Pieter Vermaas Research and Publications
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Artefacts publications

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The action-theoretical analysis of the use and design of technical artefacts as presented in the 2010 Technical Functions monograph was developed for analysing the concept of technical function. It also provides a framework for understanding the concept of technical artefact with. For this additional aim the action-theoretical analysis is in the 2009 Monist publication extended to manufacturing entities, leading to an account of technical artefacts and their kinds that stays close to engineering. By this account the concept of artefact can be disambiguated as referring to entities that are used, to entities that are designed to be used, to entities that are designed to be made, or to entities that are made. In current metaphysics of everyday objects these distinctions are typically absent since in literature on that topic authors mainly consider single agents creating simple artefacts in a craft-style manner. In contemporary engineering there are however divisions of labour in place, with teams of agents working on the design, manufacturing and production of technical artefacts. Hence, if intentions, goals or actions of agents are to be constitutive to artefacts, a reference to a single creating agent becomes problematic. The alternative is to take as constitutive the goals that are set by the plans for making artefacts as developed in manufacturing design (see the 2009 Monist paper and the 2014 chapter in the Artefact Kinds volume). This research is regularly done with Wybo Houkes (Eindhoven University of Technology).

The 2009 Techne special issue gives an early overview of work on the metaphysics of artefacts. The 2014 Artefact Kind edited volume brought together state of the art research on this topic.



Franssen, M., P. Kroes, T.A.C. Reydon and P.E. Vermaas (eds.) (2014) Artefact Kinds: Ontology and the Human-Made World, vol. 365 of Synthese Library (Dordrecht: Springer).[link]

Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2010) Technical Functions: On the Use and Design of Artefacts, vol. 1 of Philosophy of Engineering and Technology (Dordrecht: Springer).[link]

Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2009) Artefacts in Analytic Metaphysics, Techne 13 (2) (Introduction, Techne 13, 74-81).[pdf]



Borgo, S., M. Franssen, P. Garbacz, Y. Kitamura, R. Mizoguchi and P.E. Vermaas (2014) Technical Artifacts: An Integrated Perspective, Applied Ontology 9, 217-235.[link]

Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2014) On What Is Made: Instruments, Products and Natural Kinds of Artefacts, in Franssen, M., P. Kroes, T.A.C. Reydon and P.E. Vermaas (eds.) Artefact Kinds: Ontology and the Human-Made World, vol. 365 of Synthese Library (Dordrecht: Springer), pp. 167-190.[link]

Vermaas, P.E., M. Carrara, S. Borgo and P. Garbacz (2013) The Design Stance and Its Artefacts, Synthese 190, 1131-1152.[pdf]

Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2013) Pluralism on Artefact Categorisation: A Philosophical Defence, Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4, 543-557.[link]

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.[link]

Carrara, M., and P.E. Vermaas (2009) The Fine-Grained Metaphysics of Artifactual and Biological Functional Kinds, Synthese 169, 125-143. [pdf]

Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2009) Contemporary Engineering and the Metaphysics of Artefacts: Beyond the Artisan Model, Monist, 92, 403-419.[pdf]

Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2009) Produced to Use: Combining Two Key Intuitions on the Nature of Artefacts, Techne 13, 123-136.[pdf]

Houkes, W., and P.E. Vermaas (2004) Actions versus Functions: A Plea For an Alternative Metaphysics of Artifacts, Monist 87, 52-71.[pdf]