Nanotechnological Icons

NanoEthics 5 (2):195-202 (2011)
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Modern microscopes create a capacity to see and act at the scale where unassisted human senses are powerless. Images of nanoscale phenomena represent a world that effectively intervenes in human life while remaining distant and ineffable. This combination of an unbridgeable distance between man and technology with a real power of the latter over the human condition is characteristic, not only of nanotechnology, but also of the theology of sacred icons that mediate in the knowledge of divine reality. We draw an anthropological analogy between nanotechnological images and sacred icons, and we employ it to analyze the functioning of such images in society. The questions that we study include: a) the art of mediation in representing the ineffable and its necessity; b) the effects provoked by such images; c) primitive comprehension of nanoscale images. This work has repercussions for a wide variety of disciplinary accounts and practices, from the anthropologist and the philosopher to the laboratory scientist, the art critic, and the engineer who conceives and designs nanoscale instruments



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Peirce's Theory of Signs.T. L. Short - 2007 - New York: Cambridge University Press.

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