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Ethics and Technology
TU DelftTU EindhovenUniversity of TwenteWageningen University
Ethics and Technology


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The emperical turn revisited

The role of speculation in the empirically informed philosophy of technology
November 2021 - November 2025

Mariska Bosschaert Vincent Blok

This research will critically explore the methodology of the empirical turn in the philosophy of technology. At the end of the 20th century, a group of philosophers rightfully argued that the philosophy of technology needs to be empirically informed, for philosophers need to know the object they discuss. They developed a new approach that is called the empirical turn. The focus in this approach is on the study of concrete technologies by means of case-studies. However, this focus has become as strong that these philosophers overlook structural features that are also essential to the understanding of technologies; the digital ‘world’ that is the condition of possibility of inventions like digital twins, blockchain, etc. Since we agree that philosophy of technology needs to be empirically informed, we do not aim at an alternative approach. What we aim at is broadening the methodology of the empirical turn so that it enables philosophers to study concrete technologies and the structural domain or World in which they are embedded in an integrated way. 

To this aim, we will first explore the notion of ‘empirical study’ in the empirical turn (study 1). Second, we will search for a way to broaden this notion so that it entails the artefact-world relation (study 2). Third, we will explore ways to study the artefact-world relation with the aim to propose a methodology to study this relation (study 3). Fourth, we will apply this proposed methodology to the case of digital farming to show its added value (study 4).