Books  |  ,   |  December 30, 2020

The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Engineering

Book edited by Edited By Diane P. Michelfelder and Neelke Doorn.
Published by Routledge.
792 pages.

Engineering has always been a part of human life but has only recently become the subject matter of systematic philosophical inquiry. The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Engineering presents the state-of-the-art of this field and lays a foundation for shaping future conversations within it. With a broad scholarly scope and 55 chapters contributed by both established experts and fresh voices in the field, the Handbook provides valuable insights into this dynamic and fast-growing field. The volume focuses on central issues and debates, established themes, and new developments in: 

  • Foundational perspectives 
  • Engineering reasoning 
  • Ontology 
  • Engineering design processes 
  • Engineering activities and methods 
  • Values in engineering 
  • Responsibilities in engineering practice 
  • Reimagining engineering 


The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Engineering will be of value for both students and active researchers in philosophy of engineering and in cognate fields (philosophy of technology, philosophy of design). It is also intended for engineers working both inside and outside of academia who would like to gain a more fundamental understanding of their particular professional field. 

The increasing development of new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, and new interdisciplinary fields, such as human-computer interaction, calls not only for philosophical inquiry but also for engineers and philosophers to work in collaboration with one another. At the same time, the demands on engineers to respond to the challenges of world health, climate change, poverty, and other so-called “wicked problems” have also been on the rise. These factors, together with the fact that a host of questions concerning the processes by which technologies are developed have arisen, make the current Handbook a timely and valuable publication.

Table of Contents

Part I: Foundational Perspectives

  • What Is Engineering? — Carl Mitcham
  • A Brief History of Engineering — Jennifer Karns Alexander
  • Western Philosophical Approaches and Engineering — Glen Miller
  • Eastern Philosophical Approaches and Engineering — Glen Miller, Xiaowei (Tom) Wang, Satya Sundar Sethy, Fujiki Atsushi
  • What Is Engineering Science? — Sven Ove Hansson
  • Scientific Methodology in the Engineering Sciences — Mieke Boon

Part II: Engineering Reasoning

  • Engineering Design and the Quest for Optimality — Maarten Franssen
  • Prescriptive Engineering Knowledge — Sjoerd Zwart
  • Engineering as Art and the Art of Engineering — Lara Schrijver
  • Creativity and Discovery in Engineering — David H. Cropley
  • Uncertainty — William M. Bulleit
  • Scenarios — Christian Dieckhoff and Armin Grunwald
  • Systems Engineering as Engineering Philosophy — Usman Akeel and Sarah Bell
  • Assessing Provenance and Bias in Big Data — Brent Mittelstadt and Jan Kwakkel

Part III: Ontology

  • Artifacts — Beth Preston
  • Engineering Objects — Wybo Houkes
  • Use Plans — Auke Pols
  • Function in Engineering — Boris Eisenbart and Kilian Gericke
  • Emergence in Engineering — Peter Simons
  • Towards an Ontology of Innovation: On the New, the Political-Economic Dimension and the Intrinsic Risks Involved in Innovation Processes — Vincent Blok

Part IV: Engineering Design Processes

  • Engineering Design — Peter Kroes
  • Values and Design — Ibo Van de Poel
  • Design Methods and Validation — Sabine Ammon
  • Human-Centred Design and its Inherent Ethical Qualities — Marc Steen
  • Sustainable Design — Steven A. Moore
  • Maintenance — Mark Thomas Young

Part V: Engineering Activities and Methods

  • Measurement — Lara Huber
  • Models in Engineering and Design: Modeling Relations and Directions of Fit — Michael Poznic
  • Scale Modeling — Susan G. Sterrett
  • Computer Simulations — Hildrun Lampe
  • Experimentation — Viola Schiaffonati
  • On Verification and Validation in Engineering — Francien Dechesne and Tijn Borghuis

Part VI: Values in Engineering

  • Values in Risk and Safety Assessment — Niklas Möller
  • Engineering and Sustainability: Control and Care in Unfoldings of Modernity — Andy Stirling
  • The Role of Resilience in Engineering — Neelke Doorn
  • Trust in Engineering — Philip J. Nickel
  • Aesthetics — Stefan Koller
  • Health — Marianne Boenink
  • Philosophy of Security Engineering — Wolter Pieters

Part VII: Responsibilities in Engineering Practice

  • Ethical Considerations in Engineering — Wade L. Robison
  • Autonomy in Engineering — Eugene Schlossberger
  • Standards in Engineering — Paul B. Thompson
  • Professional Codes of Ethics — Michael Davis
  • Responsibilities to the Public—Professional Engineering Societies — Joseph Herkert and Jason Borenstein
  • Engineering as a Political Practice — Govert Valkenburg
  • Global Engineering Ethics — Pak-Hang Wong
  • Engineering Practice and Engineering Policy: The Narrative Form of Engineering Policy Advice — Natasha McCarthy

Part VIII: Reimagining Engineering

  • Feminist Engineering and Gender — Donna Riley
  • Socially Responsible Engineering — Jessica M. Smith and Juan C. Lucena
  • Engineering and Social Justice — Carolyn Baillie
  • Engineering and Environmental Justice — Benjamin R. Cohen
  • Beyond Traditional Engineering: Green, Humanitarian, Social Justice, and Omnium Approaches — George D. Catalano
  • Engineering and Contemporary Continental Philosophy of Technology — Diane P. Michelfelder
  • Engineering Practice from the Perspective of Methodical Constructivism and Culturalism — Michael Funk and Albrecht Fritzsche
  • Reimagining the Future of Engineering — Neelke Doorn, Diane P. Michelfelder, Elise Barrella, Terry Bristol, Francien Dechesne, Albrecht Fritzsche, Gearold Johnson, Michael Poznic, Wade L. Robison, Barbara Sain, Taylor Stone, Tonatiuh Rodriguez-Nikl, Steven Umbrello, Pieter E. Vermaas, Richard L. Wilson

About the Editors

  • Diane P. Michelfelder is Professor of Philosophy at Macalester College, USA. Along with philosopher Natasha McCarthy and engineer David E. Goldberg, she edited Philosophy and Engineering: Reflections on Practice, Principles, and Process (2013). Her most recent book is Philosophy and Engineering: Exploring Boundaries, Expanding Connections, edited with Byron Newberry and Qin Zhu (2016). 
  • Neelke Doorn is Distinguished Antoni van Leeuwenhoek Professor of “Ethics of Water Engineering” at Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands. Recent book publications include co-editing the volumes Responsible Innovation: Innovative Solutions for Global Issues (2014) and Early Engagement and New Technologies: Opening up the Laboratory (2013). She is also the author of Water Ethics: An Introduction (2020).