Philosophy of Technology

Course Description

In this course, we will discuss the ways in which our ethical and social values can and ought to influence science and technology. The technosciences are objective, value-free, rational, and inevitable: these are the myths that this course will question. We will investigate different ways in which processes of scientific research and technological development involve choices, value-judgments, and ethical responsibilities. We will read prominent historical and contemporary critiques of computers, the Internet, video games, biomedical research, consumerism, and advanced industrial civilization from a variety of ethical frameworks and value perspectives. We will consider frameworks for thinking about how to be more responsible scientists and engineers. We will explore, practically and theoretically, the beneficial roles that humanists can play in science and engineering.


The texts are on order at Off Campus Books, but not the campus bookstore.



  • Neal Stephenson, [In the Beginning was the Command Line](] (only recommended because you can also find it online for free).

All other readings will be made available on the course website

Schedule of Topics

  1. Introduction – Technology, Choices, and Values – 8/26
  2. What Problem are we Trying to Solve? – 9/2
  3. The Ethics of Gathering Data – 9/9
  4. Ethics and Politics of Design 9/16
  5. Sexism in Technology – 9/23
  6. What’s Wrong with “The Internet” – 9/30
  7. Transparency, Anonymity, and Commitment – 10/7
  8. The Limits of Virtual Presence – 10/14
    • Dreyfus, Ch 2,3,5
  9. Gamification – 10/21
  10. Lessons from the History of Technology – 10/28
  11. Heidegger’s Existential Critique of Technology – 11/4
  12. Marcuse’s Critical Theory of Technology – 11/11
  13. Techno-conservatism – 11/18
  14. Thanksgiving – no class – 11/25
  15. A Pragmatic Approach to Technology – 12/2
  16. Service Learning Project Group Presentations – 12/9
    • All Project Documentation due for Service Learning Project

Other Important Dates:

  • 12/10, 3:00-4:30pm: Senior Design Day – 1 member of each team to attend and rate posters
  • 12/12: Individual papers about service learning project due.
  • 12/16, 5:00pm-7:45pm: Final Exam


Each component is weighted equally.

  1. Class participation – The best way to learn philosophy is to discuss it. Includes attendance, small and large group discussions.
  2. Ethics Advising Project – Advise engineering students on the ethical issues in their projects.
  3. Service Learning Project – Work together in groups to think critically about some public problem in technology and create a project that works to ameliorate that problem.
  4. Final Exam – Cumulative.

Course Policies

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