Elements of a theory of plans

Dan Alexander Seni, University of Pennsylvania


Our main thesis in the philosophy of technology is the following: Technology is a body of knowledge which overlaps with science. It is neither encompassed by, nor is totally contained in, scientific knowledge. The cognitive outputs of technological research and practice are plans. When implemented, plans point to the making of useful and valued artificial (technical) things. Technological plans are built with the aid of scientific theories and the methods of science as well as with technological theories and methods. This view emphasizes the relative rational autonomy of technology: It considers technology to be a product of thought and reason and not only of social organization. It also calls for a philosophy of technology on which to build the foundations of technical reason and practice. Three main assumptions underlie this view. They are the following: (i) Doing technology, that is, taking action according to plan (doing planning, managing, or implementing plans) is not the same as doing science. (ii) Although related in numerous ways, scientific knowledge and technical knowledge are not the same. (iii) Scientific theories provide most but not all of the foundations for technological ones; philosophy provides some of the rest. Under these assumptions technology raises important philosophical problems which call for a full-fledged philosophy of technology. In this work we attempt to deal constructively with two basic issues in such a philosophy. They are: (i) What is the conceptual (propositional and logical) structure of a plan when conceived as a schema for rational technological action? (ii) What arguments respond to the practical necessity of rationally justifying a plan? These issues lead us to propose the elements of a theory of plans. This is to be seen as part of a wider programme in the foundations of technology. In this broader context we wish to show that technology, far from being proto-science presupposes it, and that its methodology, far from being a poor cousin to the scientific method, builds on it and uses it as a foundation.

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Recommended Citation

Seni, Dan Alexander, "Elements of a theory of plans" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9413907.