Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, Vol 16, No 2 (2020)

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Living with Technology: Human Enhancement or Human Development?

Paul Healy


Given the extent of our immersion in a technological world, just what it could it mean to sustain a free relation to technology?  Heidegger’s reflections about the possibility of establishing a “free relation” to technology take on a renewed urgency today in the context of the push toward hybridisation and human enhancement. The present paper grapples with this question by engaging the debate between mediation theorists and proponents of the capability approach. I contend that while mediation theory has been heralded as a great advance in rethinking our relationship to technology, it goes too far in blurring the distinction between the human and the technological, thereby eroding the possibility of establishing a free relation. While the so-called capability approach holds out the promise of correcting for this excess, it threatens to fall prey to a purely instrumentalist conception of the relationship.

      In response, the present paper seeks to build on the strengths of the capability approach while correcting for its weaknesses by reinforcing its ontological and ethical credentials through appeal to both Heidegger and Aristotle. Thus construed, it is contended, this approach can provide a framework within which we can still productively shape and direct technological advances notwithstanding the extent of our immersion in a technological world. In this sense, it can be seen to hold out the possibility of sustaining a free relation to technology.

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