The Entrepreneurial Engineer

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Philosophy of engineering not a contradiction in terms

I've been on a philosophy reading/learning jag for a number of months, and one of the questions I've had is why isn't there a well defined literature on the philosophy of engineering. Science has a longstanding literature on the philosophy of science. Other fields of practice, for example law and medicine seem more philosophically inclined. Engineering (and business for that matter) seem less inclined toward philosophical reflection and speculation.

On the one hand, this dearth of philosophizing can be attributed to the practical nature of the engineering enterprise. Engineers are busy doing, and reflection on that activity detracts from getting the job done, but this argument does not answer why engineering scholars in the academy and elsewhere don't spend more time reflecting on the place of engineering in the world, the ontology and epistomology of engineering artifacts and knowledge, engineering method, ethics, and other philosophical topics.

Although there is a growing community of engineering scholars concerned with ethics, there appears to be a substantial philosophical hole in the engineering literature. Some of the chapters of The Entrepreneurial Engineer were essentially philosophical in nature, and an interesting course of action would be to take those loose threads and tie them together into a more integrated philosophy of engineering. Stay tuned for further posts along these lines.


  • Some of us were thinking the same thing and started a discussion forum.

    Results are on our website:

    Have a look

    By Blogger Andrew Fox, at 6:30 AM  

  • I was gathering material for my lecture notes in the philosophy of computer science and I found that philosophy of engineering is indeed a neglected topic. Then I found Carl Mitcham's book "Thinking through technology: The Path Between Engineering and Philosophy" and liked it. The philosophy of engineering and technology is a bit scattered topic but it is there.

    By Blogger Matti, at 10:41 AM  

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