Foundations of Science 13 (2):127-142 (2008)

Mieke Boon
University of Twente
This paper is concerned with scientific reasoning in the engineering sciences. Engineering sciences aim at explaining, predicting and describing physical phenomena occurring in technological devices. The focus of this paper is on mathematical description. These mathematical descriptions are important to computer-aided engineering or design programs (CAE and CAD). The first part of this paper explains why a traditional view, according to which scientific laws explain and predict phenomena and processes, is problematic. In the second part, the reasons of these methodological difficulties are analyzed. Ludwig Prandtl’s method of integrating a theoretical and empirical approach is used as an example of good scientific practice. Based on this analysis, a distinction is made between different types of laws that play a role in constructing mathematical descriptions of phenomena. A central assumption in understanding research methodology is that, instead of scientific laws, knowledge of capacities and mechanisms are primary in the engineering sciences. Another important aspect in methodology of the engineering sciences is that in explaining a phenomenon or process spatial regions are distinguished in which distinct physical behaviour occur. The mechanisms in distinct spatial regions are represented in a so-called diagrammatic model. The construction of a mathematical description of the phenomenon or process is based on this diagrammatic model.
Keywords Engineering science  Diagrammatic models  Methodology  Prandtl  Mathematical modelling  Scientific practice  Experiments
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s10699-008-9122-2
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 63,133
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

How the Laws of Physics Lie.Nancy Cartwright - 1983 - Oxford University Press.

View all 7 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

How Science is Applied in Technology.Mieke Boon - 2006 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (1):27 – 47.
Two Styles of Reasoning in Scientific Practices: Experimental and Mathematical Traditions.Mieke Boon - 2011 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3):255 - 278.
Digital ‘Faces’ of Synthetic Biology.Kathrin Friedrich - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):217-224.
Insights in How Computer Science Can Be a Science.Robert W. P. Luk - 2020 - Science and Philosophy 8 (2):17-46.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Technikwissenschaften zwischen theoretischer Erkenntnis und Ingenieurtätigkeit.Thomas Hänseroth & Klaus Mauersberger - 1998 - NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 6 (1):217-237.
Models of Machines and Models of Phenomena.Susan G. Sterrett - 2004 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (1):69 – 80.
In Defense of Engineering Sciences.Mieke Boon - 2011 - Techne 15 (1):49-71.
Mathematical Engineering and Mathematical Change.Jean‐Pierre Marquis - 1999 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (3):245 – 259.
How Science is Applied in Technology.Mieke Boon - 2006 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (1):27 – 47.


Added to PP index

Total views
31 ( #350,818 of 2,448,218 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #451,050 of 2,448,218 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes