is a philosophy discussion group. We meet on the 3rd Tuesday of every month
from 7.30 to 9.30pm
in the The Bull
in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics
. There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!
Philosophy of Engineering
We live in a fabricated world. Wherever human beings are found on the planet, technology in some form is used to transform that patch of ground. Thus, the Yorkshire Dales is a human fabrication despite its popularity as an unspoilt area of natural beauty. Perhaps a more informative description of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority would be as landscape engineers. But problems of definition emerge. Is technology the same as engineering? Does industry equate to engineering. And does engineering as an activity only make sense in the production of goods (possibly services?) for trading in markets? Is a factory full of engineers?
It is a commonplace that engineering as a source of both products and employment is in decline in the UK. However, we are surrounded by technology to the extent that the way we live depends on systems that have artefacts of all types at their base.
Does the loss of engineering employment provide an indicator of a maturing economy that has moved on or does the fact that 'Made in the UK' is rarely seen have implications for other aspects of our lives including a sense of ourselves as active agents in the world?
Text of the talk given at the meeting
The text of the talk presented by Maurice Sanders at the Stoa in November 2011:
- Without engineering we're not going to make it
- The Wisdom of Engineers
- A short and to-the-point introduction from The Philosophers Magazine . Read this if you read nothing else.
“If philosophers were to look more closely at the nature of practical knowledge about the world and practical engagement in it, many of the abstract questions and doubts that philosophers ponder become harder to entertain. It is very difficult to be a sceptic about the existence of the external world when you are working with it and changing it.”
- Philosophy in the making
- "[S]cience aims to build theories that are true, while engineering aims to make things that work. The disciplines have different aims models or theories for science, artefacts or processes for engineers. The reasons for pursuing these results also differ. Science aims to understand the world, whereas engineering aims to change it.
- Engineering and truth
- “[Y]ou can’t do engineering without generating propositions, for example in specifying a design, but the ultimate output is an artefact, not a statement. It is something physical and manufactured.”
- Engineering thinking and rhetoric
- “In making decisions
the engineer draws on similar previous problems and solutions. Analogical reasoning is thus at the heart of engineering thinking.”
- Philosophy and engineering
- “Structural engineering is the art of modeling materials we do not wholly understand into shapes we cannot precisely analyze, so as to withstand forces we cannot properly assess, in such a way that the public at large has no reason to suspect the extent of our ignorance.”
- Plato and the Internet
- The social function of engineering
- Why philosophy? Why now?
- Teaching philosophy to engineering students
- Systems engineering and engineering design
- Engineering as synthesis doing right things and doing things right
- Engineering and Philosophy
- Not made in England: The lost art of manufacturing
- Engineering is a triumph of the human spirit. So what happens when a nation loses the ability to manufacture the products it consumes? Cultural illiteracy, argues Stephen Bayley (Independent, May 2011)
- What is engineering?
- A cartoon introduction.
- Philosophy of engineering
- Wikipedia article
- Wittgenstein: Philosophical Engineer
- Wittgenstein’s formal training as an engineer seems to have significantly affected his philosophical style in particular giving him a methodical approach to problems of philosophy. In his teenage years, Wittgenstein committed to memory a passage from Hertz’s discussion of force: “When these painful contradictions are removed, the question as to the nature of force will not have been answered; but our minds, no longer vexed, will cease to ask illegitimate questions.” This passage significantly influenced Wittgenstein’s onception of the solution to philosophical problems. Slightly of-topic but interesting all the same.
- Twenty-two podcasts of lectures on engineering ethics
Interesting websites on the topic
- A Philosophy of Engineering blog
- “At its heart, engineering is about production. Engineers take materials from the world about them and reshape them for the betterment of mankind. This requires a conscious effort and the application of logical thought to satisfy a perceived need.”
Books on philosophy of engineering and technology
- Engineering Philosophy by Louis Bucciarelli
- Philosophy and Engineering: An Emerging Agenda by Ibo van de Poel and David Goldberg (Editors)
- Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Sciences by Dov M. Gabbay, Anthonie W.M. Meijers, John Woods, Paul Thagard (Editors)
- Thinking Through Technology: The Path Between Engineering and Philosophy by Carl Mitcham