Function and finitism: A sociology of knowledge approach to proper technology function

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract / Description of output

Philosophers of technology have dedicated considerable attention to the topic of technological functions. Many authors, including those involved in the Dual Nature of Technical Artefacts programme, have sought to produce a definition of ‘proper functions’ to distinguish between what technological artefact can do and are meant to do. A number of these authors are also engaged in the ongoing ‘empirical turn’ in the philosophy of technology, which often embraces the notion of fixed proper functions. In this article, I argue that ‘proper functions’ arguments are deterministic; that is, they define correct use as that which corresponds to an antecedent, fixed proper function. I present an alternative conceptualisation of technological function, based on the sociology of knowledge. Using finitism, a series of tools developed by the Edinburgh School, I posit that proper functions are socially-endorsed use. That is, technological function follows conventional social practice. Finitism can serve the ‘empirical turn’ because it offers analytic tools and methods to clarify the concept of technological function using empirical investigation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPhilosophy of Technology After the Empirical Turn
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-33716-6
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • technological function
  • proper function
  • sociology of knowledge
  • finitism


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