Paul T. Durbin

Until recently, most academic interpreters of science and technology had concentrated on abstract theorizing. For twenty years, a revolt has been going on against the earlier tradition, but not until a handful of anthropological sociologists of science turned in that direction had anyone looked at the real-life work world of scientists, engineers, and other technical workers. Critical Perspectives on Nonacademic Science and Engineering is an attempt to get philosophers turned in that direction, to come out of the clouds of abstraction and focus on what scientists and engineers actually do in such settings as government or industrial laboratories.


The essays cover a broad range. The introduction argues the need for a philosophy of research and development to supplement standard philosophies of science and technology. The essays that follow then focus on the actual methods engineers use (Billy Vaughn Koen), the shifting self-definition of engineering by engineers as they have achieved greater self-awareness (Edwin T. Layton, Jr.), and philosophical reflections on that shifting self image (Carl Mitcham). These essays are followed by two very different extensions of philosophy of science: Ronald Laymon simply extends standard analytical methods from abstract science to engineering applications, while Steven Goldman follows the lead of recent sociologists of science in tracing what might be called a phenomenology of engineering in large, manager-driven settings. Hans Lenk and Henryk Skolimowski confront directly the value-free characterization of technology that Layton and Goldman had indirectly attacked—withing Lenk sketching  out a typology of responsibilities that employed scientists and engineers have, and Skolimowski delivering a prophetic call to take on these responsibilities.


The rest of the essays look at policy issues. Sheila Jasanoff shows how courts sometimes do and sometimes do not defer to technical communities in admitting new types of scientific evidence into the courtroom. Richard E. Sclove counters the oft-repeated claim that policies for technological development must be established in a hierarchical and elitist fashion by cataloging a long list of nonauthoritarian, genuinely democratic technological developments. Finally, Gunter Ropohl spells out the European background of engineering education as a foil for his recommended organic or systems approach, and Taft H. Broome, Jr., uses his experience with interdisciplinary committees to make recommendations about ideal professors for responsible engineering education.

0934223157 (AUP)
Lehigh University Press - Critical Perspectives on Nonacademic Science and Engineering