Cyborgs, Between Organology and Phenomenology: Two Perspectives on Artifacts and Life

In Bernadette Bensaude Vincent, Xavier Guchet & Sacha Loeve (eds.), French Philosophy of Technology: Classical Readings and Contemporary Approaches. Springer Verlag. pp. 257-277 (2018)
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Cyborgs are usually loosely defined as the adjunction of a mechanical device to an organism. These hybrid entities have triggered several philosophical comments on their nature: are they harmonious wholes or rather unstable couplings? This paper situates cyborgs between two rival traditions of interpretation: organology and phenomenology. In the “organological” tradition, tools are considered as biological organs, as mere extensions of life, or vital strategies evolved by the organisms striving to survive. In the “phenomenological” tradition, tools are approached from the standpoint of the user, as a significant means available to interact with the organism’s environment. This paper argues against a broad conception of cyborgs for which all entities combining organic and mechanical components can be called “cyborgs.” I distinguish “organorgs” from an authentic “cyborg” perspective. While the organorg can easily change its tools, pick different instruments and instantly dispose of them, a true cyborg has its tools literally grafted to its organic parts so that the mechanical parts cannot properly be said to be “used.” The cyborg standpoint opens up new perspectives on prostheses and the enhancement of human bodies.



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