Beyond the Conflict Between “Touch” and “Feel” in Robotics

  • Céline PietersEmail author
  • Emmanuelle Danblon
  • Jean-Paul Laumond
Part of the Springer Tracts in Advanced Robotics book series (STAR, volume 130)


Does the robot actually look (and not just see), does the robot actually feel (and not just touch)? To experts in robotics, the conflict between “touch” and “feel” may first appear as a concern of communication, situated at a linguistic level only. However, the core of the question is rather a matter of epistemology of the discourse that invokes their own relation to natural language and rationality. To support this statement, we explore the rhetorical practices of roboticists. From a general point of view, their discourses embody two epistemological tendencies (postmodernism and reductionism) that are representative of every disciplinary field. We address the problem of these two epistemological pitfalls which need to be overcome as experts in robotics intend to guide citizens in their judgements about robots.


Rhetoric Robotics Epistemology Language Rationality 


  1. 1.
    Bajcsy, R.: An interview conducted by Peter Asaro with Selma Šabanović. In: IEEE History Center, 17 Nov 2010 (2010)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Yoshida, E., Laumond, J.P., Esteves, C., Kanoun, O., Mallet, A., Sakaguchi, T., Yokoi, K.: Motion autonomy for humanoids, experiments on HRP-2 No. 14. Comput. Animation Virtual Worlds 20(5–6), 511–522 (2009)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Laumond, J.P., Mansard, N., Lasserre, J.B.: Optimization as motion selection principle in robot action. Communications of the ACM 58(5), 64–74 (2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Oxman, N.: J. Des. Sci. 13 Jan 2016 (2016)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Jeanneret, Y.: Écrire la science. Formes et enjeux de la vulgarisation, Presses Universitaires de France (1994)Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Laumond, J.P.: Robotics: Hephaestus does it again. In: Herath, Kroos and Stelarc (eds.) Robots and Art—Exploring an Unlikely Symbiosis. Springer, Berlin (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Danblon, E.: Vers une naturalisation de la rhétorique? Problèmes épistémologiques. In: Herman, T., Oswald, S., Rhétorique et cognition—Rhetoric and Cognition: Perspectives theoriques et strategies persuasives—Theoretical Perspectives and Persuasive Strategies, Peter Lang (2016)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Arkin, R.: An interview conducted by Peter Asaro. In: IEEE History Center, 16 Sept 2014 (2014)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Shasha, D., Lazere, C.: Out of their minds: the lives and discoveries of 15 great computer scientists. Copernicus Books (1998)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Villa, P., Roebroeks, W.: Neandertal demise: an archaeological analysis of the modern human superiority complex. PLoS ONE 9(4), e96424 (2014). Scholar
  11. 11.
    Pieters, C., Danblon, E., Laumond, J.-P.: How do humans read robotics? A matter of lexical ambiguity resolution, IROS, IEEE (2018)Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Simondon, G., Malaspina, C., Rogove, T.: On the mode of existence of technical objects. University of Minnesota Press (2017). French edition: Simondon, G.: Du mode d’existence des objets techniques, Editions Aubier-Montaigne, Paris (1958)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Simis, M.J., Madden, H., Cacciatore, M.A., Yeo, S.K.: The lure of rationality: why does the deficit model persist in science communication? Public Underst. Sci. 25(4), 400–414 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Brooks, R.: The seven deadly sins of AI predictions. MIT Technol. Rev. (2017)Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Perelman, C., Olbrechts-Tyteca, L.: The new rhetoric. A treatise on argumentation. University of Notre Dame Press (1991[1958])Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Venture, G.: Speaking about robots: my trilingual daily challenge, wording robotics. In: The 4th Workshop of Anthropomorphic Motion Factory, LAAS-CNRS,, 30 Nov–1 Dec 2017 (2017)
  17. 17.
    Heider, F., Simmel, M.: An experimental study of apparent behavior. Am. J. Psychol. 57(2), 243–259 (1944)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Webb, R.: Ekphrasis, Imagination and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Practice. Ashgate Publishing Ltd., Farnham (2009)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Pieters, C.: Rhetorical issues in robotics, ISSA (To be published) (2018)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Danblon, E.: L’homme rhétorique, Ed. du Cerf. Humanités (2013)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Oreskes, N.: The scientist as sentinel, Limn Mag, 3 (2013)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Aristotle, T., Roberts, W.R., Bywater, I., Solmsen, F.: Rhetoric. Modern Library, New York (1954)Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Danblon, E.: Sur le paradoxe de la preuve en rhétorique, Communications, Le Seuil, 84 (2009)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Heller-Roazen, D.: The Inner Touch: Archaeology of a Sensation. MIT Press, Cambridge (2007)Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Abensour, M.: L’utopie de Thomas More à Walter Benjamin. Sens & Tonka (2000)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Zagarella, R.M. Sensi e senso comune. La sinestesia come struttura basilare del consenso, E/C, serie speciale 17, 203–207 (2013)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Céline Pieters
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Emmanuelle Danblon
    • 1
  • Jean-Paul Laumond
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Université libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.INSA ToulouseToulouseFrance
  3. 3.LAAS-CNRS ToulouseToulouseFrance

Personalised recommendations