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In between labour and practice

Wessel Reijers, Dublin City University, Ireland

In this paper, I argue that we should understand robots according to an adequate theory of praxis, by not merely considering what they are (machines, artefacts, systems) but also what they do. This theory of praxis departs from Arendt’s distinction between labour, work and action, but turns towards Ricoeur’s epistemological hermeneutics to render “practice” intelligible. This approach offers a philosophical framework that deals with the neglect of language and the social in postphenomenological accounts of human-robot relations. Using Ricoeur’s work, what robots do can be characterised by using a narrative theory that integrates basic actions, action-chains and practices into a coherent conceptual framework. Based on this framework, I argue that although robots can be said to engage in basic actions and action-chains, they are not themselves “practitioners” but rather “co-authors” of practices.