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Critical rationalism and engineering: ontology

Abstract

Engineering is often said to be ‘scientific’, but the nature of knowledge in engineering is different to science. Engineering has a different ontological basis—its theories address different entities and are judged by different criteria. In this paper I use Popper’s three worlds ontological framework to propose a model of engineering theories, and provide an abstract logical view of engineering theories analogous to the deductive-nomological view of scientific theories. These models frame three key elements from definitions of engineering: requirements, designs of artefacts, and theories for reasoning about how artefacts will meet requirements. In a subsequent paper I use this ontological basis to explore methodological issues in the growth of engineering knowledge from the perspective of critical rationalism.

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Acknowledgments

NICTA is funded by the Australian Government through the Department of Communications and the Australian Research Council through the ICT Centre of Excellence Program.

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Correspondence to Mark Staples.

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Staples, M. Critical rationalism and engineering: ontology. Synthese 191, 2255–2279 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-014-0396-3

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Keywords

  • Engineering
  • Ontology
  • Critical rationalism