Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard
Chapter 2: Philosophy of Technoscience in the Regime of Vigilance
Alfred Nordmann1 A prominent, perhaps defining feature of ‘nanotechnology’ is its interest from the very beginning to evaluate its own promise and peril.2 As Arie Rip has pointed out, this has produced a kind of ‘division of moral labor’ which is perhaps not unlike the division of labor between physicists who develop analytic tools and chemists who investigate properties of matter (Rip and Shelley-Egan, 2009). As in all divisions of labor, one often does not and perhaps need not know very much about the problems and methods that guide the work on the other side of the divide. On the side of scientists and policy makers there appears to be a tacit agreement that philosophy can be equated with ethics, that philosophers articulate widely shared concerns, and that lists of issues regarding the safety and social implications of nanotechnology create a kind of interface with larger publics. Indeed, the participation of a philosopher in a nanotechnology conference sometimes serves as a stand-in for the inclusion of society at large. There is much to be said about this caricature of what philosophers can and cannot contribute by way of reflection on emerging technologies. Here, a strong case is made for the role of the philosophy of science or, more precisely, the philosophy of technoscience. Rather than leap ahead to ethical issues, the philosophy of technoscience reflects what ‘nanotechnology’ is. This understanding is a precondition for the identification and consideration of ethical, societal, and regulatory issues. In particular, then, this chapter aims...
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