Technology is a descriptive term that relates to the creation, production and delivery of artifacts and products. It also refers to the process of knowledge generation and the use of theoretical tools in the acquisition of knowledge.
Philosophical reflection on technology has taken a variety of different paths. The earliest witnesses of the philosophical discussion on the subject are ancient Greeks. In the second half of the twentieth century, two general trends emerged in the philosophy of technology.
First, a critical attitude was predominated. Representatives of the critical attitude were primarily schooled in the social sciences and humanities, but they had little first-hand experience of the engineering practice.
Second, analytic philosophers of technology explored major issues of philosophical importance in technology. This included issues of power, control, and the nature of science.
A third early contribution to the philosophy of technology was Aristotle’s doctrine of the four causes. While he did not maintain that technology can only imitate nature, he did explain the rational design of the universe by referring to the examples of natural science.
One of the defining characteristics of modern society is the role of technology. Many engineers are intrinsically motivated to improve the world. Another powerful motivator is the prospect of great profits.
Despite these general trends, the history of the philosophy of technology has been slow to converge, and various strands of philosophical thinking have been brought together. For example, Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, published in 1627, presented a positive view of technology.