Albert Borgmann

Biography of Albert Borgmann

Albert Borgmann (born 1937) is an American philosopher, specializing in the philosophy of technology. He was born in Freiburg, Germany, and is a professor of philosophy at the University of Montana.

Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life (1984) contributed to the emerging philosophical discussions of issues surrounding modern technology. Following a Heideggerian viewpoint, Borgmann introduced the notion of the device paradigm to explain what constitutes technology's essence loosely based on Heidegger's notion of Gestell (enframing). The book explores the limitations of conventional ways of thinking about technology and its social context, both liberal democratic ideals and Marxist lines of thought.

Crossing the Postmodern Divide (1992) is a techno-religious book characterized in terms of hyperreality and hyperactivity. Hyperactivity is usually described as a pathological syndrome of the child and workaholic, and associated with the familiar symptoms of stress and overwork. Borgmann extends the concept of hyperactivity to society as a whole, and defines it as "a state of mobilization where the richness and variety of social and cultural pursuits, and the natural pace of daily life, have been suspended to serve a higher, urgent cause" (p. 14). Christopher Lasch sees this as a kind of militarization of society – "the suspension of civility, the rule of the vanguard, and the subordination of civilians." Meanwhile critics such as Douglas Kellner have challenged Borgmann's distinction between the real and hyperreal and his denigration of hyperreality as problematic.
In Real American Ethics (2006), distancing himself from both conservative and liberal ideology, Borgmann explores the role of Americans in the making of American values, and proposes new ways for ordinary citizens to improve the country, through individual and social choices and actions.

Borgmann's work has been widely referenced by Catholic theologians, who typically interpret Borgmann's work in support of the position that technology is something to be overcome and that religion, especially some form of Roman Catholism, is to be humanity's saving grace. Meanwhile other Christian writers such as Marva Dawn have drawn on Borgmann's notion of the device paradigm to develop a critique of the church in its capitulation to commodification where worship, for example, becomes a device to attract and please.

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