A Philosophy of Technology

A Philosophy of Technology
From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems

Pieter Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Ibo van de Poel, Maarten Franssen, Wybo HoukesWybo Houkes
ISBN: 9781608455980 | PDF ISBN: 9781608455997
Copyright © 2011 | 134 Pages | Publication Date: 01/01/2011

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In A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems, technology is analysed from a series of different perspectives. The analysis starts by focussing on the most tangible products of technology, called technical artefacts, and then builds step-wise towards considering those artefacts within their context of use, and ultimately as embedded in encompassing sociotechnical systems that also include humans as operators and social rules like legislation. Philosophical characterisations are given of technical artefacts, their context of use and of sociotechnical systems. Analyses are presented of how technical artefacts are designed in engineering and what types of technological knowledge is involved in engineering. And the issue is considered how engineers and others can or cannot influence the development of technology. These characterisations are complemented by ethical analyses of the moral status of technical artefacts and the possibilities and impossibilities for engineers to influence this status when designing artefacts and the sociotechnical systems in which artefacts are embedded.

The running example in the book is aviation, where aeroplanes are examples of technical artefacts and the world aviation system is an example of a sociotechnical system. Issues related to the design of quiet aeroplane engines and the causes of aviation accidents are analysed for illustrating the moral status of designing, and the role of engineers therein.

Table of Contents

Technical Artefacts
Technical Designing
Ethics and Designing
Technological Knowledge
Sociotechnical Systems
The Role of Social Factors in Technological Development
Ethics and Unintended Consequences of Technology

About the Author(s)

Pieter Vermaas, Delft University of Technology
Pieter Vermaas studied theoretical physics at the University of Amsterdam and gained a doctorate from Utrecht University on the philosophy of quantum mechanics. Since 1998, he has been affiliated to the Department of Philosophy at Delft University of Technology where he is doing research into the principles of technology. His subjects of interest within that field are the analysis of the concept of technical function as used within engineering, and the description of designing as given by the various design methodologies.

Peter Kroes, Delft University of Technology
Peter Kroes studied technological physics at Eindhoven University of Technology and did a doctorate on the philosophical problems surrounding the concept of time in the field of physics at Radboud University Nijmegen. He holds the chair of philosophy and ethics at Delft University of Technology where he lectures on the philosophy of science and technology. His main fields of research are the nature of technical artefacts and their role in sociotechnical systems, and the philosophy of technical designing.

Ibo van de Poel, Delft University of Technology
Ibo van de Poel is associate professor in ethics and technology at Delft University of Technology. He studied philosophy of science, technology
and society at Twente University, where he did a PhD in science and technology studies. He teaches engineering ethics and does research into design and values, the moral acceptability of technological risks, responsibility in research and development networks, the ethics of new emerging technologies, and the notion of technology as a form of social experimentation.

Maarten Franssen, Delft University of Technology
Maarten Franssen has degrees in theoretical physics and history and obtained a doctorate in philosophy on issues in the foundations of the social sciences. He joined the Department of Philosophy at Delft University of Technology in 1996. His main areas of research are conceptions of normativity and rationality in general, the application of rational decision-making methods in scientific and technical research, and the formal description of artefacts and systems in technology.

Wybo HoukesWybo Houkes, Eindhoven University of Technology
Wybo Houkes is a senior lecturer in the Philosophy of Science and Technology Department at Eindhoven University of Technology. He studied theoretical physics in Amsterdam and philosophy in Leiden, where gained his doctorate on Kantianism in early 20th century philosophy. He is currently conducting research into the tension between universal Darwinism and more tailor-made approaches in evolutionary theories of technology, the role of agency in these theories, and into the nature of technological knowledge and the functions of technical artefacts.

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