An Engineering Turn in Conceptual Analysis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review


n this chapter I discuss the notion of technical function as it is used in engineering and review the way in which this notion was conceptually analysed in the Dual Nature of Technical Artifacts program. I show that technical function is a term that is intentionally held polysemous in engineering, and argue that conceptual analysis informed by engineering practices should chart and explain this polysemy. The Dual Nature program aimed however at determining a single meaning of the term technical function and developed an approach to conceptual analysis, called conceptual engineering, for arriving at this single meaning on the basis of engineering practices. It is concluded that this conceptual engineering approach is ill-suited as conceptual analysis of the term technical function in engineering. This approach is nevertheless a useful tool in this analysis, since it can make explicit how specific meanings of polysemous engineering terms are useful to specific engineering tasks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Technology after the Empirical Turn
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-33717-3
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-33716-6
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Electronic)1879-7202


  • Technical function
  • Polysemy of engineering terms
  • Conceptual analysis
  • Conceptual engineering

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