Bunge, M.: "Philosophical Inputs and Outputs of Technology"

Bunge, M. (2003). Philosophical Inputs and Outputs of Technology. In R. Scharff & V. Dusek (Eds.), Philosophy of technology (pp. 172-181). Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing.

Technology is not value-free or truly objective.

Tasks of the Philosophy of Technology


  1. which characteristics does tech knowledge share with sci knowledge, which are exclusive
  2. in what does ontology of artifacts differ with that of natural objects
  3. diff between tech forecast and sci forecast
  4. how are rule of thumb, tech rule, and sci law related
  5. which philos principles play a heuristic, and which blocking role, in tech research
  6. role of pragmatism
  7. what are val sys/ eth norms of tech
  8. what are "conceptual relations" between tech and other branches of tech culture

Don't look for the philosophy among the products, but among the ideas of technology (matured theory). Next steps: find loci of tech ideas; id branches of tech as we understand it.

Branches of Contemporary Technology

4 branches: material (physical, chem engineering, biochem, bio); social (psych, psychosocial, socio, econ, warfare); conceptual (comp sci); general (automata theory, info theory, linear sys theory, contol theory, etc.)

Next step: tech process.

Technological Research and Policy

(173) charts flow diagram of tech process; begins with sci research, ends with good, service, institution, consumers, "war cemetery."

"In sum, technology is not alien to theory, nor is it just an application of pure science; it has a creative component, which is particularly visible in the design of technological policies and in technological research" (174). Example: tech research. Methodologically no diff from sci, goal oriented--but sci for knowledge, tech research for "useful truth" (174).

Next step: investigate conceptual relations among tech and a few other branches of culture.

Near Neighbors of Technology

Does not develop out of vacuum-- shaped by culture, cannot be independent of culture. Not a final product; "shades into technical practice" (174).

Near Neighbors categorized by protoscience, science, technology, technical practice, and pseudotechnology.

The Epistemology of Technology

tech shares with science some epistemological assumptions: e.g., there is an external world which can be known and improved upon. Labels this assumption 'epistemological realism" (175).

Differentiates classical and modern technologist: classical was "a realist but usually a naive realist... [taking] our representations of reality for more or less accurate pictures of it" (175).

Modern technologist is a critical realist who "realizes that our scientific and technological theories are not pictures but symbolic representations that fail to cover every detail (and sometimes the very essence) of their referents" (175). However, this critical realism is "tempered and distorted by a strong instrumentalist or pragmatist attitude" (175). Where for scientist knowledge is ultimate goal, to technologist it is intermediate goal, a means to acheive a practical goal. Leads mod technologist to disregard any part of nature that is not or does not promise to become a resource. f/x conception of "truth"--only the useful truths, simple prefered to complex, but complex ok if promise success.

"The technologist, in sum, will adopt a mixture of critical realism and pragmatism, varying these ingredients according to his needs. He will seem to confirm first one and then another epistemology, while actually all he intends to do is to maximize his own efficiency regardless of philosophical loyalties" (176).

Argues two specific items of epistemology have influenced tech developments: "no concept without a percept" and "no concept without an action" (176).

The Metaphysics of Technology

inherent to both sci and tech:

  1. the world is composed of things, not ideas or shades of ideas
  2. things get together in systems, and some systems are fairly well isolated from others
  3. all things, all facts, all processes, whether in nature or in society, fit into objective stable patterns (laws)
  4. nothing comes out of nothing and nothing goes over into nothingness
  5. determination is often multiple and probabilistic rather than simple or linear (176)

what are the "metaphysical outputs of contemporary technology"?


  1. technology can enable humans to deliberately/ intentionally alter natural processes
  2. through tech humans can create or eradicate entire natural kinds
  3. "because artifacts are under intelligent control or are endowed with control mechanisms which have not emerged spontaneously in a process of natural evolution, they constitute a distinct ontic level characterized by properties and laws of its own--whence the need for elaborating a technological ontology besides the ontologies of natural and social science" (176-77). Got that?


  1. concerned with generic traits of entire genera rather than species of systems; they are cross disciplinary theories.
  2. "stuff-free" (independent of materials, independent of phys or chem law)
  3. untestable without further effort, b/c make no predictions

The Value Orientation of Technology

Science finds all things worthy of study and devoid of value; technologist divides reality into resources, artifacts, and "useless things" (177). Technologist places a value on things, e.g., pollutants (to be minimized/eradicated). Scientist does not. "One may also think of a theory of objective value even more closely in tune with technology--one defining value as the degree of satisfaction of an objective need" (177).

Technology as a Source of Inspiration for the Philosophy of History

Application of mathematics to historical problems (finding trends, building mathematical models of hist processes, studying in light of decision theory).

Technology as a Source of Inspiration for Ethics and Legal Philosophy

Do x in order to get y. States ground for a rule of action. Remember, not value-free. "In sum, technology suggests that we replace every authoritarian set of imperatives with a grounded set of rules--ules based on laws and value judgments. In this way, whatever was implicit or even concealed can be analyzed, criticized, reconstructed, and systematized. Technology can thus act as a methodological model for the normative sciences, in particular ethics" (179).

The Dubious Morals of Technology

Argues science has some grounding in ethics, "built into itself an ethical code of honesty, responsibility, and hard work that can inpsire other human activities" (179). Tech is diff; some ways and means of knowing may be impure, but tech process may be morally objectionable (deforestation, consumer/voter manipulation, germ warfare). Repeats claim that tech "needs some ethical bridling" (179).

The Ethics of Technology

argues every human behavior affected/controlled by ethics. tech process guided by following maxims:

  1. man separate from/more valuable than nature
  2. man has right to subdue nature for own (private or social) benefit
  3. no responsibility toward nature (keeper, not nanny)
  4. ultimate task of tech is the fullest exploitation of natural and human resources at the lowest cost, without regard for anything else
  5. technologists and technicians morally irresponsible; ethics are for policy makers (180).

We may be growing to distrust this, but yet have developed an alternate mode. Proposes the code should contain:

  1. individual ethical code for technologist qua investigator. should be consistent with
  2. social ethical code

Conclusion: The Centrality of Technology

Tech is part of civilization, but essential as well to culture. Interacts strongly with every other branch of culture, overlaps as well. Must consider organic integration of technology, nature of technology, and not conflate philosophy of technology with philosophy of science. (181)