Philosophy of Technology
On Artifacts
On artifacts


Artifacts are ubiquitous in the world we encounter.
Without artifacts there would be no recognizable human life.
[Baker 2007: 49]

The quote above, from the beginning of the chapter on Artifacts in her book The Metaphysics of Everyday Life of Lynne Rudder Baker raises the question how artifacts could come in such dominant position. There are different ways to search for answers. My main interest (at the moment) is in the design of artifacts, some other views are only covered short.

Developments of artifacts are often considered as results of the successes in science, but recent developments of philosophy of technology emphasize the role of technology and engineering. Without diminishing the role of science as the provider of basic knowledge, it seems fair to claim that it are in fact technology and related engineering sciences that have brought artifacts into our world.

The difference between science and technology was well formulated by Henryk Skolimowski:

In science we investigate the reality that is given; in technology we create the reality according to our designs. [Skolimowski 1966:374]

There is also a historical difference between science and technology. Science can be seen as developed out of philosophy, whereas technology has strong roots in crafts and workmanship.
Within the philosophical tradition philosophy of science developed as a special branch of epistemology. Only in the last decades it has been recognized that technology should be considered as an other special field in philosophy. (More than eighty percent of the references in Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences are from the last twenty years, most of these even from the last ten years)

The difference as formulated indicates that more than knowledge is needed to understand the designing of artifacts. In this paper elements of philosophy of action, practical reasoning and some additional elements will be included to account for the main issues in this field.

Within the philosophy of technology different perspectives can be distinguished: most common is what we could identify as the user's view. Then there is the outside view, which considers technology as a subject of analysis as such, in a metaphysical, historical, sociological, or ethical perspective. A third view considers the design process from an activity point of view, one could say, in contrast with the other two views, as a view from inside. In the course of time these different views will be addressed , but at this moment the focus is on the last one: the design view.
Philosophygarden        of Hans Tromp