Engineering differences between natural, social, and artificial kinds

In Maarten Franssen, Peter Kroes, Pieter Vermaas & Thomas A. C. Reydon (eds.), Artefact Kinds: Ontology and the Human-made World. Synthese Library (2013)
My starting point is that discussions in philosophy about the ontology of technical artifacts ought to be informed by classificatory practices in engineering. Hence, the heuristic value of the natural-artificial distinction in engineering counts against arguments which favour abandoning the distinction in metaphysics. In this chapter, I present the philosophical equipment needed to analyse classificatory practices and then present a case study of engineering practice using these theoretical tools. More in particular, I make use of the Collectivist Account of Technical Artifacts (CAT) according to which there are different classificatory practices for natural, artificial, and social objects. I demonstrate that in the community studied, artificial kinds are marked by distinctive classificatory practices. The presence of these distinctive classificatory practices in engineering with regard to artificial kinds should inform discussions about the ontology of technical artifacts just as the distinctive classificatory practices in natural science inform discussions about natural kinds.
Keywords ontology  philosophy of engineering  collectivism  Martin Kusch  sociology of scientific knowledge
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