Synthese 192 (4):1199-1220 (2015)

Authors
Giuseppe Primiero
Università degli Studi di Milano
Nir Fresco
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Luciano Floridi
Oxford University
Abstract
Artefacts do not always do what they are supposed to, due to a variety of reasons, including manufacturing problems, poor maintenance, and normal wear-and-tear. Since software is an artefact, it should be subject to malfunctioning in the same sense in which other artefacts can malfunction. Yet, whether software is on a par with other artefacts when it comes to malfunctioning crucially depends on the abstraction used in the analysis. We distinguish between “negative” and “positive” notions of malfunction. A negative malfunction, or dysfunction, occurs when an artefact token either does not or cannot do what it is supposed to. A positive malfunction, or misfunction, occurs when an artefact token may do what is supposed to but, at least occasionally, it also yields some unintended and undesirable effects. We argue that software, understood as type, may misfunction in some limited sense, but cannot dysfunction. Accordingly, one should distinguish software from other technical artefacts, in view of their design that makes dysfunction impossible for the former, while possible for the latter.
Keywords Artefacts  Design  Dysfunction  Function  Misfunction  Software
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-014-0610-3
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References found in this work BETA

The Philosophy of Information.Luciano Floridi - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Functions.Larry Wright - 1973 - Philosophical Review 82 (2):139-168.
In Defense of Proper Functions.Ruth Garrett Millikan - 1989 - Philosophy of Science 56 (June):288-302.
The Philosophy of Information.Luciano Floridi - 2010 - The Philosophers' Magazine 50:42-43.
The Method of Levels of Abstraction.Luciano Floridi - 2008 - Minds and Machines 18 (3):303–329.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Philosophy of Computer Science.Raymond Turner - 2013 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A Logic of Efficient and Optimal Designs.Giuseppe Primiero - 2019 - Journal of Logic and Computation 14:0-22.

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