Pieter Vermaas Research and Publications



Design for values

Design research

Functions and philosophy

Functions and engineering

Functions and applied ontology

Quantum mechanics

Pieter E. Vermaas

Associate professor,
Philosophy Department, Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands

Vice President
Society for Philosophy and Technology

Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series, Springer
Design Research Foundations book series, Springer


Philosophy Department
Delft University of Technology
Jaffalaan 5, NL-2628 BX Delft
The Netherlands


This site describes my research and my editorial services.


My current research in philosophy of technology at Delft University of Technology focusses on design. It is aimed at analysing design methods for understanding what design is and for determining how to validate design methods. Design methods give procedures to address problems and challenges in engineering, product development and architecture. In these original application domains design methods are held to be effective and efficient on the basis of precedence, consisting of past successful designs obtained with the methods. Design methods are nowadays also seen as promising procedures to address problems and challenges in new domains such as business, policy and the social realm. The successes in their original domains and the extensions to new domain raise questions about how to validate design methods more generally and critically.

This current research builds on earlier analytic projects on engineering design methods and on the concepts of technical artefact and technical function. These projects originated in the Dual Nature of Technical Artefacts research programme at Delft University of Technology. Starting point of the Dual Nature programme was that technical artefacts have both a structural and an intentional nature, because a complete description of a technical artefact refers to the physical make-up of the artefact and to the goals the artefact is to realise. Engineering design was taken as an activity that relates these natures, since it has goals of artefacts as input and the physical description of these artefacts as output. And technical function was taken as a bridging concept, since a function of an artefact highlights a physical capacity of the artefact by which users can realise the goals associated to the artefact. My Dual Nature research, regularly done together with Wybo Houkes (Eindhoven University of Technology), resulted in an action-theoretical analysis of the design and use of artefacts, in a philosophical account of technical functions, called the ICE-theory, and in a text book on philosophy of technology.

I obtained my PhD at Utrecht University, Institute for History and Foundations of Sciences, after studying theoretical physics at the University of Amsterdam. Research for my PhD concerned modal interpretations of quantum mechanics. The topic of quantum mechanics and its interpretations is resurfacing in my current research due to the emergence of quantum technology. This emergence raises for me two questions: how does an engineering perspective on quantum mechanics affect the way we understand quantum mechanics, and how is design introduced in the development of quantum technology.


I have become vice president of the Society for Philosophy and Technology in 2017, and will become its president for two years starting in the summer of 2019. The Society for Philosophy and Technology was founded in 1976 and is the international organization that encourages, supports and facilitates philosophically significant considerations of technology. One of its tasks is to facilitate organising its biennial conference, which is the main event in philosophy of technology.

I am Editor-in-chief of two book series. In 2009 I launched the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology series at Springer. This book series is meant as a platform for publishing monographs and edited volumes in philosophy of technology broadly construed. In 2016 I created the Design Research Foundations with Ilpo Koskinen (Hong Kong Polytechnic University), also at Springer. The goal of this second series is publishing state of the art research on foundational issues in design and its applications in industry and society. Information about the series and about submitting proposals can be found at the sites of these series, which can be reached by following the above links.

Further services concern editorships with Techne, NanoEthics, Philosophy & Technology (past) and Design Science.