Pieter Vermaas Research and Publications




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

Philosophy of Engineering and Technology 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 (e.g.). 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 common methodological approach in all of my research may be taken as doing philosophy on the basis of detailed analyses of the disciplines concerned, be it physics, engineering or design.


I am Editor-in-chief of the book series Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, which I launched with Springer in 2009. This book series is meant as a platform for publishing monographs and edited volumes in philosophy of technology broadly construed. I edit this series together with a team representative of various topics and traditions in philosophy of engineering and technology. Co-editors are currently Christelle Didier (Lille Catholic University), Craig Hanks (Texas State University), Byron Newberry (Baylor University) and Ibo van de Poel (Delft University of Technology). Information about the series and about submitting proposals can be found at Springer.

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