Evidence in Engineering

  • Eric Kerr
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 26)


Engineers gather, interpret, use, share, compare, debate, and study evidence every day but there is little theoretical reflection among philosophers of engineering on what evidence is when compared to the sustained conversations that take place in the philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of archaeology, philosophy of law, and epistemology. This chapter presents a possible diagnosis: to the extent that it is considered at all, evidence is assumed by philosophers of engineering to be an uninteresting facsimile of scientific evidence. This conclusion, however, would mark evidence out as an exceptional concept that can be easily transposed from science to engineering while, for other concepts such as knowledge, method, and ontological categories, philosophers of engineering and technology have shown that this is not possible. Further, it would suggest that evidence in engineering is particularly exceptional since other disciplines have developed various accounts of evidence that are distinct from one another. I argue that philosophers and engineers should look at what evidence and evidence-gathering means in the context of engineering, and I give a possible way of articulating the difference between evidence in engineering and existing accounts of scientific evidence. Finally, I argue that this examination may give us reason to reassess existing accounts of scientific evidence.


Evidence Philosophy of evidence Philosophy of engineering Philosophy of technology Extended cognition Extended mind 



The project benefited from the financial support of a Singapore Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund Tier 2 grant entitled ‘Governing Compound Disasters in Urbanising Asia’ (MOE2014-T2-1-017). I am very grateful for their support. I would also like to thank Axel Gelfert, Peter Kroes, Diane Michelfelder, Byron Newberry, and Qin Zhu for their insightful feedback on earlier versions of this paper including a version of this paper which was presented at the Forum on Philosophy, Engineering, and Technology, Virginia Tech.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science, Technology, and Society ClusterAsia Research InstituteSingaporeSingapore

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