The Engineering Knowledge Research Program

Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 31)


The engineering knowledge research program is part of a larger effort to articulate a philosophy of engineering and an engineering worldview. Engineering is not ‘merely’ applied science. Engineering knowledge requires a more comprehensive conceptual framework than scientific knowledge.

The paradigm shift from the limited scientific epistemology to the broader engineering epistemology involves a problem shift. The scientific inquirer seeks the ‘facts’ of ‘objective’ reality – out there. The participant engineer, embodied in reality, seeks ‘methods’ regarding how to work in the world to bring about a more desirable future.

The demonstration of complementarity and uncertainty in the new physics established the limits of the classical scientific concept of detached, observer-independent inquiry and knowledge. Quantum uncertainty entails that the inquirer is an active participant in the irreversible historical development of reality. Participant engineering inquiry and knowledge are concerned with ‘practical reason’. As Kant pointed out practical reason is about ‘how we should live’ – the defining question of morality. Participant engineering research and development is concerned with ‘the construction of the good.’

In the design of the modern k12 STEM curriculum it is crucial that developers recognize that the engineering representation of inquiry and knowledge requires a broader conceptual framework than is possible in the scientific representation. Efforts to integrate engineering into liberal arts and sciences colleges have stalled due to a failure to properly understanding of the relationship between engineering and science.

The scientific representation of inquiry isn’t self-referentially coherent within the deterministic scientific worldview. The engineering representation of embodied inquiry is self-referentially coherent within a progressively emerging reality.


Engineering knowledge Engineering philosophy Embodied inquiry Constructive emergence Moral intelligence 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Science, Engineering and Public PolicyPortland State UniversityPortlandUSA

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