Why we need a philosophy of engineering: A work in progress

TitleWhy we need a philosophy of engineering: A work in progress
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2004
AuthorsGoldman, S. L.
Secondary TitleInterdisciplinary science reviews

Engineering problem solving employs a contingency based form of reasoning that stands in sharp contrast to the necessity based model of rationality that has dominated Western philosophy since Plato and that underlies modern science. The concept ’necessity’ is cognate with the concepts ’certainty’, ’universality’, ’abstractness’ and ’theory’. Engineering by contrast is characterised by wilfulness, particularity, probability, concreteness and practice. The identification of rationality with necessity has impoverished our ability to apply reason effectively to action. This article locates the contingency based reasoning of engineering in a philosophical tradition extending from pre-Socratic philosophers to American pragmatism, and suggests how a contingency based philosophy of engineering might enable more effective technological action.