What is rational about killing a patient with an overdose? Enlightenment, continental philosophy and the role of the human subject in system failure
This paper raises the issue of ergonomics' role in giving primacy to fully rational individual human actors in the creation of system failure, despite its commitment to see action as constrained by design and operational features of work. Reflecting on recent contributions to the journal, ergonomics' dilemma is considered against Enlightenment assumptions about individual human reason as the route to truth and goodness and its critics in continental philosophy. There is a pervasive, unstated pact here. What ergonomics chooses to call certain things (violations, errors, non-compliance, situation awareness) not only simultaneously affirms and denies full rationality on part of the people it studies, it also coincides with what the West sees as scientific, true and instrumental. Thus, ergonomics research legitimates its findings in terms it is expected to explain itself in. But by doing so, it reproduces the very social order it set out to repudiate.