Accepted Paper:

Postphenomenology and Nihilism  


Nolen Gertz (University of Twente)

Paper short abstract:

In order to determine the role that nihilism plays in technological progress, this paper will put postphenomenology’s human-technology relations in dialogue with Friedrich Nietzsche’s human-nihilism relations.

Paper long abstract:

We are living in the age of technology, in the age of progress. But what do we mean by "progress"? Furthermore, what do we mean by "technology"? These terms are so often used interchangeably that it seems almost impossible to define one without the other. Devices are designed and marketed as providing us with what we want, with what we need, with what we cannot live without. If these devices let us down, we do not question the device paradigm, but only the specific device. In other words, we do not only use technology, we have placed our faith in technology.

While postphenomenology can help us to investigate how technology can mediate faith, it is the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche that can help us to investigate how faith can mediate technology. For if nihilism finds its home in religion, in asceticism, in escapism, then is technology—the God-less, the soul-less, the essence-less—the enemy of nihilism? By comparing postphenomenology's descriptions of human-technology relations to Nietzsche's descriptions of the various techniques used in the "grand struggle against the feeling of displeasure"—or, what I will call human-nihilism relations—we can see that technology is perhaps not the enemy of nihilism we had hoped it would be, but instead its greatest tool, or, to be more precise, its greatest mediator.

Panel T145
Postphenomenological Research: Technologies, Robots, and Human Identity