No Cover Image

Technoscientific Angst: Ethics and Responsibility

Raphael Sassower
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 160
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv1ht
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Technoscientific Angst
    Book Description:

    In this sobering exploration of scientific and intellectual responsibility, Raphael Sassower “skillfully relates the lessons of Auschwitz and Hiroshima, placing them in context and treating them as resources for contemporary decision-making at the intersection of the technosciences, public policy, and personal ethics. He has crafted an account of these watershed events that is both deeply informative and broadly accessible.” --Larry Hickman, Southern Illinois University

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8814-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. 1 Responsible Technoscience: The Haunting Reality of Auschwitz and Hiroshima
    (pp. 1-17)

    The commemoration in 1995 of the fiftieth anniversaries of two major events of World War II, the liberation of Auschwitz (January 1945) and the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima (August 1945), invites us to use these events as starting points for self-examination. I focus here only on the “technoscientific” facets of these two events, and not on the entire historical background of the rise of fascism, the period between the two world wars, and the circumstances surrounding World War II (see, e.g., Dawidowicz 1975, Gilbert 1985, and Hilberg 1973). Furthermore, my concern is not with the relationship between...

  5. 2 Public Expectations of Technoscience: From Truth to Immortality
    (pp. 18-39)

    The first part of this chapter explores how we have voluntarily brought ourselves into the modernist situation described in Chapter I. It focuses on the need for control of both the social and natural environments through an authority one can believe in, an authority that deflects superstition, dogma, and manipulation. The authority of rational discourse and practice of technoscience, with its logic and ordered reasoning, with its explanatory and predictive powers, remains an appealing candidate to accommodate the public’s need for stability, security, and trust, especially in the postmodern age.

    I trace the quest for control through Ernest Gellner and...

  6. 3 Ambiguity and Anxiety: The Making of Human Anguish
    (pp. 40-61)

    The first part of this chapter traces the human quest for order and the traditional gratification of this desire through religious doctrine (this parallels my examination of control in chapter 2). I then argue that the technoscientific community continued in this tradition to accomplish a similar goal of providing an ordered conception of the universe. Yet unlike the religious community, the technoscientific community appreciated and acknowledged, over time, the inherent and inevitable ambiguity of its trade. Ambiguity leads to a mode of thinking that is in constant search of additional alternatives and answers to given problems. It is this sense...

  7. 4 The Postmodern Option: A Dialectical Critique
    (pp. 62-80)

    In this chapter I examine the views expressed by the leaders and members of the Manhattan Project concerning their personal responsibility for the development of weaponry capable of the mass destruction of human lives. In order to articulate these concerns I will probe three sets of issues: some of the material that frames the technoscientific contribution to the cruelty and destruction of World War II, the problems with generalizing from this focus, and the sense of responsibility that emanates from these events. My focus on technoscience overlooks many other factors that may be thought more fundamental in assessing these events....

  8. 5 Responsible Technoscience: A Reconstruction
    (pp. 81-99)

    The requirement to address the great calamities of our century, as it was raised in Chapter 1, is reflected in the endemic condition of ambiguity, anxiety, and anguish described in Chapters 2. and 3. The technoscientific community is in need of a postmodernist dose of flexibility and openness, as well as their consequence, responsibility, in order to ensure its political integrity—its ability to remain critical, rational, and context bound—as Chapter 4 tries to explain.

    In this chapter, I begin by juxtaposing two views concerning the responsibility of scientists, the views of Oppenheimer and Teller, in order to illustrate...

  9. 6 The Price of Responsibility: From Personal to Financial
    (pp. 100-118)

    This chapter attempts a difficult feat: to retain a postmodern orientation in the ethical realm despite the limits of postmodernism. In other words, I try to walk a tightrope that spans the abyss between absolutism and relativism. As Bauman so eloquently says:

    The ethical paradox of the postmodern condition is that it restores to agents the fullness of moral choice and responsibility while simultaneously depriving them of the comfort of the universal guidance that modern self-confidence once promised. Ethical tasks of individuals grow while the socially produced resources to fulfill them shrink. Moral responsibility comes together with the loneliness of...

  10. 7 Cultural Changes: Agenda Setting
    (pp. 119-130)

    In order to ascribe responsibility to members of the technoscientific community or to particular groups of leaders (political, military, or academic) or to the (voting and nonvoting) public at large, it may be helpful to rethink the notion of responsibility in its legal setting. If we agree that the legal code follows social conventions and moral norms, then the law could serve as a convenient expression from which to read and ascertain cultural convictions and commitments. Yet for the law to ascribe responsibility, there needs to be a clarification of one’s liability in terms of intent. As Frederick Kempin says...

  11. References
    (pp. 131-136)
  12. Index
    (pp. 137-140)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 141-141)