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Philosophy After Nature

Peter-Paul Verbeek and Yvonne Dröge Wendel

Peter-Paul VerbeekProf. Peter-Paul Verbeek is professor of philosophy of technology and chair of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Twente. He is president of the Society for Philosophy and Technology and a member of the Dutch Council for the Humanities. Verbeek’s research focuses on the social and cultural roles of technology and the ethical and anthropological aspects of human-technology relations. Among his publications are Moralizing Technology: Understanding and Designing the Morality of Things (University of Chicago Press 2011) and What Things Do: Philosophical Reflections on Technology, Agency, and Design(Penn State University Press 2005).

Yvonne Dröge WendelYvonne Dröge Wendel (1961) works as a visual artist in the field of sculpture. Her work is a search for the right conditions with which to capture and transform ways of talking, feeling and relating to objects, and consequently a search for an understanding of material as an active element of our social construct. The aim is to inspire and transform our expectations of objects as well as our actual relations to them.

Her fascination for things led her into wedlock with Wendel, a decorative cabinet, whose name she officially bears since 1992. Her projects have been shown internationally in galleries and museums throughout the last 20 years. Furthermore she works on commissions for public space and presently she is doing a PhD research at the University of Twente. In 2006 she initiated the project Architecture of Interaction, a tool to conceptually investigate complex interactive processes.

Intervention, 4 September, 16:00 h

Thinking from Things: Artistic Research meets Philosophy of Technology

In contemporary, post-humanist philosophy, materiality has come to play a substantial role. The philosophy of technology offers a clear example of this development. After an initial focus on the abstract phenomenon of ‘Technology’ and its societal and cultural implications, continental philosophy of technology has come to investigate the actual relations between humans and technologies. Rather than scrutinizing what things ‘are’, it aims to lay bare ‘what things do’: how their impact reaches out to realms that were traditionally considered to be purely human.

Understanding what things do, however, requires us to expand our repertoire of investigation. Even though the approach of ‘technological mediation’ offers a post-humanist framework for investigating human-technology relations, also non-conceptual forms of inquiry are needed to grasp the materiality of things. This is where artistic research meets philosophy.

In this intervention, therefore, visual artist Yvonne Dröge Wendel and philosopher Peter-Paul Verbeek join forces. While Verbeek analyzes how philosophy has forgotten the materiality of things, and how it can be regained, Dröge Wendel demonstrates some of her work, which is entirely geared towards understanding the relations between humans and things. Her work ‘Black Ball’, her marriage to Wendel (a piece of furniture), and her ‘Train compartment’ (an installation for Alzheimer’s patients) make it possible to rethink human-thing relations, anthropomorphization, and technological mediation. Instead of applying philosophy to things, this intervention explores what it could mean to do ‘philosophy from things’.