Institutions and other things: critical hermeneutics, postphenomenology and material engagement theory


Don Ihde and Lambros Malafouris (Philosophy and Technology 32:195–214, 2019) have argued that “we are homo faber not just because we make things but also because we are made by them.” The emphasis falls on the idea that the things that we create, use, rely on—that is, those things with which we engage—have a recursive effect on human existence. We make things, but we also make arrangements, many of which are long-standing, material, social, normative, economic, institutional, and/or political, and many of which are supported by various technologies, including AI, more and more. Critical theorists, such as Habermas, have argued that we need a “depth” or critical hermeneutics (one that combines hermeneutical understanding with scientific explanation) to provide a full account of this kind of recursivity. For Habermas, the explanatory aspect of critical hermeneutics has been modeled on neo-Marxist and neo-Freudian theories. We propose a new critical hermeneutical approach that uses the tools of embodied cognitive science, affordance theory, material engagement theory, and the concept of the socially extended mind.

Publication Title

AI and Society