Postphenomenology and Purpose: Investigating the Pragmatism of Human-Technology Relations

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In the wake of discussions on the empirical turn in philosophy of technology, the status of pragmatism in postphenomenology (and/or mediation theory) is emerging as something of a question. Against any notion of transcendentalism, postphenomenology posits a (neo)pragmatist nonfoundationalism and antiessentialism. It is concerned first and foremost with praxical knowledge and active engagement with and through technologies. That is also probably why the field is generally friendly to design, engineering and other domains of application. Especially in Verbeek’s work, this becomes particularly tangible, when he contrasts mediation theory to critical theory, arguing that critical theorists only “talk”; they don’t “do.” While the latter reproach postphenomenology/mediation theory for its lack of politics, Verbeek actually poses that “real” politics cannot be “done” by critical theorists—indeed exactly because of their “not doing.” But this brings up two issues. First, to which extent are the two main dictionary definitions of pragmatism mixed up here, and how should we map the tension between the two—that is, 1) the philosophical movement, and 2) ‘a practical, matter-of-fact way of approaching or assessing situations or of solving problems’ ( Does a pragmatist attitude (in the philosophical-theoretical sense) automatically lead to a pragmatist, or pragmatic, (literal) way-of-doing? And, second, if we choose to “do,” what should we want to accomplish? Which goals should we aim at? Because if practical engagement becomes a “disciplinary ideal” of sorts, while the goals stay undiscussed, to which extent will the field then be steered by unspoken (yes, political) assumptions? And finally, when we find the goals and make them explicit, will we be able to legitimize them on the basis of and in terms of the field itself? In this contribution, I want to broach these issues by developing the systems-oriented notion of purpose in the context of postphenomenology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman-Technology Relations: Postphenomenology and Philosophy of Technology
Subtitle of host publicationProgramme & Abstracts
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventHuman-Technology Relations: Postphenomenology and Philosophy of Technology - DesignLab of the University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands
Duration: 11 Jul 201813 Jul 2018


ConferenceHuman-Technology Relations
Abbreviated titlePHTR2018
Internet address


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