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2008/09 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC3700 Philosophy of Technology

10 creditsClass Size: 100

In light of the effect of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions on students' learning experiences, the School of PRHS have made the decision to modify assessment in Semester 2 modules in the 2020-21 academic year. Changes may involve reducing the number of assessment points (e.g. assessing one essay rather than two) or reducing word counts where it is possible to do so whilst protecting the integrity of the module's Learning Outcomes. Information on any changes to assessment is available to enrolled students in the Minerva module area, and can also be sought from the module leader or the PRHS SES team.

Module manager: Christopher Kenny

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2008/09

Pre-requisite qualifications

Students must have completed 20 credits of Level 2 Philosophy modules OR any Mind and Knowledge core module or equivalent

This module is approved as an Elective

Module summary

Philosophy of technology asks critical and evaluative questions about the relationship between human welfare and the technology. It aims to systematically understand the ways in which technology affects our lives and our self-images. Our intensive manipulation and transformation of natural resources raises very serious philosophical questions. The course treats a range of themes: for example the differences between the natural and the artificial; the suggestion that technology is 'applied science' which raises issues about the relationship between truth and made objects; and the more general question does technology reflect human ends ? political, moral, religious? The latter point is now of central importance as more and more ethical concerns are raised over the claims of the technological to provide the means to the 'good life'. Reflection on technology is considered by many to have critical import and not simply descriptive and analytical importance. This raises the wider issue of the role of philosophy of technology. Should philosophy of technology be carried out in the same way as traditional philosophy of science? Is it its business to criticise and raise problems or should it attempt to simply analyse the nature of technology in a more neutral fashion? Technology is a dominant way of life in many cultures. For that reason alone it merits serious analysis. Pre-requisites: EITHER 20 credits of Level 2 HPSC modules or PHIL modules, OR 40 credits of Level 2 COMM modules.


On completion of this module students will be able to:

i) write a critical appreciation of works by several important philosophers of technology;
ii)Assess contemporary analyses of the nature of technology, especially in its relation to science;
iii) evaluate claims concerning the precipitation of new ethical problems by modern technology, especially biotechnology.


What is the nature of technology? Ontological analyses of technology as a type of object, knowledge, activity or volition. The nature of the science-technology relationship: technology as applied science vs. science as applied technology. The merger of science and technology in modern 'technoscience'. The epistemological significance of technologies: instrumental realism vs. instrumentalism. The ethical status of technology, science, and 'techno-science' - are any of these morally neutral? Do new types of technology generate new kinds of ethical problem, or just familiar problems in new contexts? Case studies of ethics in technoscience: the atomic bomb, genetic engineering, the Genome Project. Principal philosophical works to be studied: Aristotle's 'Metaphysics' Dewey Nature, Means and Knowledge' Ortega 'Meditation on Technics' Illich 'Tools for conviviality' Heidegger ' The question concerning Technology' Haraway 'A Manifesto for Cyborgs'

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours78.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)100.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

1 x 2,000 word essay

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 words to be submitted at the end of the teaching semester100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 20/10/2008


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