Philosophy of technology and engineering

Philosophy of technology

Stefan Buijsman has worked on epistemic issues in the philosophy of mathematics and now focusses on the intersection of epistemology and computer science. His main interests are on the explainability of algorithms and broader epistemic conditions for responsible use of AI.

Buijsman, S., Veluwenkamp, H. Spotting when algorithms are wrong. (forthcoming) Minds and Machines.
Buijsman, S. (2021). Building blocks for a cognitive science-led epistemology of arithmetic. Philosophical Studies
Buijsman, S. (2019). Learning the natural numbers as a child. Noûs 53 (1): 3-22.

Juan M. Durán has worked in the intersection of philosophy of science, technology and engineering for some time. His main interests lies in the intersection between epistemology (with questions incumbent to explanation, understanding, knowledge, and the notion of model), and ethics (with questions addressing the transformative effects of technology, participatory technology assessment, and the implications for scientific research and discovery)

Durán, JM (2021) “Dissecting scientific explanation in AI (sXAI): A case for medicine and healthcare” Artificial Intelligence, 297.
Durán, JM (2017) “Varying the explanatory span: scientific explanation for computer simulations” International studies in the philosophy of science. 31(1):27-45.
Durán, J.M., Pirtle, Z. (2020) "Epistemic Standards for Participatory Technology Assessment: Suggestions Based Upon Well-Ordered Science". Sci Eng Ethics 26, 1709–1741


In his work, Udo Pesch has focussed on the societal and ethical responsiveness of technology developers. He has developed several frameworks that nurture the increase of responsiveness. Society is increasingly confronted with problems that are characterized by both epistemic and normative uncertainties – so-called ‘wicked problems’. Together with Pieter Vermaas, Udo Pesch has developed a critical perspective on approaches that have promised to make wicked problems manageable.

Pesch, U. (2015). Engineers and Active Responsibility. Science and Engineering Ethics, 21(4), 925-939. doi:10.1007/s11948-014-9571-7
Pesch, U. (2021). Imaginaries of innovation: Turning technology development into a public issue. Science and Public Policy. doi:10.1093/scipol/scab017
Pesch, U., & Ishmaev, G. (2019). Fictions and frictions: Promises, transaction costs and the innovation of network technologies. Social Studies of Science, 49(2), 264-277. doi:10.1177/0306312719838339
Pesch, U., & Vermaas, P. E. (2020). The Wickedness of Rittel and Webber’s Dilemmas. Administration & Society, 52(6), 960-979. doi:10.1177/0095399720934010
Vermaas, P. E., & Pesch, U. (2020). Revisiting Rittel and Webber’s Dilemmas: Designerly Thinking Against the Background of New Societal Distrust. She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, 6(4), 530-545. doi:



Martin Sand  has shed a new light on how luck affects science and innovation and its moral implications. Are rewards in science ever justified? How can responsibility be reasonably distributed in science and technology given luck’s influence?  

Sand, M. (2020) Did Alexander Fleming deserve the Nobel Prize? Science and Engineering Ethics, 26, pp. 899–919, DOI: 10.1007/s11948-019-00149-5

Sand, M.; Jongsma, K. (2020) Scientists’ views on (moral) luck. Journal of Responsible Innovation, DOI: 10.1080/23299460.2020.1799623

Sand, M.; Bredenoord, A.; Jongsma, K. (2019) After the fact-The case of CRISPR babies. In: European Journal of Human Genetics, 27 (11), pp. 1621-1624, DOI: 10.1038/s41431-019-0459-5

Steffen Steinert wants to contribute to the advancement of philosophical theories of technology. He critically assessed extension theory of technology. He delineates similarities and differences in various accounts and makes recommendations for the refinement of theory.

•    Steinert, S. (2016). Taking Stock of Extension Theory of Technology. Philosophy & Technology, 29(1), 61–78.

Ibo van de Poel has co-edited a book On Dual nature approach & ethics

Vermaas, Pieter, Peter Kroes, Ibo van de Poel, Maarten Franssen, and Wybo Houkes. 2011. A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems. Vol. 6, Synthesis Lectures on Engineers, Technology and Society.






Pieter Vermaas participated in the Dual Nature of Technical Artifacts programme that ran in de 2000s at the TU Delft department of Philosophy. This programme advanced philosophy of technology in a more analytic approach and informed by engineering practice as part of empirical turn in philosophy of technology.

  • Franssen, M., P.E. Vermaas, P. Kroes and A. Meijers (eds.) (2016) Philosophy of Technology after the Empirical Turn (Dordrecht: Springer).
  • Vermaas, P., P. Kroes, I. van de Poel, M. Franssen and W. Houkes (2011) A Philosophy of Technology: From Technical Artefacts to Sociotechnical Systems (Morgan & Claypool).
  • Houkes, W., P. Kroes, A.W.M. Meijers and P.E. Vermaas (2011) Dual-Nature and Collectivist Frameworks for Technical Artefacts: A Constructive Comparison, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42, 198-205.


Function theories

Pieter Vermaas did extensive research on the concept of function in engineering, initially on finding a philosophical account of this concept and later analysing why it is in engineering beneficial to employ multiple concepts side by side.

  • Vermaas, P.E. (2013) The Co-Existence of Engineering Meanings of Function: Four Responses and Their Methodological Implications, Artificial Intelligence for Engineering Design, Analysis and Manufacturing 27, 191-202.
  • Vermaas, P.E., D. van Eck and P. Kroes (2013) The Conceptual Elusiveness of Engineering Functions: A Philosophical Analysis, Philosophy and Technology 26, 159-185.
  • Vermaas, P.E. (2013) On the Formal Impossibility of Analysing Subfunctions as Parts of Functions in Design Methodology, Research in Engineering Design 24, 19-32.
  • Vermaas, P.E., and W. Houkes (2013) Functions as Epistemic Highlighters: An Engineering Account of Technical, Biological and Other Functions, in P. Huneman (ed.) Functions: Selection and Mechanisms, vol. 363 of Synthese Library (Dordrecht: Springer), pp. 213-231.
  • Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2010) Technical Functions: On the Use and Design of Artefacts (Dordrecht: Springer).
  • Vermaas, P.E., and W. Houkes (2003) Ascribing Functions to Technical Artefacts: A Challenge to Etiological Accounts of Functions, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54, 261-289.

Philosophy of engineering

Pieter Vermaas has in his work analysed the claims of innovation and social design. Together with Udo Pesch, Pieter Vermaas has developed a critical perspective on approaches that have promised to make wicked problems manageable.

  • Vermaas, P.E., and U. Pesch (2020) Revisiting Rittel and Webber’s Dilemmas: Designerly Thinking Against the Background of New Societal Distrust, She Ji 6, 530-545.
  • Vermaas, P. (2019) Transparency in Responsible Design: Avoiding Engineering Overconfidence and Supporting Societal Acceptance, in Proceedings of the Design Society: International Conference on Engineering Design, 1(1), 3431-3440.