How Technology Changes Our Idea of the Good

In Paul Laverdure & Melchior Mbonimpa (eds.), Eth-ICTs: Ethics and the New Information and Communication Technologies. Sudbury: University of Sudbury. pp. 109-123 (2011)
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The ethical neutrality of technology has been widely questioned, for example, in the case of the creation and continued existence of weapons. At stake is whether technology changes the ethical character of our experience: compare the experience of seeing a beating to videotaping it. Interpreting and elaborating on the work of George Grant and Marshall McLuhan, this paper consists of three arguments: 1) the existence of technologies determines the structures of civilization that are imposed on the world, 2) technologies shape what we do and determine how we do it, and 3) technology, unlike any other kind of thing, seems not to make moral demands of us: it is morally neutral. This means that they offer us the freedom of imposing on something that does not impose back. The introduction of this experience of freedom changes the way we experience the world in general by introducing a new way of relating to the good, namely by introducing the act of subjective valuation. Each of these points implies that technology structurally changes or interferes with our ethical relationship with things, with the result that through subjective valuation the experience of the obligation to act can be suspended.
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