sci: theories | Tech: artefacts • Objects • Sci: unchanging objects | Tech: created objects, hence mutable • Who is instrumental to whom • True science is supposedly necessary for technological innovation 8 Boon, 2011 “In Defence of Engineering Sciences: On the Epistemological Relations between Science and Technology.” Techné
  • 9. How wide is the gap? • Philosophy of Science in Practice • A recent attempt to broaden up Anglo-Americal Phil Sci • French Epistemology • A neglected tradition in which the gap did not quite exist 9
  • 10. Who needs this reconstruction? • Scholars in either field • Looking for clues about the divide • Interested in questions at the intersection of (Phil)Sci – Phil(Tech) • Trying to teach these topics 10
  • 11. Turning attention to the practice 11
  • 12. The practice turns 12 STS • Laboratory Studies • Science-as-practice • Contemporary practices matter (hence the need of anthropology) Phil Sci • New Experimentalism • Experiments and their materiality matter • Not all or only about theory Phil Tech • Relevance of the design process • Not just about the nature of technical objects • Also about the practice of engineering
  • 13. How to study practice, in practice • An activity-based analysis: • Activity: What is being done in the practice in question? • Aims: What is the inherent purpose of this activity, and what external function does it serve? • Systematic context: Does the activity constitute a part of a broader system of practices? • Agent(s): Who is doing the activity? • The second person: To/with whom? • Capabilities: What must the agent be capable of, in order to carry out this activity? • Resources: Which tools are necessary for this activity to be successful? • Freedom: What kind of choices does the agent make? • Metaphysical principles: What must we presume the world to be like, in order for this activity to be coherent? • Evaluation: Who is judging the results, and by what criteria (in addition to coherence)? 13 Chang, 2014. “Epistemic Activities and Systems of Practice: Units of Analysis in Philosophy of Science After the Practice Turn.” In Science After the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and the Social Studies of Science Conceptual | Normative| Historical Sociopolitical
  • 14. Who needs to go so deep into ‘practices’? • Any practice-oriented scholar, from PSP to STS, because even attention to the practice is not ‘monolithic’ and comes into variants 14
  • 16. What is ‘knowledge’? Who produces knowledge? 16
  • 17. Received views 17 Mainstream PhilSci: No instruments, all about theory and propositional content PhilTech: Instruments mediate or are bearers of knowledge STS: ‘Technocratic’ regimes contribute to the ‘solidification’ of knowledge
  • 18. ReDiEM Knowledge Knowledge is a product of techno-scientific activities carried out by epistemic agents, it is often expressed in propositional form in natural language, it is also encapsulated in material objects, and is situated with respect to a number of social, cultural, or material aspects Not a definition, but a broad characterisation Elements about Relation, Distribution, Embodiment, Materiality are as important as propositional content and vernacularity These elements are interrelated, rather than isolated Any element can become more prominent, depending on the specific question at hand My question, reformulated: How to cash out the partnership of human and artificial agents in the process of knowledge production? 18
  • 19. Who needs such a characterisation of ‘knowledge’? • Analytic philosophers, in the hope they acknowledge the limits of JTB!  • Scholars across the Phil-Tech – PhilSci spectrum, to give focus their specific interests 19
  • 20. Why so much emphasis on instruments? Instruments seem to do more than just Mediating between us and the world Augmenting our capacities to see the smaller or the bigger Enhancing ability to analyse more data Instruments have a proper epistemic role in the process of knowledge production 20
  • 21. Poiêsis Or, how human and artificial epistemic agents co-produce knowledge
  • 22. The legacy From Greek thinking: Poiêsis is about producting artefacts, it is about technê rather than epistêmê At the root of the (alleged) superiority of epistêmê over technê From contemporary Philosophy of Information Poiêsis is (also) about producing the situations moral agents are in, and that are subject to ethical assessment Useful to reduce moral luck 22
  • 23. The semantic space of the poiêsis The poietic character of human epistemic agents: The production of artefacts by human agents A topos of Greek philosophy and of philosophy of technology, not my main interest here; The production of knowledge by human epistemic agents; An expansion of Phil Information ‘homo poieticus’ as moral agent, it includes human epistemic agents as techno-scientists and as philosophers The poietic character of artificial agents The power of technical objects to interact and modify the environment Digital and analogue technologies have this power (in degrees), we learn from Simondon The partnership of human and artificial epistemic agents This partnership comes with important responsibilities, both epistemic and moral ones 23
  • 24. Why does it matter? 24
  • 25. Knowledge production is distributed Human and artificial epistemic agents produce knowledge An epistemic point: Knowledge production is not a prerogative of us human(s) Technologies, the environment, materiality and embodiment, situatedness … are all essential elements A normative point Distribution in the process of production of knowledge does not mean less responsibility from us human epistemic agents We still have responsibility for the knowledge we produce, the artefacts we design and develop, the policies we implement, … Epistemology and ethics must go hand in hand 25
  • 26. A vision for the field 26
  • 27. Philosophy of Science Philosophy of Technology Science and Technology Studies Ethics/ Political Philosophy Philosophy of Techno-Science The intellectual and academic space where different perspectives and traditions meet and fruitfuilly dialogue about techno-science 27
  • 28. The journey begins here 28 Thank you for your attention

Editor's Notes

  1. As heir of Greek thinking, we are used to separate science from technology, episteme from techne, philosophy of science from philosophy of technology. A closer look at the practice of science, however, shows that technologies are more than mediating instruments – they are part and parcel of the process of knoweldge production. In this talk, I reconstruct how the gap between (Phil) Tech and (Phil) Sci came about and make a modest proposal to bridge it. Turning our attention to techno-scientific practices, I shall argue, helps us recognise the ways in which we human epistemic agents produce knowledge together with artificial epistemic agents. I sketch the contours of an epistemology for techno-scientific practices, and I anticipate some of the challenges ahead, notably about ontology and normative questions.
  2. Instruments in science. We tend to think of big instruments, e.g. LHD, mass spectometers, big optical telescopes … But instruments have been used since much earlier, some we still use today …
  3. To understand why this is problematic, one needs to understand the state of the art. But state of the art is quite different, depending on whether one looks into Phil Sci, Phil Tech, or STS