Books  |    |  November 13, 2019

Philosophy for Engineering: Practice, Context, Ethics, Models, Failure

Book by by Priyan Dias.
Published by Springer.
140 pages.

This book highlights the unique need for philosophy among engineers, which stems from issues regarding their knowledge (epistemology), role or being (ontology) and influence (ethics). It discusses practice, context, ethics, models and failure as key aspects of engineering, and provides an easy but essential introduction to philosophy for engineers by presenting four key philosophers and linking them to these aspects:

  • Karl Popper (failure)
  • Thomas Kuhn (models)
  • Michael Polanyi (practice & ethics)
  • Martin Heidegger (context & ethics)

Popper, Kuhn and Polanyi are philosophers of science (epistemologists) who have challenged the view that science is a ‘cool, detached’ discipline, since it also depends on human imagination (Popper), consensus (Kuhn) and judgment plus artistry (Polanyi); factors that are central to engineering. Heidegger (an ontologist) critiqued technology on the one hand (ethics), but also stressed the importance of ‘doing’ over ‘knowing,’ thus ‘authenticating’ the highly pragmatic engineering profession. Science is the ‘core’ component of engineering, which is overlaid by a variety of heuristics . Practice-based knowledge can be formalized, with artificial intelligence (AI) offering a valuable tool for engineering, just as mathematics has done for science. The book also examines systems thinking in engineering. Featuring numerous diagrams, tables and examples throughout, the book is easily accessible to engineers.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction: Why Engineering needs Philosophy
  • The engineer’s identity crisis: Homo faber or homo sapiens?
  • Engineering as cyclic problem solving – Some insights from Karl Popper
  • Paradigms, Revolutions and Models: some insights from Thomas Kuhn for an Engineering Outlook
  • Aesthetics and Ethics in Engineering: Insights from Polanyi
  • Heidegger’s relevance for engineering
  • Heidegger’s resonance with engineering
  • Philosophical grounding and computational formalization for practice based engineering knowledge
  • Concluding thoughts

About the Author

Priyan Dias obtained a doctorate from Imperial College at the University of London and is now a Senior Professor in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Moratuwa. He has been Head of Department from 2007 to 2010 and the inaugural Director of Research for the university from 2014 to 2017. He is a Fellow and currently Vice-President of the National Academy of Sciences (Sri Lanka); and also an associate editor of the international journal Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems.