Conflict of Interpretations on Ricoeur’s Contributions to the Philosophy of Technology


  • Patrick Francis Bloniasz 1. Program in Neuroscience and Program in Digital and Computational Studies, Bowdoin College, Maine, USA 2. Graduate Program in Neuroscience, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.



Paul Ricoeur, Philosophy of Technology, Techné, Technologie


Recent literature regarding how Ricoeur’s work relates to the philosophy of technology appears prima facie to be contradictory. In one established interpretation, Ricoeur’s contributions are merely indirect as he did not engage with the empirical turn of the discipline in the 1980s and maintained a suspicious view of technology based on a profound concern with the distinction between persons and things. In this view, Ricoeur’s work does not add anything new to the discipline but is still valuable to the philosophy of technology through other features of his corpus, such as his critical hermeneutics and narrative theory. In another interpretative approach, some argue Ricoeur adds to the field by directly thematizing technology when studying ethics and human capability–he cannot be thought of as merely ignoring the complex relationship between the social sphere and technology. The present paper offers a dialectical analysis of these interpretative approaches and argues that these positions are not mutually exclusive, but rather capture complementary aspects about the nature of Ricoeur’s hermeneutic and political projects. At one level, Ricoeur engages with core themes of philosophy of technology by exploring the ambiguity of specific technologies and techniques and their implications to social, cultural, and political spheres; in doing so, Ricoeur contributes directly to the field by avoiding the reduction of meaning into merely technical questions. On the other hand, it is also true that Ricoeur, particularly in the main thematic areas of his great works since the 1970s, has not been directly involved with specific questions of how different recent technologies are intertwined with social, political, and ethical aspects, and his emphasis against a reductionist type of technical mentality distanced him from a closer engagement with specific technological issues. In this sense, most of his contributions to the philosophy of technology are indirect. Nevertheless, this paper wants to emphasize that this dialectic analysis invites us to recognize the richness and potential of Ricoeur’s thought to understand how technologies are shaping our experiences in the world. The recently published volume Interpreting Technology, edited by Wessel Reijers, Alberto Romele, and Mark Coeckelbergh, is a powerful example of such potential.