Formally symbolic interpretation of E. Cassirer, Pragmatic interpretation...

2.11. Formally symbolic interpretation of E. Cassirer

It has been repeatedly mentioned above that it is advisable to interpret the nature of technology in a semiotic way. Proceeding from this, a lot was expected from the founder of the influential version of the symbolism of Ernst Cassirer (1874-1945), the author of the 50-page work "Form and Technology". Cassirer was concerned that philosophers could not find a way to adequately interpret the nature of technology. He believed that success would accompany someone who would define the concept of form, for he was convinced that the same form principle (universal functional idea) triumphs in technology, in the subject domain, as in logic. The goal is determined by the intention. However, there is no definite answer to the quite reasonable question of what exactly the form principle preached by Cassirer is, can not be found. It seems that this answer should be linked with the conceptual value approach, but, however that may be, the single principle does not allow to present in an adequate form all the diversity of values ​​realized in the technical activity of a person.


1. In interpreting the nature of technology, E. Cassirer used the concept of form.

2. E. Cassirer did not give the concept of form an adequate scientific interpretation.

2.12. Pragmatic interpretation of P. Durbin and A. Hickman

Paul Durbin and Larry Hickman - the most prominent representatives of modern American technology philosophy - perfectly understand that in our technogenic era, technology should be placed at the center of philosophical research. It is not a secondary phenomenon, to which philosophers address on occasion.

Most American philosophers adhere to pragmatic orientation, whose founders are rightly considered Charles Pierce (1839-1914), William James (1842-1910), George Herbert Mead (1863 -1931) and John Dewey (1859-1952). The latter enjoys special authority, since, unlike his predecessors, he placed the issues of social progress, democracy, pluralism, education at the center of his research. In other words, Dewey was distinguished by his concern for the future of society, but this is most typical of technophilosophists. How do American philosophers explain their commitment to pragmatism?

Pragmatism stands out for its focus on the problems of practice. "Perhaps the most striking feature of the new theory," remarked C. Pearce, "was the recognition of the existence of an inseparable link between rational knowledge and a rational goal-precisely this last consideration dictated the choice of the name" pragmatism ".

This approach removes the distinction between epistemology, which is usually considered a visiting card of the theory, and practice. Epistemology (theory of knowledge), theory, practice, ethics - everything merges into an indivisible unity. And Dewey focused on solving acute problems in concrete life situations, but this was always lacking academic philosophy, as well as technical and logical sciences. As L. Hickman notes, from the "three giants of the philosophy of the twentieth century." - Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Dewey - only Dewey took responsibility for resolving the harshly topical public affairs, and only Dewey was able to assign responsibility to the technique of ". According to Hickman, Dewey enriched philosophy with the organic inclusion of philosophy of technology: he did not devote a special book to this science, but repeatedly characterized its components. The philosophy of technology in Dewey is a study of problems in specific situations, aimed at their successful resolution. The main thing is to ensure social progress step by step. It is this requirement that constitutes the main content of social meliorism, , which is perhaps the most vivid form of philosophical activism.

P. Durbin, explaining his commitment to the activist philosophy of technology, paraphrases Churchill's well-known dictum about democracy: "... A fragmentary approach to solving social problems of our technological era may seem the worst kind of ethics - with the exception of everyone else". In other words, in the absence of a better one, one has to turn to a pragmatic, or activist, interpretation. To see this, it is enough to analyze the real consequences of using different approaches, for example, in the field of nuclear and computer technology, genetic engineering and ecology. The strength of this or that approach must be judged by its fruits. Durbin is sure that in this respect, activism has no equal. If representatives of other approaches to the philosophy of technology achieve any success, it is only because of their proximity to pragmatism.

It should be noted that in the philosophy of the XX century. there was a pragmatic turn: there is hardly any actual modern philosophical trend that any pragmatism would deny. In in this connection, it's not easy for American philosophers to protect their pragmatic exclusivity, yet it does exist and is expressed in a clear orientation toward the ultimate success of the enterprise. Strictly speaking, they are not interested in mentality, not in language, which is typical for many European authors, namely the final point of the undertaken research event. This circumstance is precisely what Durbin is trying to express by his commitment to the term & activism.

Criticism of the concept of L. Hickman

To highlight the possible pain points of a pragmatic interpretation, let us turn to critical remarks about Larry Hickman's views, set forth in his book "Philosophical tools for technological culture: forcing pragmatism to work." We turn to those authors who are most critical of Hikmen as the leader of the pragmatic philosophy of technology. This is Andrew Finberg and Albert Borgman.

Andrew Finberg directs his critical arrows both against Dewey and against Hickman, who, in his opinion, distorts the views of the classic. Finberg believes that Dewey lacked an anti-utopian flair that would put him in front of acute scientific and technical problems. He has no speech about science at all. Dewey's constant reasoning about the experimental method, which is extended to every aspect of life, testifies to its rather narrow manipulative as well as intellectual attitude to the world. Finberg accuses Hickman of even juggling with the word "technology". In this connection, he cites the definition of technology given by Dewey and repeated by Hickman: "Technology means all intellectual methods that direct the energy of man and nature to meet all the needs of people." 1. It means that with this definition of technology there is no clear idea of ​​technical science. In response to the criticism of Finberg, Hickman does not tire of repeating that it was Dewey who gave the basic guidelines for philosophizing in today's highly mobile world; that his critics, including Finberg, lack a clear understanding of both the desired goals and the means that allow them to be achieved. Albert Borgman is dissatisfied with how Hickman transforms Dewey's philosophy, making it more flat: clarity is added, but the elevation is lost. In addition, the definition of technology as a culture is too general. With this approach, the opportunity to set benchmarks for the reform of society is lost, and these guidelines assume the assignment of some sustainable values. Insisting on the fluidity of values, Hickman refuses to introduce a subordination between values ​​and goals, but in the absence of values, management and reform are impossible. Borgman also accuses Hickman of a lack of historical flair, for situational analysis leads to the loss of a historical perspective3. Responding to this criticism, Hickman believes that Borgman exaggerates the difference in their views: just Borgman is somewhat more conservative. As for values, they grow in historical situations. But you should always keep in mind the possibility of refusing them, because the future is open to unexpected changes.

We did not accidentally give the criticisms of Finberg and Borgman. They reveal the real pain points of a pragmatic interpretation. For our part, we note that the dispute between Hickman - Finberg - Borgman, saturated with numerous accusations and mutual curtseys, mostly takes place in metaphysical coordinates. In this case, sometimes it is extremely difficult to give someone from the disputants a preference. All three implement the following argument line: metaphysics - & gt; technical science. The latter seems to be hovering in front of their eyes, but references to it, i.e. on technical sciences, are almost completely absent.

It seems to us that the argument should go along the technical science - & gt; metaprojectology and the starting point should be technical sciences. In this case, the composition of values, and their volatility, will immediately appear. It will also be found out that the constant references of adherents of a pragmatic interpretation to a social experiment are insufficient, since they ignore principles and laws. At the same time, the pragmatists should pay special attention to the experimental phase of research. Another of their dignity is the constant attention to the pragmatic side of the matter, which is very important, since technical science is a pragmatic and not a semantic science. However, they do not always manage to effectively implement a pragmatic interpretation, which is especially obvious when they do not turn to optimization principles, and it is with them that any technical science begins.

The dispute over the definition of the status of technical science is also very revealing. The charm of the pragmatic formula "technology is everything", which can rightfully be called the apogee of holism, is immediately dissipated when inter-branch scientific connections are taken into account. Technological sciences can not be confused with art history disciplines. As part of the definition of culture as a set of achievements of mankind, it is obvious that technology belongs to culture. But this is not the whole culture, but only it was known by the region. Circus art is impossible without technical devices, but this circumstance does not force to equate circus and technology. Technical devices can be loaded with different symbolic content, but they remain what they are.


1. Adherents of the pragmatic theory of technology quite rightly rely on the potential of American pragmatic philosophy, especially the ideas of D. Dewey.

2. Representatives of the pragmatic theory of technology do not pay enough attention to the potential of technical science as an axiological theory.

Also We Can Offer!

Other services that we offer

If you don’t see the necessary subject, paper type, or topic in our list of available services and examples, don’t worry! We have a number of other academic disciplines to suit the needs of anyone who visits this website looking for help.

How to ...

We made your life easier with putting together a big number of articles and guidelines on how to plan and write different types of assignments (Essay, Research Paper, Dissertation etc)