Artefact Kinds pp 167-190 | Cite as

On What Is Made: Instruments, Products and Natural Kinds of Artefacts

Chapter
Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI, volume 365)

Abstract

Debates in the metaphysics of artefacts typically start from the observation that technical artefacts result from intentional production and then focus immediately on the issue whether this ‘mind-dependence’ undermines claims that artefacts exist or come in natural or real kinds. We aim to add sophistication to debates on the latter issue by approaching it through an analysis of contemporary engineering and in continuity with discussions in the metaphysics of science. We first reconstruct which productive activities are involved in contemporary artefact production. From this reconstruction, we derive two general classification systems for artefacts – which we call the ‘instrument’ and ‘product’ systems. Then, we adopt from discussions in the metaphysics of science three conditions for classifications to correspond to natural kinds. For each of these three conditions, we discuss which conception or aspect of mind-independence it embodies and to what extent our two classification systems meet it. We conclude that the instrument system is mind-dependent in all ways and the product system only in some. Finally, we identify two options for finding natural classifications of artefacts and develop the second as one that establishes continuity between the metaphysics of science and engineering. This second option leads to a classification system that can correspond to natural kinds and that incorporates the product classes of technical artefacts extensionally.

Keywords

Action-theoretical analysis of engineering Artefact classification Artefact kinds Artefacts and mind-dependence Making and metaphysics 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Our thanks go to Maarten Franssen, Peter Kroes and Thomas Reydon for their comments on an earlier draft of this chapter. Research by Wybo Houkes and research by Pieter Vermaas were supported by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).

References

  1. Baker, L. R. (2004). The ontology of artefacts. Philosophical Explorations, 7, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baker, L. R. (2007). The metaphysics of everyday life: An essay in practical realism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Basalla, G. (1988). The evolution of technology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bird, A., & Tobin, E. (2008). Natural kinds. In Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/natural-kinds. Accessed May 2012.
  5. Brown, J. K. (2000). Design plans, working drawings, national styles: Engineering practice in Great Britain and the United States, 1775–1945. Technology and Culture, 41, 195–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brown, D. C., & Blessing, L. (2005, September 24–28). The relationship between function and affordance. In Proceedings of the ASME 2005 IDETC/CIE conference, Long Beach, Paper no: DECT2005-85017.Google Scholar
  7. Chang, T. C. (1990). Expert process planning for manufacturing. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  8. Cross, N. (2006). Designerly ways of knowing. London: Springer.Google Scholar
  9. De Sousa, R. (1984). The natural shiftiness of natural kinds. Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 14, 561–580.Google Scholar
  10. Ellis, B. (2001). Scientific essentialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  11. FMI. (2011). Food marketing institute supermarket facts 2010. http://www.fmi.org/research-resources/supermarket-facts. Accessed January 2013.
  12. Hacking, I. (1991). A tradition of natural kinds. Philosophical Studies, 61, 109–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hilpinen, R. (1992). Artifacts and works of art. Theoria, 58, 58–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hilpinen, R. (1993). Authors and artifacts. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 93, 155–178.Google Scholar
  15. Houkes, W., & Vermaas, P. E. (2009). Contemporary engineering and the metaphysics of artefacts: Beyond the artisan model. The Monist, 92, 403–419.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Houkes, W., & Vermaas, P. E. (2010). Technical functions: On the use and design of artefacts. Dordrecht: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hubka, V., & Eder, W. E. (1988). Theory of technical systems. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kornblith, H. (2007). How to refer to artifacts. In E. Margolis & S. Laurence (Eds.), Creations of the mind: Theories of artifacts and their representation (pp. 138–149). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Nestle, M. (2002). Food politics. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  20. Pahl, G., Beitz, W., Feldhusen, J., & Grote, K. (2007). Engineering design. A systematic approach (3rd ed.). London: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Roozenburg, N. F. M., & Eekels, J. (1995). Product design: Fundamentals and methods. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  22. Thomasson, A. M. (2003). Realism and human kinds. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 67, 580–609.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Thomasson, A. M. (2007a). Artifacts and human concepts. In E. Margolis & S. Laurence (Eds.), Creations of the mind: Theories of artifacts and their representation (pp. 52–73). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Thomasson, A. M. (2007b). Ordinary objects. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Thomasson, A. M. (2009). Artefacts in metaphysics. In A. W. M. Meijers (Ed.), Handbook of philosophy of science. Vol. 9: Philosophy of technology and engineering sciences (pp. 191–212). Amsterdam: Elsevier.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Van Inwagen, P. (1990). Material beings. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Vermaas, P. E. (2006). The physical connection: Engineering function ascriptions to technical artefacts and their components. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37, 62–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Vermaas, P. E., & Houkes, W. (2006). Technical functions: A drawbridge between the intentional and structural nature of technical artefacts. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37, 5–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Visser, W. (2006). The cognitive artifacts of designing. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  30. Williamson, T. (1994). Vagueness. London: Routledge.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Philosophy & EthicsEindhoven University of TechnologyEindhovenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Section of PhilosophyDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations