University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

History of Science and Technology/Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Friday, September 25th 2009
Speaker: Carl Mitcham, Hennebach Program in the Humanities, Colorado School of Mines
Subject: The Philosophical Inadequacy of Engineering
Refreshments served in Room 216 Physics at 3:15 p.m.

Engineering is a philosophically inadequate profession. This is not to claim that engineering is inadequate insofar as engineers fail to do philosophy. Such a claim might be true but trivial. Why should engineers be philosophers? Instead, the argument is that engineering is caught in a fundamental difficulty that is revealed by philosophical inquiry and thus may be described as philosophical in character. Reflective or critical analysis of engineering reveals that the profession is committed to an end (public safety, health, and welfare) that is not in fact integral to it. This philosophical inadequacy or deficiency leads to misunderstandings and false expectations both within and without the profession.

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