Edited by Nurbay Irmak (Bogazici University)
About this topic

One can divide the debates over the ontology of artifacts into two different questions: the existential question and the question about the nature of artifacts. The existential question is simply the question whether there are artifacts, or whether artifacts are among the constituents of reality. The following questions on the nature of artifacts are important to settle the existential question. Are artifacts mind-independent entities, and if not, does that make them less ‘real’ than natural kinds? Do artifacts have essential properties like their intended functions or the material that they are made out of? The answers to these questions are also significant for our theory of reference for artifactual kind terms. 

Key works For negative answers to the existential question on the grounds of parsimony, causal adequacy, and other metaphysical principles/virtues see van Inwagen 1990Merricks 2001, and Sider 2001. Wiggins 2001, Baker 2007, Thomasson 2007, Elder 2004 and more recently Korman 2010 provide a very different kind of defenses for the existence of artifacts. For a discussion on the theory of reference for artifactual kind terms see Kornblith 1980, Schwartz 1977 and Thomasson 2003.
Introductions Hilpinen 2011 provides a very nice introduction to the philosophical problems surrounding artifacts, including ontological questions mentioned above. See also Korman 2011, though the scope of his article is wider than artifacts. Margolis & Laurence 2007 is a good collection for different theories of artifacts. 
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184 found
1 — 50 / 184
  1. added 2018-12-09
    On the Individuation of Words.James Miller - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-10.
    The idea that two words can be instances of the same word is a central intuition in our conception of language. This fact underlies many of the claims that we make about how we communicate, and how we understand each other. Given this, irrespective of what we think words are, it is common to think that any putative ontology of words, must be able to explain this feature of language. That is, we need to provide criteria of identity for word-types (...)
  2. added 2018-11-18
    Why Can’T I Change Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony?David Friedell - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-20.
    Musical works change. Bruckner revised his Eighth Symphony. Ella Fitzgerald and many other artists have made it acceptable to sing the jazz standard “All the Things You Are” without its original verse. If we accept that musical works genuinely change in these ways, a puzzle arises: why can’t I change Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony? More generally, why are some individuals in a privileged position when it comes to changing musical works and other artifacts, such as novels, films, and games? I give (...)
  3. added 2018-10-15
    In Defense of Things: Archaeology and the Ontology of Objects.Bjørnar Olsen - 2013 - Altamira Press.
    This important work of archaeological theory challenges us to reconsider our ideas about the nature of things, past and present, arguing that objects themselves possess a dynamic presence that we must take into account if we are to understand the world we and they inhabit.
  4. added 2018-07-14
    Saving the Ship.John Biro - 2017 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 13 (2):43-54.
    In defending the startling claim that that there are no artifacts, indeed, no inanimate material objects of the familiar sort, Peter van Inwagen has argued that truths about such putative objects can be paraphrased as truths that do not make essential reference to them and that we should endorse only the ontological commitments of the paraphrase. In this note I argue that the paraphrases van Inwagen recommends cannot meet his condition. Read one way, they lose us some truths. Read another, (...)
  5. added 2018-07-04
    Form, Matter, Substance.Kathrin Koslicki - 2018 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
    Kathrin Koslicki presents a contemporary defence of the Aristotelian doctrine of hylomorphism, according to which there is more to an object than its material parts. She argues that in addition, each object also contains an organizational principle, a form, which accounts for its structure, identity, and unity.
  6. added 2018-06-01
    Necessity of Origins and Multi-Origin Art.Joshua Spencer & Chris Tillman - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy:1-14.
    The Necessity of Origins is the thesis that, necessarily, if a material object wholly originates from some particular material, then it could not have wholly originated from any significantly non-overlapping material. Several philosophers have argued for this thesis using as a premise a principle that we call ‘Single Origin Necessity’. However, we argue that Single Origin Necessity is false. So any arguments for The Necessity of Origins that rely on Single Origin Necessity are unsound. We also argue that the Necessity (...)
  7. added 2018-05-31
    Nanotechnology and Nature: On Two Criteria for Understanding Their Relationship.Gregor Schiemann - 2005 - Hyle 11 (1):77 - 96.
    Two criteria are proposed for characterizing the diverse and not yet perspicuous relations between nanotechnology and nature. They assume a concept of nature as that which is not made by human action. One of the criteria endorses a distinction between natural and artificial objects in nanotechnology; the other allows for a discussion of the potential nanotechnological modification of nature. Insofar as current trends may be taken as indicative of future development, nanotechnology might increasingly use the model of nature as a (...)
  8. added 2018-05-13
    An Ontology of Words.Nurbay Irmak - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-20.
    Words are indispensable linguistic tools for beings like us. However, there is not much philosophical work done about what words really are. In this paper, I develop a new ontology for words. I argue that words are abstract artifacts that are created to fulfill various kinds of purposes, and words are abstract in the sense that they are not located in space but they have a beginning and may have an end in time given that certain conditions are met. What (...)
  9. added 2018-04-18
    Object Constructivism and Unconstructed Objects.Justin Remhof - 2014 - Southwest Philosophy Review 30 (1):177-185.
    The paper responds to a common charge against constructivism about objects, the view that all objects are essentially socially constructed. The objection is that constructivism is false because there must exist unconstructed objects for there to be constructed objects. I contend that the worry is unsound because whatever exists fully independently of our activities cannot be an object.
  10. added 2018-04-11
    Hypertext. Eine Schrift für vernetzte, dynamische Schreibmaschinen (1965).Christian Vater - 2017 - In Christian Vater, Ludger Lieb, Christian Witschel & Michaela Böttner (eds.), 5300 Jahre Schrift. Heidelberg: Wunderhorn. pp. 166-169.
  11. added 2018-02-20
    Handbook of Mereology.Hans Burkhardt, Johanna Seibt, Guido Imaguire & Stamatios Gerogiorgakis (eds.) - 2017 - Munich: Philosophia.
    The present volume is the first comprehensive reference work for research on part-whole relations. The Handbook of Mereology offers a wide scope, inclusive presentation of contemporary research on part-whole relations that draws out systematic, historical, and interdisciplinary trajectories, shows the subject’s fertility, and inspires future explorations. In particular, we want to impress that mereology is much more than the study of axiomatised systems. The relationship between part and whole is a basic schema of cognitive organisation that operates not only at (...)
  12. added 2018-02-18
    An Ontology of Technology.Clive Lawson - 2008 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 12 (1):48-64.
    Ontology tends to be held in deep suspicion by many currently engaged in the study of technology. The aim of this paper is to suggest an ontology of technology that will be both acceptable to ontology’s critics and useful for those engaged with technology. By drawing upon recent developments in social ontology and extending these into the technological realm it is possible to sustain a conception of technology that is not only irreducibly social but able to give due weight to (...)
  13. added 2018-01-18
    Embodied Semiotic Artefacts: On the Role of the Skin as a Semiotic Niche.Breno Bitarello & João Queiroz - 2014 - Technoetic Arts 12 (1):75-90.
    The skin can be described as a niche structured by semiotic artefacts (tattoos) that work as symbolic–indexical devices (dicisigns). New biocompatible technologies responsive to organic and environmental variations change the role of the skin as a semiotic niche. New devices are transforming the skin into a niche of interactive interfaces. In this article we introduce a variety of techno-scientific artefacts, which are readily available, and their main characteristics. We are interested in the recent proliferation of devices based on biotechnologies that (...)
  14. added 2017-12-03
    Artefacts as Mere Illustrations of a Worldview.Terence Rajivan Edward - 2017 - Symposion. Theoretical and Applied Inquiries in Philosophy and Social Sciences 4 (2):241-244.
    This paper responds to an argument against a kind of anthropology. According to the argument, if the aim of anthropology is to describe the different worldviews of different groups, then anthropologists should only refer to material artefacts in order to illustrate a worldview; but the interest of artefacts to anthropology goes beyond mere illustration. This argument has been endorsed by key members of the ontological movement in anthropology, who found at least one of its premises in Marilyn Strathern’s writing.
  15. added 2017-10-26
    The Machine Speaks Falsely.Allan Franklin - 2010 - Spontaneous Generations 4 (1):71-84.
    How can one determine if an experimental apparatus is giving an incorrect result, if it is speaking falsely? An interesting example of this occurred in the experimental investigation, in the early twentieth century, of the energy spectrum of electrons emitted in β decay. Meitner and her collaborators (1911), using photographic detection, found that all the electrons emitted by a single radioactive element were monoenergetic. Chadwick (1914), on the other hand, using either an ionization chamber or a Geiger counter, found a (...)
  16. added 2017-10-06
    Cellular Dimensions and Cell Dynamics, or the Difficulty Over Capturing Time and Space in the Era of Electron Microscopy.Ariane Dröscher - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C 42 (4):395-402.
    The introduction of electron microscopy profoundly altered biomedical research, providing a tool for a more detailed but at the same time a spatially and temporally more restricted visual analysis. Examining the case study of Golgi apparatus research in the 1950s and 1960s, it will be shown how microscopists handled these challenges, and how these confrontations modified the general concept of cellular organization. This will also shed light on the artifact debate and on the question of scientific realism in the field (...)
  17. added 2017-09-25
    On the Ontology of the Sacred (and the Profane).Raymond Aaron Younis - forthcoming - New York: Rowman & Littlefield.
  18. added 2017-08-11
    Folk Teleology Drives Persistence Judgments.David Rose, Jonathan Schaffer & Kevin Tobia - forthcoming - Synthese:1-19.
    Two separate research programs have revealed two different factors that feature in our judgments of whether some entity persists. One program—inspired by Knobe—has found that normative considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when the changes it undergoes lead to improvements. The other program—inspired by Kelemen—has found that teleological considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when it preserves its purpose. Our goal (...)
  19. added 2017-06-13
    Contrast and Constitution.Peter van Elswyk - 2018 - Philosophical Quarterly 68 (270):158-174.
    The pluralist about material constitution maintains that a lump of clay is not identical with the statue it constitutes. Although pluralism strikes many as extravagant by requiring distinct things to coincide, it can be defended with a simple argument. The monist is less well off. Typically, she has to argue indirectly for her view by finding problems with the pluralist's extravagance. This paper offers a direct argument for monism that illustrates how monism about material constitution is rooted in commonsense as (...)
  20. added 2017-04-29
    Cultural Artefacts and Neglect of the Materials From Which They Are Made.Terence Rajivan Edward - 2017 - Abstracta 10:35-44.
    This paper discusses an explanation, offered by Tim Ingold, for why social and cultural anthropologists have so far paid little attention to the materials from which artefacts are composed. The explanation is that these anthropologists accept a certain argument. According to the argument, what an anthropologist should focus on when examining an artefact is the quality that makes it part of a culture, and this is not the materials from which the artefact is composed. I show that Ingold has not (...)
  21. added 2017-04-06
    Heidegger's Metaphysics of Material Beings.Kris McDaniel - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (2):332-357.
    Heidegger distinguishes between things that are present-at-hand and things that are ready-to-hand. I argue that, in Heidegger, this distinction is between two sets of entities rather than between two ways of considering one and the same set of entities. I argue that Heidegger ascribes distinct temporal, essential, and phenomenological properties to these two different kinds of entities.
  22. added 2017-02-14
    The Dysfunctionality of Everyday Things:-On Stress, Design and Artefacts.Sara Ilstedt Hjelm - forthcoming - Techne:: Design Wisdom.
  23. added 2017-02-13
    Wearable Artefacts as Research Vehicles.Laura Beloff - 2010 - Technoetic Arts 8 (1):47-53.
  24. added 2017-02-08
    Contemporary Engineering and the Metaphysics of Artefacts.Pieter E. Vermaas - 2009 - The Monist 92 (3):403-419.
  25. added 2017-02-08
    Titles, Uses and Instructions of Use: The Status of Intention in Art and Artefacts.Philippe Huneman - 2007 - Facta Philosophica 9 (1):3-21.
  26. added 2017-01-30
    A Possible Artifact in Electroencephalography.John L. Kennedy - 1959 - Psychological Review 66 (6):347-352.
  27. added 2017-01-27
    Lebewesen Verstehen.Mathias Gutmann - 2014 - Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 62 (1):90-107.
    Artefacts are made whereas living entities generate themselves: the extent to which this distinction seems obvious is the extent to which it tends to transform the relation between living entities on the one hand and artefacts on the other into a contradiction, a tendency which in consequence conceals the intricate dialectics between φύσις and τέχνη.The aim of this paper is to develop the dialectical relations between life - in terms of living entities - and artefacts from a constructivist point of (...)
  28. added 2017-01-25
    Insightful Thinking: Cognitive Dynamics and Material Artifacts.Evridiki Fioratou & Stephen J. Cowley - 2009 - Pragmatics and Cognition 17 (3):549-572.
    We trace how cognition arises beyond the skin. Experimental work on insight problem solving is used to examine how external artifacts can be used to reach the goal of assembling a `cheap necklace'. Instead of asking how insight occurs `in the head', our participants in Experiment 1 can either draw solution attempts or manipulate real objects . Even though performance with real chain links is significantly more successful than on paper, access to objects does not make this insight problem simple: (...)
  29. added 2017-01-23
    Artifacts and Persons.Alfredo Lucero-Montano - 2003 - Philosophy Pathways 63.
  30. added 2017-01-23
    On Semiotics Artefacts.Barbara L. Ginsburg - 1986 - Semiotics:191-204.
  31. added 2017-01-22
    Art, Artifacts, and Regarded Intentions.Randall R. Dipert - 1986 - American Philosophical Quarterly 23 (4):401 - 408.
  32. added 2017-01-22
    Artifacts, Natural Objects, and Works of Art.Daniel Devereux - 1977 - Analysis 37 (3):134 - 136.
  33. added 2017-01-22
    Speech and Writing as Artifacts.Hiram Caton - 1969 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 2 (1):19 - 36.
  34. added 2017-01-22
    Art, Artifacts, and Intentions.Marcia M. Eaton - 1969 - American Philosophical Quarterly 6 (2):165 - 169.
  35. added 2017-01-20
    Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representation • by Eric Margolis and Stephen Laurence.David Davies - 2009 - Analysis 69 (1):171-172.
    This collection of 16 original articles by prominent theorists from a variety of disciplines provides an excellent insight into current thinking about artifacts. The four sections address issues concerning the metaphysics of artifacts, the nature and cognitive development of artifact concepts, and the place of artifacts in evolutionary history. The most overtly philosophical contributions are in the first two sections. Metaphysical issues addressed include the ‘mind-dependence’ of artifacts and the bearing of this on their ‘real’ existence, and the distinction between (...)
  36. added 2017-01-19
    Trusting and Punishing Artifacts.Eduoard Machery & Lévan Sardjevéladzé - manuscript
  37. added 2017-01-19
    Artifacts and Human Concepts.Amie Thomasson - 2007 - In Eric Margolis & Stephen Laurence (eds.), Creations of the Mind: Theories of Artifacts and Their Representaion. Oxford University Press. pp. 52--73.
  38. added 2017-01-19
    Edison, Science and Artefacts.Ian Wills - unknown
    This paper contrasts the approach Thomas Edison used when dealing with his claim to have discovered a new force of nature, etheric force, to the approach he used to create successful inventions. It argues that he failed in this adventure into scientific theory making because an erroneous view of science led him to abandon techniques that made him America's most successful inventor. From this I develop an argument for viewing experimental science as an artefact creation process, like inventing, in which (...)
  39. added 2017-01-19
    Natural Kinds and Human Artifacts.Daniel A. Putman - 1982 - Mind 91 (363):418-419.
  40. added 2017-01-19
    Defining Art and Artifacts.Jeffrey Wieand - 1980 - Philosophical Studies 38 (4):385 - 389.
  41. added 2017-01-19
    Putnam on Artifacts.Stephen P. Schwartz - 1978 - Philosophical Review 87 (4):566-574.
  42. added 2017-01-18
    Aristotle on Artifacts: A Metaphysical Puzzle.M. Losonsky - 2001 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (3):445.
    Book Information Aristotle on Artifacts: A Metaphysical Puzzle. By Errol G. Katayama. State University of New York Press. Albany. 1999. Pp. xiii + 202. Paperback.
  43. added 2017-01-18
    Subliminally Activated Symbiotic Fantasies: Facts and Artifacts.R. A. Hardaway - 1990 - Psychological Bulletin 107:177-95.
  44. added 2017-01-18
    The Work of Art as Artifact.Gary Iseminger - 1973 - British Journal of Aesthetics 13 (1):3-16.
  45. added 2017-01-18
    Subception: Fact or Artifact?C. W. Eriksen - 1956 - Psychological Review 63 (1):74-80.
  46. added 2017-01-17
    It’s All in Your Head: A Solution to the Problem of Object Coincidence.Renz Graham - 2016 - Philosophia 44 (4):1387-1407.
    It is uncontroversial that artifacts like statues and tables are mind-dependent. What is controversial is whether and how this mind-dependence has implications for the ontology of artifacts. I argue the mind-dependence of artifacts entails that there are no artifacts or artifact joints in the extra-mental world. In support of this claim, I argue that artifacts and artifact joints lack any extra-mental grounding, and so ought not to have a spot in a realist ontology. I conclude that the most plausible story (...)
  47. added 2017-01-17
    Theories as Logically Qualified Artefacts.M. D. Stafleu - 1982 - Philosophia Reformata 47 (1):20-40.
  48. added 2017-01-16
    The Metaphysics of Cognitive Artefacts.Richard Heersmink - unknown
    This article looks at some of the metaphysical properties of cognitive artefacts. It first identifies and demarcates the target domain by conceptualizing this class of artefacts as a functional kind. Building on the work of Beth Preston, a pluralist notion of functional kind is developed, one that includes artefacts with proper functions and system functions. Those with proper functions have a history of cultural selection, whereas those with system functions are improvised uses of initially non-cognitive artefacts. Having identified the target (...)
  49. added 2017-01-16
    Artefactual Intelligence: The Development and Use of Cognitively Congenial Artefacts.David de Léon - unknown
    How can tools help structure tasks to make them cognitively easier to perform? How do artefacts, and our strategies for using them, develop over time in cognitively beneficial ways? These are two of the main questions that are explored in the five papers collected in this thesis. The first paper details an ethnographic study conducted on people cooking in their homes. The study is a first pass over the issues and focuses, in particular, on how people handle timing constraints, use (...)
  50. added 2017-01-16
    Artifacts in Criterion-Reference Learning Curves.Keith J. Hayes & A. C. Pereboom - 1959 - Psychological Review 66 (1):23-26.
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