Beliefs, acceptances and technological knowledge

M.J. Vries, de, A.W.M. Meijers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


One of the four ways of conceptualizing technology that Carl Mitcham distinguished in his book Thinking Through Technology is technology as knowledge. His description of technology as knowledge showed that not much philosophical literature on the nature of technological knowledge was available at the time he wrote this book as far as the analytical approach in philosophy was concerned. This is changing now. There is an increasing interest in reflecting on the nature of technological knowledge among philosophers of technology who are oriented towards the analytical tradition, although the total amount of publications is still limited and there is still a lot to be desired (Houkes 2009). In our contribution to the Companion to the Philosophy of Technology (Meijers and de Vries 2009), we have argued for the following four characteristics of at least part of technological knowledge: collectivity (technical norms as content of technological knowledge require a community for their existence), context dependence, normativity and non-propositionality. At the Eindhoven University of Technology, also in the Netherlands, the normative dimension in technological knowledge is the focus of philosophical research. We find this normative dimension in technological knowledge in various ways: knowledge of functions (i.e. of what an artefact ought to enable us to do) but also knowledge of technical norms and standards, of good practice, of requirements for designs. In his recent survey of literature on technological knowledge, Houkes suggests this topic of normativity as one of the promising ways for the emancipation of technological knowledge as a separate epistemological domain (Houkes 2009). An interesting aspect of technological knowledge is that it poses problems for the account of knowledge that often serves as the starting point for debates in epistemology, namely, the ‘justified true belief’ account. There has been the well-known critique that this definition is limited to propositional knowledge, while much of technological knowledge is of a non-propositional nature. There are, for instance, technological skills that make any account of technological knowledge solely based on beliefs problematic. In addition there is the puzzle that effectiveness seems often more decisive for what engineers take to belong to their knowledge than the truth of their beliefs, particularly when it comes to normative knowledge, such as knowledge of norms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNorms in Technology
EditorsM.J. Vries, de, S.O. Hansson, A.W.M. Meijers
Place of PublicationDordrecht
Number of pages241
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-5242-9
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NamePhilosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISSN (Print)1879-7202


Dive into the research topics of 'Beliefs, acceptances and technological knowledge'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this