Using Words and Things: Language and Philosophy of Technology, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Using Words and Things

Language and Philosophy of Technology, 1st Edition

By Mark Coeckelbergh


296 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-06-15
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This book offers a systematic framework for thinking about the relationship between language and technology and an argument for interweaving thinking about technology with thinking about language. The main claim of philosophy of technology—that technologies are not mere tools and artefacts not mere things, but crucially and significantly shape what we perceive, do, and are—is re-thought in a way that accounts for the role of language in human technological experiences and practices. Engaging with work by Wittgenstein, Heidegger, McLuhan, Searle, Ihde, Latour, Ricoeur, and many others, the author critically responds to, and constructs a synthesis of, three "extreme", idealtype, untenable positions: (1) only humans speak and neither language nor technologies speak, (2) only language speaks and neither humans nor technologies speak, and (3) only technology speaks and neither humans nor language speak. The construction of this synthesis goes hand in hand with a narrative about subjects and objects that become entangled and constitute one another. Using Words and Things thus draws in central discussions from other subdisciplines in philosophy, such as philosophy of language, epistemology, and metaphysics, to offer an original theory of the relationship between language and (philosophy of) technology centered on use, performance, and narrative, and taking a transcendental turn.


"Coeckelbergh's book is an important and welcome study, especially for the way it critiques the dismissal or neglect of language in contemporary philosophy of technology, counters this omission by integrating such philosophy with the postmodern investigations of language, and thus sketches new possibilities for conceptualizing technology."Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction: Words and Things

Part I: Humans Speak (Subjects versus Objects)

Chapter 2: Speaking with and about Technology

Chapter 3: Giving Meaning to Technology: A Searlean Social Ontology of Technological Artefacts

Part II: Language Speaks (Subjects Change Objects)

Chapter 4: Language and the Social Construction of Artefacts

Chapter 5: All about Language: Postmodern Interpretations, or the Muting of Humans and Technology

Part III: Technology Speaks (Objects Change Subjects)

Chapter 6: What Technology Tells Us (To Do) (Part 1): Media, Artefacts, Networks

Chapter 7: What Technology Tells Us (To Do) (Part 2): Narrative Technologies, or Interpreting and Materializing Ricoeur

Part IV: Humans, Language, and Technology Speak (Subjects and Objects Entangled)

Chapter 8: Using and Performing with Words and Things

About the Author

Mark Coeckelbergh is Professor of Philosophy of Media and Technology at the Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna, and (part-time) Professor of Technology and Social Responsibility at De Montfort University, UK. His publications include Growing Moral Relations (2012), Human Being @ Risk (2013), Environmental Skill (2015), Money Machines (2015), New Romantic Cyborgs (2017), and numerous articles in the area of philosophy of technology.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Contemporary Philosophy

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHILOSOPHY / History & Surveys / Modern