5. Description Plus

This overview of technology and ethics began by drawing on an objection by Harold Pinter to those who would reduce dramas to moral didacticism, to suggest that to some extent moral judgments of technology ought also to be suspended in favor of careful observation. Descriptive ethics is a necessary prolegomenon to prescriptive ethics. However, in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Pinter (2005) makes a distinction between how, for him as a writer, morality must remain an open question, while for him as a citizen it cannot. In the play itself, “Sermonizing has to be avoided at all cost”; but in life, in contrast to art, sermonizing cannot be avoided. For Pinter, his point had to do with what he considered a responsibility to expose the lies and mendacity of United States foreign policy since the end of the Second World War. In like manner, analysts of the technology-ethics drama have often felt called to criticize modern technology on such grounds as its disruptions of traditional culture, alienation and the loss of human autonomy in mass society, destruction of a natural environment, multiple risks and dangers (material and political), or its dehumanizing (including post-humanizing) tendencies. In counterpoint, others have celebrated technology for its contributions to human welfare, freedom and progress.

Pinter has been lambasted for his moralistic sermonizing in terms that echo the castigation directed at many critics of technology for their alleged naïve romanticism ...

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