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A Critical Companion to Ihde

Evan Selinger

Publication Year: 2006

Postphenomenology is the first book devoted exclusively to the interpretation and advancement of prominent phenomenologist Don Ihde’s landmark contributions to history, philosophy, sociology, science, sound studies, and technology studies. Ihde has made a direct and lasting impact on the study of technological experience across the disciplines and acquired an international following of diverse scholars along the way, many of whom contribute to Postphenomenology, including Albert Borgmann, who characterizes Ihde as being “among the most interesting and provocative contemporary American philosophers.” The contributors situate, assess, and apply Ihde’s philosophy with respect to the primary themes that his oeuvre emphasizes. They not only clarify Ihde’s work, but also make significant contributions to the philosophy of technology, phenomenology, hermeneutics, and the philosophy of science. A comprehensive response from Ihde concludes the volume.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

Postphenomenology: A Critical Companion to Ihde is unique. Although Don Ihde is widely acknowledged as one of the most important American phenomenologists, this is the first volume devoted exclusively to the interpretation and advancement of his contributions to history, philosophy, sociology, sound studies, science, and technology studies. It contains nineteen essays— most of them...


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pp. ix


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pp. xi

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pp. 1-10

Due to the traditional prejudice that philosophy is primarily a rational enterprise that aims at discovering objective and universal truth, many philosophers avoid personalizing their inquiry. Don Ihde’s philosophy, however, is replete with biographical references. Taking this reflexive dimension of his style as an interpretative clue concerning his core philosophical commitments, ...

Part I: Phenomenological Style: Ihde’s Unique Voice

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1. Simple Grounds: At Home in Experience

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pp. 13-19

Don Ihde’s work is particularly significant—and unusual—for what might be called its grounding simplicity, its capacity to make his readers comfortable enough to follow him anywhere—outdoors, indoors, home and abroad, and always, or at least, into micro- and macroperceptual adventures that expand both their embodied presence to the world and its “possible reciprocities of...

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2. From Phenomenology to Pragmatism: Using Technology as an Instrument

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pp. 21-33

Don Ihde’s first book offers an appreciative assessment of the work of hermeneutic phenomenologist Paul Ricoeur, in which he explicitly allies himself with the third (or French) wave in phenomenology (subsequent to the first [Austrian] and second [German] waves led by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, respectively). But very shortly thereafter Ihde began to contribute to an emerging fourth...

Part II: Listening to Ihde: Phenomenology and Sound

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3. The Primacy of Listening: Toward a Metaphysics of Communicative Interaction

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pp. 37-47

Emile Durkheim urged us to “consider social facts as things”1 and Edmund Husserl urged us to attend “to the things themselves.”2 In contrast to this ontological focus, the social sciences are marked by a focus on competing methodologies that (their advocates claim) enable us to gain knowledge of social things—a focus that’s encouraged by traditions in Euro-American scholarship...

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4. Voices in the Electronic Music Synthesizer: An Essayin Honor of Don Ihde

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pp. 49-65

Reading Don Ihde’s inspirational Listening and Voice: a Phenomenology of Sound is like returning to a familiar friend. This should not be surprising as the roots of my own field— Science and Technology Studies—are to be found in the traditions of phenomenology, particularly the philosophy of Alfred Schutz as rendered through the influential writings of Berger and Luckmann, ...

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5. Visualizing the Musical Object

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pp. 67-86

To make sound “visible”—this sounds like a dubious, or perhaps undesirable, task for a music scholar devoted to phenomenological approaches to understanding music. Don Ihde, however, has reminded us that sound plays an important role in defining the world we see. In his ground-breaking Listening and Voice: A Phenomenology of Sound, Ihde demonstrates how our aural...

Part III: Normative Commitments: Ihde at the Crossroadsof Ethics and Politics

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pp. 87

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6. Normative Phenomenology: Reflections on Ihde’s Significant Nudging

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pp. 89-107

Don Ihde’s phenomenological-hermeneutic framework overcomes long-standing epistemic deficiencies. He contests untenable premises embedded in determinist outlooks and establishes a unique view of the lifeworld that avoids the excesses of utopian prognostics and dystopian diagnoses. Before the philosophy of technology established itself institutionally, he identified several...

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7. Ihde and Technological Ethics

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pp. 109-116

Practitioners of technological ethics, if the term may even be used, havelabored to carve out a modicum of philosophical turf. Against them on theone side are those who argue that there is just ethics, the philosophical study of norms for human action. For them, human actions are amenable to ethical reflection and judgment, and this is not changed by whether they make use...

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8. The Morality of Things: A Postphenomenological Inquiry

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pp. 117-128

Ethics appears to be at the eve of a new Copernican revolution. A few centuries ago, the Enlightenment, with Kant as its major representative, brought about a turnover hitherto unequaled by moving the source of morality from God to humans. But currently there seem to be good reasons to move the source of morality one place further. It increasingly becomes clear that we...

Part IV: Heidegger and Ihde

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9. Ihde’s Albatross: Sticking to a “Phenomenology” of Technoscientific Experience

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pp. 131-144

Ihde’s work occupies a unique position in technoscience studies, no doubt due in part to his development of a creative but still recognizably Husserlian phenomenology. Ihde himself, however, has recently called phenomenology his albatross (CT 131–144, 128–130): he cannot get rid of it. He adds, however, that when phenomenology is properly defended against old misperceptions...

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10. Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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pp. 145-160

Based on a lifetime of careful investigation into the significance of human embodiment and technology, the work of Don Ihde has revolved around the central insight that technology represents an extension of human embodiment. Intimately related to this central insight Ihde has elaborated on two important corollaries. The first, which has far-reaching ramifications both...

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11. Breakdown

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pp. 161-171

Just before 9 AM EST on 1 February 2003, the space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated fifty miles above Dallas, Texas. In a few seconds, the hundreds of engineers, managers, and technicians who were running the complex space mission faced their equipment—and themselves—very differently. No longer acting with the world-spanning array of machinery and technicians to...

Part V: Perceiving Bodies

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12. Crittercam: Compounding Eyes in NatureCultures

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pp. 175-188

Don Ihde and I share a basic commitment: as Ihde puts it, “Insofar as I use or employ a technology, I am used by and employed by that technology as well . . . We are bodies in technologies.” Therefore, technologies are not mediations—that is, something in between us and another bit of the world—rather, technologies are organs, full partners, in what Merleau-Ponty called...

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13. Active and Passive Bodies: Don Ihde’s Phenomenology of the Body

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pp. 189-196

Don Ihde’s Bodies in Technology explores the technical entanglements of the human body from a phenomenological standpoint. The essays in this book cover a wide range of topics, from virtual reality to growing up male in America. Ihde’s account of the body seems to me one-sided. Perhaps it is his orientation toward scientific perception and technical action that limits his...

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14. Body and Machines

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pp. 197-209

Several of the most important discoveries of the German phenomenologist Edmund Husserl took place not in front of him but, so to speak, behind his back. In pursuing his account of the “teleological” structures of logical reason and the “archaeological” structures of transcendental, phenomenological method, he would often pause, sometimes for hundreds of pages, and write...

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15. Ontology Engines

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pp. 211-218

In the past few years I have had the chance to get to know Don Ihde and at least some of his works quite well—a very enjoyable experience in many ways, but also, more obliquely, a frustrating one. I have always had the feeling that I wanted to argue with some aspect of his writings, but have never been able to make the argument happen in person; we always seem to agree. ...

Part VI: Reframing Science

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16. From Workbench to Cyberstage

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pp. 221-229

The philosophical account of experimentation long remained in a rudimentary state for lack of a suitably comprehensive framework in which to consider all its dimensions. Consider what such a framework would have to accommodate. It would have to allow experimentation to be treated both as interest-driven, that is, responding to and arising from changing human wants, ...

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17. Technological Mediation and Embodied Health-Care Practices

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pp. 231-245

Don Ihde’s far-reaching philosophy of technology, particularly his account of technical mediation, provides a useful framework for addressing questions concerning how research on high-tech solutions in the health-care services can be linked with philosophical ideas about human nature, knowledge, and experience. Whereas earlier philosophies of technology have inquired abstractly...

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18. Mediating Between Science and Technology

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pp. 247-255

Don Ihde is the great mediator of contemporary philosophy. He has connected phenomenology with postmodernism, philosophy of technology with philosophy of science, Continental philosophy with analytic philosophy. He has tirelessly mediated across oceans, and he has widely explained himself through his prolific writing. ...

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19. Toward a Practice-Oriented Methodology and Philosophy of Technoscience

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pp. 257-263

As pertains to the topic “philosophy of science and technology,” I would like to address some mutual influences and interactions that link the philosophy of science with the philosophy of technology. The main thesis is that the philosophy of science might profit from interfacing better with technologyoriented methodologies and an action-oriented reorientation of the concept of...

Part VII: Ihdeology

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20. Forty Years in the Wilderness

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pp. 267-290

Here I am, faced with nineteen essays by former students, colleagues, and peers. They deal with forty years of work, 1964–2004. To respond is a daunting task since the limits dealt me simply do not allow each person to be given justice. In reading these essays, I was struck by an irreal experience: On the one hand to “hear” good things, I felt maybe I have done some good...

Select Bibliography

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pp. 291-298


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pp. 299-302

Name Index

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pp. 303-307

E-ISBN-13: 9780791481608
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791467879
Print-ISBN-10: 0791467872

Page Count: 319
Illustrations: 3 b/w photographs, 14 figures
Publication Year: 2006