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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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2. Definitions of Technological Artifacts

Technological artifacts are in general characterized narrowly as material objects made by (human) agents as means to achieve practical ends. Moreover, following Aristotle, technological artifacts are as kinds not seen as natural objects: artifacts do not exist by nature but are the products of art. This general characterization is incorporated in Risto Hilpinen’s acceptance condition: “[a]n object is an artifact made by an author only if the author accepts it as satisfying some sortal description included in his productive intention” (2004: sect. 3). This condition applies also to events and works of art; it can be restricted to technological artifacts by limiting the sortal descriptions to technological ones such as “material means to achieve practical end χ.”

Unintended by-products of making (e.g. sawdust) or of experiments (e.g. false positives in medical diagnostic tests) are not artifacts for Hilpinen. Objects that result from actions of collectives of agents but do not satisfy sortal descriptions in one of the agent’s productive intentions (e.g. some paths and villages) are merely artifices. Objects made by agents but not accepted to satisfy the intended sortal descriptions are “scrap.”

Hilpinen specifies making as a physical modification of an existing object or as the assembling of existing/modified objects, such that “[t]he existence and some of the properties of an artifact depend [counterfactually] on an author’s intention to ...

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