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Accepted Paper:

The challenge of deliberation: between subjectivism and hubris  
Udo Pesch (Delft University of Technology)

Short abstract:

Participatory technology development is usually subjectivist, not allowing for the assessment of moral claims. Moral theories may help out, but these suffer from absolutist terminologies and conceptualisations. Articulating the methodology of moral theory helps to overcome this problem.

Long abstract:

The development and endorsement of participatory approaches to technology development is particularly strong within the field of STS, but this field maintains a number of assumptions that diminish the quality of participation. To start with, there is the tendency to maintain subjectivist moral starting points, meaning that no external ethical standards are necessary to evaluate the moral quality of these outcomes. Not only does the emphasis on procedural aspects potentially compromise the substantive ethical quality of participation, but it may also reinforce biases and assumptions entertained by participants.

Moral theory may help to overcome these problems by establishing criteria for deciding upon the quality of the moral claims forwarded in deliberation. The uptake of these criteria in participatory methods, however, appears to be complicated by the tendency of moral philosophers to phrase their work in terms of ‘moral truths’, which raises the suspicion of hubris among scholars from the social sciences.

This is not necessarily so, the idea of ‘moral truths’ can be taken as a methodological starting point that allows us to come closer to the truth by eradicating false statements. In line with Popper’s falsification principle, moral theorists aim to asymptotically approach the truth while never giving an answer to what is really true. Indeed, like scientific knowledge can be helpful for societal discussions, convictions informed by moral theories can be constructive in debates. Such a re-articulation can make moral theory more supportive of the design of participatory arrangements, allowing normative claims to be forwarded and tested.

Traditional Open Panel P250
Understanding and interpreting technology in STS and Philosophy of Technology
  Session 2 Friday 19 July, 2024, -