Nordic Network for Media and Communication Ethics

Towards an Existential and Emancipatory Ethic of Technology

Publication type
Charles Ess
Volume title
Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Technology
Shannon Vallor
Abstract or description

The Epic of Gilgamesh introduces existential themes of confronting our mortality and creating meaningful lives as embodied beings and relational autonomies. These entail care ethics, virtue ethics, deontological emphases on respect and equality, and overcoming destructive dualisms (mind/body, male/female, (human) nature/technology). The philosophical and theological origins of modern technology and the Enlightenment extend these starting points by emphasizing emancipation. Avoiding another set of dualisms (e.g., Enlightenment vs. Romanticism) offers richer understandings of emancipation, ethics, and our human/technology/nature relationships. Contemporary existentialism and virtue ethics further expand these understandings. Shannon Vallor’s “techno-moral virtues” specifically include courage. Gilgamesh and the woman in the Garden show how courage in resisting and disobeying authority emancipates us to embrace our mortality and take responsibility for meaning in our lives. This chapter closes with some specific ways for how we might do so in the contemporary world.