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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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Chapter 29

Technical Practice

BART GREMMEN

In traditional actor-theory, an actor is separated from the means used in action and from the objects of action in reality. From the perspective of technical practice, however, practitioners, the means and the objects are integrated in the socio-natural world. The concept of a practitioner is an alternative to the concept of an individual actor in standard theories of social science. Practitioners take part in societal activities and cannot practice on their own, and what they are and what they do cannot be isolated from the practice in which they participate. It is their competent performance in the practice which makes them into practitioners, which defines them as such. When they lack the competence (or are labeled as lacking it), they will be redefined as not belonging: “He is not a real engineer” is the phrase then.

Because practitioners behave according to standards, their performance can be understood from a socio-logical perspective. In articulating the normative structure of technical practice, the difference between individual behavior and competent performance is important. In their competent performance, practitioners can be said to make normative claims about the quality of their performance. These claims are made to, or refer to, other practitioners. In their evaluation, criticism and other reactions, the quality of the performance is established. It is an achievement of all practitioners together. Thus competent performance ...

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