The Grammars of AI: Towards a Structuralist and Transcendental Hermeneutics of Digital Technologies

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After its rejection of the linguistic turn, influential strands in empirically-oriented philosophy of technology tend to neglect or are even hostile towards structuralist and transcendental approaches to technology. Drawing on Cassirer, Bourdieu, Wittgenstein, and Ricoeur, this article offers an account of the meaning of technologies that theorizes precisely those aspects of technology and shows what this hermeneutics means for understanding digital technologies such as AI and algorithmic data processing. It argues that a transcendental and structuralist approach helps us to reveal and evaluate the linguistic, social-political, bodily, and material preconditions for AI and, more generally, of digital technologies. Considering some issues raised by AI and robotics, the article shows that these transcendental structures or “grammars” make possible the meaning and use of AI, but at the same time constrain it. The proposed framework and research program therefore enables not only a better understanding of digital and other technologies but also their critique, leading to nothing less than the philosophical task of questioning our ways of being in the world.