Technology, Recommendation and Design: On Being a 'Paternalistic' Philosopher

Science and Engineering Ethics 19 (1):27-42 (2013)
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Abstract
Philosophers have talked to each other about moral issues concerning technology, but few of them have talked about issues of technology and the good life, and even fewer have talked about technology and the good life with the public in the form of recommendation. In effect, recommendations for various technologies are often left to technologists and gurus. Given the potential benefits of informing the public on their impacts on the good life, however, this is a curious state of affairs. In the present paper, I will examine why philosophers are seemingly reluctant to offer recommendations to the public. While there are many reasons for philosophers to refrain from offering recommendations, I shall focus on a specific normative reason. More specifically, it appears that, according to a particular definition, offering recommendations can be viewed as paternalistic, and therefore is prima facie wrong to do so. I will provide an argument to show that the worry about paternalism is unfounded, because a form of paternalism engendered by technology is inevitable. Given the inevitability of paternalism, I note that philosophers should accept the duty to offer recommendations to the public. I will then briefly turn to design ethics, which has reconceptualised the role of philosophers and, in my mind, fitted well with the inevitability of paternalism. Finally, I shall argue that design ethics has to be supplemented by the practice of recommendation if it is to sustain its objective
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Archival date: 2019-02-19
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