Journal Article

Engineering and the dual nature of technical artefacts

Peter Kroes

in Cambridge Journal of Economics

Published on behalf of Cambridge Political Economy Society

Volume 34, issue 1, pages 51-62
Published in print January 2010 | ISSN: 0309-166X
Published online April 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3545 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cje/bep019
Engineering and the dual nature of technical artefacts

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An analysis of the descriptions of technical artefacts by engineers shows that they use structural and functional concepts in their descriptions. On the basis of this I argue that engineers use a structure-function conception of technical artefacts: technical artefacts are physical structures with functional properties. Taking into account the different nature of structural (physical) and functional properties, I put forward the claim that technical artefacts have a dual nature. This dual nature is interpreted in an epistemological and an ontological sense. In order to explicate the role of human intentions in the ontology of technical artefacts the paper closes with a brief examination of the relation between this dual nature conception of technical artefacts and Thomasson's theory of the metaphysical status of artefact kinds as mind-dependent entities.

Keywords: Technical artefact; Technical function; Physical structure; Intentionality; Dual nature; Ontology of technical artefacts; B40; A12

Journal Article.  6330 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: General Economics ; Economic Methodology

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