Individuals and technology

Gilbert Simondon, from ontology to ethics to feminist bioethics

Donald Landes

pp. 153-176

Two key themes structure the work of French philosopher of science Gilbert Simondon: the processes of individuation and the nature of technical objects. Moreover, these two themes are also at the heart of contemporary debates within Ethics and Bioethics. Indeed, the question of the individual is a key concern in both Virtue Ethics and Feminist Ethics of Care, while the hyper-technical reality of the present stage of medical technology is a key reason for both the urgency for and the success of the field of Bioethics. And yet, despite its potential for thinking about these issues, Simondon's philosophy remains largely unknown. Rather than exploring Simondon's complex ontology for itself, the aim of this paper is to establish what contribution his work can make in Ethics and Bioethics on two essential questions: the relational structure of the self and the nature of the human-technology relation. I argue that Simondon's re-conceptualization of the individual harmonizes with perspectives in Feminist Bioethics (particularly the Ethics of Care) and points toward what I call an "open" Virtue Ethics that takes relations to be essential. In order to establish this connection, I explore at length the relational approach to Feminist Bioethics offered by Susan Sherwin's work. I argue that a Simondonian account of technology and of the individual furthers the relational understanding of the self, offers a characterization of Virtue Ethics that is in harmony with the Ethics of Care, and clarifies a notion of responsibility that is implicated in the complex reality of the modern technological milieu.

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/s11007-014-9292-2

Full citation:

Landes, D. (2014). Individuals and technology: Gilbert Simondon, from ontology to ethics to feminist bioethics. Continental Philosophy Review 47 (2), pp. 153-176.

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