Authors: Algis Mickunas, Joseph Pilotta

A Critical Understanding of Artificial Intelligence: A Phenomenological Foundation

eBook: US $69 Special Offer (PDF + Printed Copy): US $111
Printed Copy: US $76
Library License: US $276
ISBN: 978-981-5123-41-8 (Print)
ISBN: 978-981-5123-40-1 (Online)
Year of Publication: 2023
DOI: 10.2174/97898151234011230101


Artificial intelligence (AI) is viewed as one of the technological advances that will reshape modern societies and their relations. While the design and deployment of systems that continually adapt hold the promise of far-reaching, positive change, they simultaneously pose significant risks, especially to already vulnerable people.

This work explores the meaning of AI, and the important role of critical understanding and its phenomenological foundation in shaping its ongoing advances. The values, power, and magic of reason are central to this discussion. Critical theory has used historical hindsight to explain the patterns of power that shape our intellectual, political, economic, and social worlds, and the discourse on AI that surrounds these worlds. The authors also delve into niche topics in philosophy such as transcendental self-awareness, post-humanism, and concepts of space-time and computer logic.

By embedding a critical phenomenological orientation within their technical practices, AI communities can develop foresight and tactics that can better align research and technology development with established ethical principles — centering vulnerable people who continue to bear the brunt of the negative impacts of innovation and scientific progress. The creation of a critical–technical practice of AI will lead to a permanent revolution in social, scientific, and political communities. The years ahead will usher in a wave of new scientific breakthroughs and technologies driven by AI research, making it incumbent upon AI communities to strengthen the social contract through ethical foresight, a capability which only phenomenology can deliver, ultimately supporting future technologies that enable greater well-being, with the goal of delivering practical truths.

A Critical Understanding of Artificial Intelligence: A Phenomenological Foundation is an essential read for anyone interested in the complex debate and phenomenology surrounding AI and its growing role in our society.


The modern Western world is founded on an uncritical acceptance of Western ontology in the very effort to find something common or stable across common histories. It might be misleading, in that it presumes the traditional ontology of permanence, which is tacitly accepted by the sciences, including the sciences we call “human.” Understanding artificial intelligence means coming to understand the issues of productivity, freedom, and temporality. These are basic phenomena that cannot be designed to offer the traditional ontological conceptions of permanence or essence. They are the taken-for-granted and the covered-over dimensions with respect to the interpretations of humans as permanent. We have been immersed in our social institutions, our environment, and our mythologies, and once in a while, they incur revolutions in which we participate, through which we express our choice for a new form of political life, productive relationships, and our social institutions. We will ride the crest of freedom. Yet, after the revolutions, the leaders become either tyrants or professional revolutionaries who invoke the revolutionary laws, the ecstatic wave subsides, and we sink into daily necessities.

All too often, the dream of AI is for a totally rational society which is basically an old Platonic ideal transformed into a future utopia where AI mimics the human, but also expands his powers beyond all reach. AI, as we shall see throughout this manuscript, is, in fact, hinged on productivity, which is a common central theme of politics, labor, and freedom. The human as the maker, the maker society, if you will, is fundamentally, at heart, a magical interpretation of the human. AI is prosthetic magic. Magical “interpretations” does not mean magic in the sense of witchcraft or some mystical framework. We mean it as a mode of self-understanding and self-interpretation of our world and the world in which we are predominantly immersed, which we call technological.


Not applicable.


The authors declare no conflict of interest, financial or otherwise.


Thanks to Jill Adair McCaughan, Ph.D., who, as editor, requires having the sense that the author is trying to convey. She does it repeatedly.

Algis Mickunas
Ohio University, OH, USA
Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Vilnius Tech),
Vilnius, Lithuania


Joseph Pilotta
Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (Vilnius Tech),
Vilnius, Lithuania
In-Nova.1, LLC, USA