Edmonds and Warburton: Philosophy Bites Again
Edmonds and Warburton: Philosophy Bites
Edmonds and Warburton: Philosophy Bites Back
Your email address:Powered by FeedBlitz
« Paul Snowdon on Persons and Animals |
| Marilyn McCord Adams on Evil »
New technology has changed our relationship to one another and to the world, argues Luciano Floridi. This calls for a shake up in philosophy.
Listen to Luciano Floridi on the Fourth Revolution
Posted at 12:17 AM in Metaphysics | Permalink
So this fourth revolution, why exactly is it a revolution like the other three?
I can certainly see why Copernicus "revolutionised" our conceptions of "philosophical anthropology": suddenly mankind was not at the centre of the universe, but somewhere on its messy fringes.
I can also see why Darwin can be put in such a category: suddenly men were not sui generis but were in fact rather closer to the animal kingdom than previously thought.
And I can see why Freud probably qualifies too: after him, we cease to see human beings as essentially "transparent" and comprehensible in a straightforward sense, as the unconscious psyche must be taken into account (though the notion of transparency Freud challenged owed more to Christianity - or rather, to Nietzsche's critique of Christianity - than DesCartes).
But this fourth revolution, how does it fit the model? And why Alan Turing? Why not the microchip? Or the birth of the internet? And why has it meant that the way I conceive of myself is fundamentally different to the way my great grandfather conceived of himself?
Why is it that the invention of computing machines has radically changed the way we conceive of ourselves, in line with Copernicus, Darwin and Freud? What is it about the existence of machines that makes us re-evaluate what we are?
I'm afraid no meaningful answer is forthcoming, frankly. After all, if this is a story about the dissemination of vast amounts of information, then the fourth revolution surely happened with the invention of the printing press, thus pre-dating all three previous revolutions. If the rise of "information technology" is supposed to have had an impact due to the levels of information disseminated, then the story cannot be a new one, fundamentally, but an extension - of if you like, an astonishing quickening - of one that's been going on for centuries.
But hang on, if it's been going on for centuries, and pre-dates the other three revolutions, how on earth is this "fourth revolution" possibly conceived of as being anything like the other three? And I still don't know why the invention of electronic computing devices is supposed to have changed the way that I conceive about myself, such that I am radically different from everyone born before the 20th Century in terms of my self-conception.
If the story is not about volumes of information, but about how the existence of electronic computing machines have somehow forced us to re-think what it is to be human...well something actually has to be offered by way of explanation. Simply pointing at the fact there are, post-1940s Britain, ever-more-powerful computing machines, things like the internet and lots and lots of easy-accessed information, doesn't explain why this has anything to do with how we re-conceptualise our humanity.
Let's cut to the chase here. There is no philosophy to be found in this thesis. Yes, I'm trained in an analytic background. But some of my most pleasurable hours have been spend reading Nietzsche and Foucault. The "analytics" have no monopoly on good philosophy. But this stuff is not the radical insight of an alternative school of thinking. It is just, essentially, made-up. There is nothing to it. It's not even sophistry - for at least the sophists bothered to argue. Yes, I think this qualifies for a title I never thought it would be possible to attain: worse than the work of Peter Singer.
However, I notice that Dr Floridi is in the middle of a distinguished career. So I will take note. Over the next five years, expect my D-Phil thesis to hit the world! It will be on the Philosophy of Trees: how the fact there are fewer and fewer tress in the world forces us to reconceptualise what it means to be a creature whose ancient ancestors were rather like modern day monkeys, some of whom live in trees.
In 20 years, I'll be a philosophy professor. Wa-hey! Now I can stop reading all those long, difficult and complicated tracts by Hume, Locke, Plato, Spinoza, Wittgenstein, DesCartes, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, Leibniz, Weber, Williams, Strawson, Foucault, Berkeley and all the rest of the gang. For it turns out one can have a long and distinguished career just by making things up.
November 05, 2009 at 01:21 AM
This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.
The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.
As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.
Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.
Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.
(URLs automatically linked.)
(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)
Name is required to post a comment
Please enter a valid email address
Nigel Warburton: Philosophy: The Basics
Nigel Warburton: A Little History of Philosophy
Nigel Warburton: Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction
Nigel Warburton: The Basics of Essay Writing
Nigel Warburton: Thinking from A to Z
Nigel Warburton: Erno Goldfinger: The Life of an Architect
Nigel Warburton: Philosophy: The Essential Study Guide
Nigel Warburton: The Art Question
Nigel Warburton: Freedom: An Introduction with Readings
Nigel Warburton: Philosophy: The Classics
David Edmonds: Would You Kill the Fat Man?
David Edmonds: Caste Wars: The Philosophy of Discrimination
David Edmonds and John Eidinow: Rousseau's Dog: A Tale of Two Philosophers
David Edmonds and John Eidinow: Bobby Fischer Goes to War
David Edmonds and John Eidinow: Wittgenstein's Poker