Philosophy and Engineering: An Emerging Agenda

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Ibo van de Poel, David E. Goldberg
Springer Science & Business Media, Mar 11, 2010 - Philosophy - 361 pages
Whereas science, technology, and medicine have all called forth dedicated philosophical investigations, a fourth major contributor to the technoscientific world in which we all live - that is, engineering - has been accorded almost none of the philosophical attention it deserves. This volume thus offers a first characterisation of this important new field, by some of the primary philosophers and ethicists interested in engineering and leading engineers interested in philosophical reflections. The volume deals with such questions as: What is engineering? In what respect does engineering differ from science? What ethical problems does engineering raise? By what ethical principles are engineers guided? How do engineers themselves conceive of their profession? What do they see as the main philosophical challenges confronting them in the 21st century? The authors respond to these and other questions from philosophical and engineering view points and so illustrate how together they can meet the challenges and realize the opportunities present in the necessary encounters between philosophy and engineering - encounters that are ever more important in an increasingly engineered world and its problematic futures.

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This book details a variety of claims which, together, do not appear consistent, but may provide methods for further study. Engineering applies science and produces technology. The effects on society can be ethically evaluated through cooperation of philosophers. The recognized set of philosophical problems is still being determined including epistemological, methodological, metaphysical and ontological. It may also address other existing philosophical problems. The book has contributions by thirty-two authors in three parts for twenty-eight papers.
Engineering as a discipline is historically distinct from architecture.A well-defined philosophy does not exist, though efforts date from the start of the 21st century having arisen independently in the East and West, and following, yet distinct from, the philosophies of science and technology. A pluralistic approach can be linguistic, phenomenological, post-modern, analytic, pragmatic, and Thomist. It is within the field of philosophy of technology. Science and engineering are often treated as simplified notions based on politics of funding rather than examination of what people actually do in particular. Generalization differs in engineering from natural sciences, including artifact type, function and structure, which combine causes and concepts. The models used to represent reality are idealized, tested, and compared to eachother. Sociotechnical system boundaries include the behaviors and relations of elements impacted by it. Integrity is uniquely complex for engineers, the profession and its education. The engineering priority of technical ingenuity over helping people needs to be rebalanced to avoid becoming lost in the labyrinth of technology. Engineering ethics needs a global foundation based on principles of public safety, human rights, environmental and animal preservation, engineering competence, scientifically founded judgment, openness and honesty. Research in engineering ethics has spread to Asia and Europe from North American origins. The scale extends through individual, group, company, profession and planet. Imagination of the engineering world is a way to deal with conditions of epistemic opacity. Responsibility for artifacts eventually transfer from engineer to user through knowledge of their workings. Ethics concerns the amount of harm from artifacts produced by solutions to engineering problems Ethicists have observed an actual design project where participants were characterized as actors in a network, and intermediate results were presented which affected the outcome of the project. This is helpful in mapping risks, responsibilities and ethical issues. Future comparisons may be made between engineering and medical science. Role-playing games can be used to teach ethics if they are felt and articulated, have a lengthy process, use case studies, and realistically up-to-date. The Norms Evolving in Response to Dilemmas (NERD) platform was used for experimentation in the ethics of technology as a form of stress testing. There is a crisis of a creative era resulting in the philosophical interest similar to what Kuhn showed had occurred in science, and which leads to dialectics, data mining, and reliance upon either brute or social facts or institutional artifacts, it may be short-lived. Wittgenstein had engineering training and his philosophy was based on the realworld of things rather than ideology. Design methodologies include top-down, layered, platform-based or network-based and are related to human organizational structures and national cultural emphases. Computer science builds abstractions from bits, engineering configures solutions, and stigmergic design in nature is bottom up. The settings of engineering are ad hoc realworld or systematic hyperrealworld. Technology is ubiquitous; engineering is either denial or determinacy; Where survival of the human species is the goal, all is heuristic; A quantitative measure of ethics is defined.
Issues concerning posthumanist theories would require other sources.


Setting the Stage
Part I Philosophy
Part II Ethics
Part III Reflection

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