, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 7-29
Date: 30 Dec 2011

Artifact Dualism, Materiality, and the Hard Problem of Ontology: Some Critical Remarks on the Dual Nature of Technical Artifacts Program

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Abstract

This paper critically examines the forays into metaphysics of The Dual Nature of Technical Artifacts Program (henceforth, DNP). I argue that the work of DNP is a valuable contribution to the epistemology of certain aspects of artifact design and use, but that it fails to advance a persuasive metaphysic. A central problem is that DNP approaches ontology from within a functionalist framework that is mainly concerned with ascriptions and justified beliefs. Thus, the materiality of artifacts emerges only as the external conditions of realizability of function ascription. The work of DNP has a strong programmatic aspect and much of its foray into metaphysics is tentative, so the intent of my argument is partly synthetic: to sum up these issues as they are presented in the literature and highlight some recognized problems. But I also go beyond that, suggesting that these problems are foundational, arising from the very way in which DNP poses the question of artifact metaphysics. Although it sets out to incorporate objective aspects of technology, DNP places a strong focus on the intentional side of the purported matter-mind duality, bracketing off materiality in an irretrievable manner. Thus, some of the advantages of dualism are lost. I claim that DNP is dualistic, not merely based on “duality”, but that its version of dualism does not appropriately account for the material “nature” of artifacts. The paper ends by suggesting some correctives and alternatives to Dual Nature theory.