International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies
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International Handbook on Regulating Nanotechnologies

Edited by Graeme A. Hodge, Diana M. Bowman and Andrew D. Maynard

As scientists and technologists discover how to engineer matter at the nanoscale in increasingly sophisticated ways, conventional approaches to ensuring safe use are being brought into question. Nanotechnologies are challenging traditional regulatory regimes; but they are also prompting new thinking on developing and using emerging technologies safely. In this Handbook, leading international authors from industry, government, non-governmental organisations and academia examine the complex and often controversial regulatory challenges presented by nanotechnologies. Across several disciplinary boundaries, they explore how the future regulatory landscape may evolve. From the Europe Union to the United States, workplaces to personal products, and statutory instruments through to softer approaches, it is clear that considerable vigilance will be needed in governing these powerful and novel technologies. To succeed, society will need new thinking, new partnerships and new mechanisms to balance the benefits of these technologies against their possible downsides. Anything less will prompt cries of illegitimacy and potentially compromise a promising new realm of technology innovation.
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Chapter 2: Philosophy of Technoscience in the Regime of Vigilance

Alfred Nordmann


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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