Jean-François Lyotard and Postmodern Technoscience

Philosophy and Technology 35 (2):1-19 (2022)
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Often associated with themes in political philosophy and aesthetics, the work of Jean-François Lyotard is most known for his infamous definition of the postmodern in his best-known book, La condition postmoderne, as incredulity towards metanarratives. The claim of this article is that this famous claim of Lyotard is actually embedded in a philosophy of technology, one that is, moreover, still relevant for understanding present technoscience. The first part of the article therefore sketches Lyotard’s philosophy of technology, mainly by correcting three common misconceptions: that La condition postmoderne would only be about metanarratives, whereas in fact, it is mainly about what replaces them, namely performativity; that performativity would be shorthand for capitalism, whereas in reality, capitalism is the latest instance of a longer history of performativity; and that Lyotard’s reflections on science and technology would be restricted to this book alone, whereas in reality, a well-articulated philosophy of technology, centered around the concept of technoscience, is found in his later work. The second part of the article then aims to highlight the contemporary relevance of this philosophy of technoscience through a brief examination of two contemporary technosciences: synthetic biology and data science.

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Massimiliano Simons
Maastricht University


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