19 May 2020

Preview: Book chapter on bioethics, technology and Paul Ricoeur.



Prostheses as Narrative Technologies: Bioethical Considerations for Prosthetic Applications in Health Care. By Geoffrey Dierckxsens.

To be published in: Romele Alberto, Reijers, Wessel & Coeckelbergh, Marc (eds.), Ricoeur and Technology: Reconfiguring Philosophy, Ethics and Politics of Technology (London: Rowman and Littlefield, 2020). 

In recent years, philosophers have been pointing out that one of the future tasks for philosophy of technology is to develop an ethical theory of narrative technologies. In order to develop their idea of narrative technologies Coeckelbergh and Reijers draw on Ricoeur’s notion of narrative identity, which they understand in line with Ricoeur as the sequence of events of our lived experiences, which can be enacted in the form of stories. Technologies are an integral part of these life stories on several different levels. And our relations with these technologies are often value laden in the sense that they raise ethical questions (e.g. discussions about social media and data protection). Yet, how to understand precisely the normative aspects of narrative technologies is an issue that still remains largely unexamined within the field of philosophy technology.

In this chapter my main focus will be to examine certain normative aspects of narrative technologies. I will argue in particular that one way of understanding such normative aspects is by looking at bioethical cases of the use of technological interventions, prosthetic applications in particular, in health care. Bioethics, the ethics of biological and medical research and medical practice has affinity with philosophers of technology, in that in both fields specialists turn to Ricoeur’s phenomenology. In both fields, they argue that looking at patients’ embodied experiences and life stories has a significant impact on decisions concerning prosthetic applications in health care (Bayne and Levy 2005, Slatman 2012, Svenaeus 2017). More exactly, whether and to what extent bodies can and should be manipulated by medical technologies that involve prostheses and body reconstructions, is not only a question of applying ethical, cultural as well as legal norms (e.g. respect for body integrity), but also of a patient’s actual lived experience of his or her “body biography” (e.g. personal experience of body wholeness embedded in a personal life story) (Slatman 2012, 294).