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Proper functions and technical artefact kinds

  • Peter Kroes
Chapter
  • 930 Downloads
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 6)

Abstract

In the final sections of this chapter I will present a theory of technical functions and of technical artefact kinds that capture and further clarify the hybrid, dual nature of technical artefacts. Before I can do so, however, some further preliminary steps still have to be made. First we have to deal with the issue of malfunctioning of technical artefacts. Malfunction statements are just one of the various kinds of normative statements we make with regard to technical artefacts. Theories of technical functions will have to able to account for these normative aspects of technical artefacts, including the malfunction aspect. That is the reason I start off with an analysis of the nature of normativity related to functions and technical artefacts (section 4.1). Another issue that also stands in need of clarification is the distinction between proper and accidental functions and how this distinction is related to being an instance of a technical kind. I point out two reasons why the assumption, we made in section 2.5.1, that (proper) functions as defined by theories of technical functions determine technical kinds has to be given up. We have already come across the first one: it leads to the problem that a malfunctioning TV-set is not a TV-set at all. The second reason only applies to reproduction theories of technical functions that make use of the type-token distinction; for this kind of theories the assumption leads to a problem of circularity (section 4.2). Our final preliminary step concerns the notion of technical kinds. I briefly discuss Thomasson’s theory of artefact kinds which I consider to be a promising starting point for developing a theory of technical artefact kinds (section 4.3). One of the advantages of this theory is that it offers the opportunity to reinterpret and qualify the assumption about the relation between functions and being an instance of a technical kind. To this end, I introduce a distinction that plays a pivotal role in the theories of functions and technical artefact kinds to be presented, namely the one between use-proper functions and kind-proper functions (section 4.4). All in all, this leaves us with tree different kinds of functions of technical artefacts (use-accidental, use-proper and kind-proper functions) with regard to which various kinds of normative statements can be made (section 4.5). After drawing up a list of adequacy conditions for theories of technical functions and of technical artefact kinds (section 4.6), I present a theory of technical functions combined with a theory of technical artefacts kinds that, in my opinion, takes due account of and explicates the dual nature of technical artefacts (section 4.7).

Keywords

Technical Function Natural Kind Proper Function Function Assignment Technical Artefact 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Kroes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands

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