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Can ethics be technologized? Lessons from Challenger, philosophy, and rhetoric

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1 Author(s)
Dombrowski, P.M. ; Dept. of English, Ohio Univ., Athens, OH, USA

Technology informs many aspects of our lives. Many critics perceive technology as a system of values, seeing it as an incomplete “ethic”. I explore the converse. Using Ellul's (1990) technique (translated as “technologism”), I ask, “Can ethics be technologized?” I show how the Challenger disaster delimits the range of technologism with regard to ethics. Collecting additional technical information cannot of itself prevent ethical lapses. Furthermore, the investigations implicitly show the assumption that technologism can apply to ethics in their call for additional procedures. The recognition that procedures already in place were adequate, however, shows this assumption to be fallacious. I also show that trying to technologize ethics is a recent instance of an old reductive fallacy. The ancient sophists were criticized for trying to technologize both rhetoric and ethics. In recent philosophy, too, many critics insist that ethics cannot be reduced, systematized or technologized. Ethics then is innately problematic, so ethical choices must always be continually deliberated among people in an indeterminate way

Published in:

Professional Communication, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:38 ,  Issue: 3 )