University of Twente Student Theses


Minding the other gap: A case for taxonomic distinctions in nanoethics

Casteleijn, Jasper (2009) Minding the other gap: A case for taxonomic distinctions in nanoethics.

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Abstract:Currently the focus of existing nanoethical reflection seems to be on either devices which have nanotechnologies embedded in them, or on the general effects of the production, use and disposal of nanotechnologies. In the former type of assessment, the devices are assessed, not the effects of using nanotechnologies in these devices. And in the latter type of assessment the effect of nanotechnologies in general is assessed and not specific nanotechnologies. Due to these two types of assessments, three problems occur. First there is the nonspecificity problem. When assessing a device, the detected issues could have little to do with the embedded nanotechnologies, and only a specific embedment of nanotechnologies is assessed. This distracts from the roles in the evocation of the issues that are attributable to nanotechnologies. Second there is the generalization problem. When looking at general issues, reflection is focused on the use of nanotechnologies in general instead of the effects of different nanotechnologies. This could result in generalizing the effects of certain nanotechnologies so that they seem applicable to all nanotechnologies. And third there is the speculation problem. There has been a lot of focus on uncertain foresights, which deflects attention from current pressing issues. In this thesis I propose ways of distinguishing between different nanotechnologies in nanoethical reflection, and with these close the gap between the two types of assessment. I apply two distinctions – one distinction based on the method of production and one based on functionality – to the privacy and nanotoxicology case. In the privacy case, applying a distinction showed that the privacy issues are currently not nano-related, and the link between privacy issues and the field of nanotechnology relies on speculation. Applying the distinctions on the nanotoxicology case showed that there are types of nanotechnology that do not contribute to toxicological issues. Applying the distinctions showed that they can be used as a critical instrument to show where the three problems occur in current ethical reflection. As a starting point for ethical reflection, the distinctions could prove to be a valuable heuristic instrument by allowing for nanotechnology-specific allocation of problems. This allows for setting the agenda for a better informed public and political debate, hence improving the quality.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:50 technical science in general
Programme:Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society MSc (60024)
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