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Toward

an
Epistemology of
Engineering
NOVEMBER 10-12, 2008
WORKSHOP ON PHILOSOPHY & ENGINEERING
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING, LONDON!
What’s Engineering Knowledge?

How different is it from traditional


Scientific Knowledge?

How can we obtain reliable


Engineering Knowledge?

How can we assess the value of


Engineering Knowledge?
Answers:

EPISTEMOLOGY
OF ENGINEERING
EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN

ENGINEERING PHILOSOPHY OF
!"-*.$,(*+,(" KNOWLEDGE
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TOWARD AN EPISTEMOLOGY
OF ENGINEERING
Toward
an
Epistemology of
Engineering
NOVEMBER 10-12, 2008
WORKSHOP ON PHILOSOPHY & ENGINEERING
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING, LONDON!
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE !

3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN!

4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE!

6. CONCLUSIONS!
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE !

3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN!

4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE!

6. CONCLUSIONS!
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

•! Engineering as Basic Science


•! Engineering as Social & Business Activity
•! Engineering as Design
•! Engineering as Doing

[Figueiredo (2002)] "


1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

SOCIAL SCIENCES BASIC!SCIENCES


& BUSINESS
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567248"9":;520/55" 572/0?5>"
/<=/3>"

/0120//3"45" /0120//3"45"
@/5210/3""9" @6/3"
20>/134>63"

PRACTICAL
DESIGN REALIZATION

[Figueiredo (2002)] "


1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

ENGINEERING AS BASIC SCIENCE


Engineers as thinkers

Engineering as the application of the Basic Sciences.

Practice founded on the values of rigour and logics, devoted


to the acquisition of knowledge by analysis and experimentation.

The discovery of new knowledge and of first principles


is the activity leading to higher intellectual recognition.

Research is the preferred “modus operandi”.

The Engineering Sciences (Thermodynamics, Fluid Dynamics,


Theory of Categories, …) as key representatives of this perspective.
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

ENGINEERING AS SOCIAL AND BUSINESS ACTIVITY


Engineers as social and business experts

Engineering as an integrating part of socio-economic reality.

Engineers not just as technologists, but also as social experts,


in their ability to recognise the eminently social and economic
nature of the world they act upon and the
social complexity of the teams they belong to.

The creation of social and economic value and the belief in the
satisfaction of end users emerge as central values
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

ENGINEERING AS DESIGN
Engineers as designers and integrators

Systems thinking instead of analytical thinking.

Practice founded on holistic, contextual, and integrated


representations of the world, rather than on partial visions.

Respect for the principles of compromise, alternative,


economic and social relevance, material feasibility.

Decision often based on incomplete knowledge, intuition,


and personal and collective experience, resorting
frequently to non-scientific modes of thinking.
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

ENGINEERING AS PRACTICAL REALIZATION


Engineers as doers (or makers)

Engineering as the art of getting things done.

Founded on the ability to change the world, overcoming


all sorts of barriers with flexibility and perseverance.

The art of the “homo faber”, in its purest expression, the ability
to tuck up one’s sleeves and get down to the nitty-gritty.

The completed job, that stands before the


world, leads to higher recognition
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

SOME KEY WORDS

SOCIAL SCIENCES BASIC SCIENCES


& BUSINESS •!">A/63B"
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•!">/4C" •!"C/>A6@"
•!"E48;/" •!"=;:8274?60"
•!"7;5>6C/3" •!"760D/3/07/"
•!"C43G/>"

•!"=36F/7>" •!"=36@;7>"
•!"5B5>/C" •!"5/3E27/"
•!"20>/134?60" •!"C45>/3=2/7/"

PRACTICAL
DESIGN REALIZATION
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

SOCIAL SCIENCES BASIC SCIENCES


& BUSINESS

PRACTICAL
DESIGN REALIZATION

[Figueiredo (2002)] "


1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

SOCIAL SCIENCES BASIC SCIENCES


& BUSINESS

PRACTICAL
DESIGN REALIZATION

[Figueiredo (2002)] "


1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

AGGREGATION OF THE FOUR DIMENSIONS


AS AN EXERCISE IN TRANSDICIPLINARITY

Engineering as the mutual interpenetration of the epistemologies


of the four dimensions in the context of disturbances that
shake up the corresponding systems of knowledge production.

Transdisciplinarity as the continuous linking and re-linking,


in specific clusterings and configurations, of knowledge
that is brought together on a temporary basis in specific
contexts of application, which makes it strongly oriented to,
and driven by, problem-solving [Gibbons et al., 1994].
.
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

SOCIAL SCIENCES BASIC SCIENCES


& BUSINESS
POSITIVIST
PERSPECTIVE

CONSTRUCTIVIST &
INTERPRETIVIST
PERSPECTIVE
PRACTICAL
CONSTRUCTIVIST &
DESIGN REALIZATION
INTERPRETIVIST
PERSPECTIVE
Schön, Mintzberg, Ciborra,
(Crafting & Bricolage)

[Schön (1983), Mintzberg (1987), Ciborra (1998)] "


1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE !

3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN!

4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE!

6. CONCLUSIONS!
2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWELDGE!

Ontological question
What reality can we known?

Epistemological question
What is knowledge? What knowledge can we get?
Methodological question
How can we build that knowledge?
Axiological question
What is the value of the knowledge we build?
[Guba & Lincoln (1994), Lincoln & Guba (2000)] "
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE !

3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN!

4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE!

6. CONCLUSIONS!
3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN !

EVOLUTION OF THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN

Modern Movement of Design Designerly Ways of Knowing Reverse Influence


positivist scientization of design backlash against scientization designerly visions for science
(1920s) (1970s) (late 1900s, 2000s)

[Cross (2001); Figueiredo & Cunha (2006)] "


3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN !

SOME DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN

PROBLEM FORMULATION REQUIREMENTS ANALYSIS


•! Good acceptance of ill-defined problems •! Orientation toward the solution, rather than
the problem
•! Preference to gradually formulate problems
as they are solved •! Permanent generation of intermediary tasks
and redefinition of requirements and
•! Reluctance to formulate problems rigorously constraints
until they are solved
•! Tolerance of error and chance
•! Attraction for exploratory changes of goals
and constraints

[Cross (2007)] "


3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN !

SOME DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN

FOCUS ON THE SOLUTION EXPLORATORY PROGRESS


•! Conjectural approach to the problems as a function •! The sketch as a metaphor to exploratory
of potential solutions. progression

•! Simultaneous tackling of problem and •! Importance of ambiguity, reinterpretation and


solution analogy

•! Generative, rather than deductive reasoning •! Dialectical progression

•! Dialogue between seeing that and


seeing as

[Cross (2007)] "


3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN !

PROGRESS IN THE INFORMATION SYSTEMS ENGINEERING CAMP

•! Design as Functional Analysis


•! Design as Problem Solving
•! Design as Problem Setting
•! Design as Emergent Evolutionary Learning

[Gasson (2004)] "


3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN !

PROGRESS IN THE INFORMATION SYSTEMS ENGINEERING CAMP

DESIGN AS FUNCTIONAL ANALYSIS DESIGN AS PROBLEM-SOLVING


•! Requirements fully available a the outset •! Specially for complex, organizational,
problems
•! Designer just needs to analyse the problem and
deductively proceed to the solution •! Simplifies problems until a rational solution is
possible (“bounded rationality”)
•! Inspired by the positivist perspective of
traditional basic sciences •! Epistemologically close to some popular
visions of the social sciences

[Gasson (2004)] "


3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN !

PROGRESS IN THE INFORMATION SYSTEMS ENGINEERING CAMP

DESIGN AS PROBLEM SETTING DESIGN AS EMERGENT LEARNING


•! Discovery and negotiation of unstated goals, •! Convergence of problem and solution
implications, and criteria before a problem can
be formulated and, subsequently, solved •! Emergent process of learning while planning
short-term partial goals, as the process
progresses
•! This vision of design takes a
phenomenological approach that expresses a •! Design, emerging in circular references, linking
constructivist epistemology problem formulation and problem solution,
emphasizes a constructivist vision

[Gasson (2004)] "


1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE !

3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN!

4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE!

6. CONCLUSIONS!
4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF ENGINEERING


Ontological question
What reality can engineering know?
Epistemological question
What is engineering knowledge?
Methodological question
How can engineering knowledge be built?
Axiological question
What is the value of engineering knowledge?
4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

ONTOLOGICAL QUESTION
What reality can engineering know?
scientists, doers! designers, social experts!

realist principle phenomenological principle

We can know the reality that is external We know the world by interacting with it in
to us, independent from us, and driven an emergent process that changes
by immutable laws knowledge as we keep interacting

Engineers construct their knowledge along this whole continuum"

As scientists and doers, they value the realist principle, but, as designers
and social experts they are able to reconcile it with the phenomenological principle
[Figueiredo & Cunha (2006)] "
4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

EPISTEMOLOGICAL QUESTION
What is engineering knowledge?
scientists, doers! designers!

deterministic principle teleological principle

Knowledge is what we learn by Knowledge is what gets us to an


exploring the causes of the problems intended result
we face

Engineers construct their knowledge along this whole continuum"

As scientists and doers, they value the deterministic principle, but, as


designers they are able to reconcile it with the teleological principle
[Figueiredo & Cunha (2006)] "
4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

METHODOLOGICAL QUESTION
How can engineering knowledge be built?
scientists, doers! designers, social experts!

1. principle of analytical modeling 1. principle of complexity


2. principle of sufficient reason 2. principle of intelligent action

To explain reality we must divide each difficulty We build knowledge by seeing the world as complex and
into as many parts as possible and necessary embodying stability and change, chaos and order, with
to resolve it better the parts interacting in the emergent and largely
unpredictable construction of reality
There is no effect without a cause and no
change without a reason for change
Human reason can react to the dissonances to which it is
Engineers construct their knowledge confronted by producing “intelligent actions” adapted to
reduce these dissonances
along this whole continuum"
[Figueiredo & Cunha (2006)] "
4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

AXIOLOGICAL QUESTION
What is the value of engineering knowledge?
scientists! designers, doers!

principle of intrinsic rigour principle of extrinsic relevance

The value of knowledge is determined by its The value of knowledge is determined by


demonstrated truth, expressed in generalised its practical results
principles

Engineers construct their knowledge along this whole continuum"


The issues relating to the esthetical dimension have been left out, to simplify"

[Figueiredo & Cunha (2006)] "


4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

AXIOLOGICAL QUESTION
What is the value of engineering knowledge?
scientists! some designers, some social scientists!

1. principle of value exclusion 1. principle of value inclusion


2. principle of extrinsic ethics 2. principle of intrinsic ethics

values have no role values have an essential role to play in


to play in knowledge the emergent process of knowledge
construction construction

ethical behavior is constructed by each


ethical behavior is formally policed by professional in the search for the collective
external mechanisms good

Engineers construct their knowledge along this whole continuum"


[Figueiredo & Cunha (2006)] "
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE !

3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN!

4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE!

6. CONCLUSIONS!
5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING!

How can Engineering knowledge preserve rigour in the cases


where it originates from mere gut feelings, takes advantage of
chance information, and seizes upon creative leaps that go
against traditional scientific rigour?

By systematically following Popper’s concept of


critical discussion [Popper, 1994].

It resorts to the rigorous application of critical discussion to


legitimize the emergent steps of its progress and to recover rigour
from the exposures to chance and the abductive leaps and bonds of
Engineering [Figueiredo & Cunha, 2007].
1. THE FOUR DIMENSIONS OF ENGINEERING!

2. THE FOUR QUESTIONS OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF KNOWLEDGE !

3. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF DESIGN!

4. THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF ENGINEERING!

5. RIGOUR, CREATIVITY & CHANCE IN ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE!

6. CONCLUSIONS!
6. CONCLUSIONS!

The Epistemology of Engineering results


from the mutual interpenetration of the
epistemologies of the constituent
dimensions of Engineering.

and it keeps changing with the changing


contributions of these changing components:
science, social and business activities,
design, and practical realization.
REFERENCES!
Ciborra, C. U. (1998). Crisis and foundations: an inquiry into the nature and limits of models and methods in the information systems
discipline. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 7(1), 5-16.
Cross, N. (2001). Designerly ways of knowing: design discipline versus design science. Design Issues. 17(3). Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
Cross, N. (2007). Designerly Ways of Knowing, Birkauser, Basel.
Figueiredo, A. D. (2002). Accreditation and Quality Assessment in a Changing Profession. Proc. International Conference on
Engineering Education 2007, ICEE 2002, Manchester.
Figueiredo, A. D., and Cunha, P. R. (2006). Action research and design in information systems: two faces of a single coin. In Kock,
N. (ed.) Information Systems Action Research: An Applied View of Emerging Concepts and Methods. Springer.
Gasson, S. (2004) Organizational ‘problem-solving’ and theories of social cognition (working paper).
http://www.cis.drexel.edu/faculty/gasson/Research/Problem-Solving.html.
Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P. & Trow, M. (1994). The New Production of Knowledge: The
Dynamics of Science and Research in Contemporary Societies. Sage Publications.
Guba, E. G. & Lincoln, Y. S. (1994). Competing paradigms in qualitative research. In K. D. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (eds.). Handbook
of Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (2000). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S.
Lincoln, (eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research, 2nd edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Mintzberg, H. (1987). Crafting strategy. Harvard Business Review. 66-75.
Popper, K. (1994). Models, instruments and truth: the status of the rationality principle in the social sciences. In The Myth of the
Framework: In Defense of Science and Rationality. London: Routledge, 154-184.
Rittel, H., & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences. 4, 155-69.
Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action. Basic Books.
THE END Toward
an
Epistemology of
NOVEMBER 10-12, 2008
WORKSHOP ON PHILOSOPHY & ENGINEERING
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING, LONDON!
Engineering