The Matter of Thought: Nanotechnology, Philosophy and the Deterritorialisation of Intelligence

PhD Thesis

Trafford, James 2008. The Matter of Thought: Nanotechnology, Philosophy and the Deterritorialisation of Intelligence. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Social Sciences, Media, and Cultural Studies
AuthorsTrafford, James
TypePhD Thesis

Contemporary theories dealing with 'technoscience' have emphasised the way in which scientific theory is supervenient on social, discursive, or subjective conditions. In this respect, technoscientific theory, following much of Continental philosophy, does not attempt to deal with reality itself, but only with the relation between humans and reality.
This relation ensures that our concept of reality is limited by anthropocentrism.
However, recent advances in the sciences, including the burgeoning field of nanotechnology questions this move, since humans are understood as material - 'mindless' molecules are the basis for all human thought - and the distinctions between nature / artifice and life / non-life is dissolved. Viewing the relation of philosophy and
the sciences through the lens of nanotechnology, it will be argued that three dominant strands of Continental philosophy, (Kantian 'philosophy of access'; Deleuzian
materialism; Phenomenology or Affective Embodiment) attempt to produce a foundation for the sciences that is, potentially, no longer tenable.

The thesis develops in the following manner:
1. An overview of the contemporary theoretical landscape is given, and its internal problematics: the 'philosophy of access'; intuitive holism and phenomenology.
It is suggested that nanotechnology 'materialises' thought and the human. A methodological naturalism is, also, outlined.
2. Reductionist nanotechnology appears to dissolve the exceptional status of human knowledge and experience, while it retains the same structure as the Kantian 'philosophy of access', that is, of an active stamp upon passive matter. Both nanotechnology and Kantian philosophy idealise certain empirical features and limit the domain of thought in order to subordinate the sciences to a prescribed human domain.
3. Emergentist nanotechnology and Deleuze's materialism attempt to dissolve the problems of reductionist nanotechnology and Kantian philosophy. However, both emergentist nanotechnology and Deleuze's philosophy subordinate the sciences to an intuitive domain of organic life.
4. The 'cyborg' is a contemporary theoretical trope, exacerbated within the context of nanotechnology. 'Cyborg theory' seems to enable philosophy to redescribe the human in naturalistic terms. However, it leaves the door open for a phenomenological account of subjectivity. Thomas Metzinger's work allows phenomenal experience to be taken seriously without promoting an irreducible status for human thought or experience.
5.It is concluded that contemporary theory gives an exceptional status to human experience and knowledge. It is suggested that the power of capitalism is exacerbated in the context of nanotechnology, and that the possibility of political engagement is seriously hampered by the delimitation of scientific thought to the realm of human thought and experience. The thesis ends with an account of
'revisionary naturalism', which attempts to give transcendental philosophy its place without giving philosophy a foundational status in relation to the sciences.

KeywordsTechnoscientific theory; Continental philosophy; Nanosciences and nanotechnology
Publication dates
PrintNov 2008
Publication process dates
Deposited13 Jan 2014
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