Date of Award
M.A. in Philosophy
University of Mississippi
It is often held that technology is value neutral. That is, technology is merely a means to an end and has no intrinsic moral worth. However, as some theorists have demonstrated, this view of technology may be mistaken. One theorist, Michael Klenk, offers what he calls an “affordance theory of embodied values” as one principled way of understanding how technological artifacts embody moral values. Under this view, artifacts embody affordances, or possibilities for action. These affordances are then judged in order to assess the moral status of the artifact which embeds them. In this paper, I develop one problem with this view: the problem of salient affordances. In short, artifacts embody far too many affordances to reasonably judge. Thus, guidelines must be given to highlight which affordances are most salient. I then explore two limitations to Klenk’s approach for solving the problem of salient affordances which rely on standards of normalcy. First, normalcy makes embedded values too relativistic since normalcy is dependent upon time and place, and second, there exist cases, such as nuclear weapons, in which non-normal affordances are arguably more important to understanding the embedded value in an artifact. Lastly, I develop an alternative to Klenk’s view in which I argue that moral frameworks are a better standard for determining which affordances are relevant to an embodied value.
Roberts, Mitchell, "Affording the Value of Technology: Normalcy and Moral Frameworks" (2023). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. 2571.