The ‘Empirical’ in the Empirical Turn: A Critical Analysis

Foundations of Science 1:1-22 (2022)
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During the second half of the twentieth century, several philosophers of technology argued that their predecessors had reflected too abstractly and pessimistically on technology. In the view of these critics, one should study technologies empirically in order to fully understand them. They developed several strategies to empirically inform the philosophy of technology and called their new approach the empirical turn. However, they provide insufficient indications of what exactly is meant by empirical study in their work. This leads to the critical question of what counts as an empirically informed philosophy of technology in the empirical turn. In order to answer this question, we first elaborate on the problems that the empirical turn philosophers tried to address; secondly, we sketch their solutions, and, thirdly, we critically discuss their conceptions of empirical study. Our critical analysis of the empirical turn contributes to new efforts to engage in an empirically informed philosophy of technology.

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Vincent Blok
Wageningen University and Research


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