Posted: February 26th, 2023

Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Technology

Please answer these questions in paragraph form using my included article. Please paraphrase instead of quotation marks. Please make it about 700 words long.

Explain Skomilowski’s idea of technological progress and scientific progress.

How “progress”  in science and technology can be used as a criterion to illustrate the differences between them. 

The Structure of Thinking in Technology
Author(s): Henryk Skolimowski
Source: Technology and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Summer, 1966), pp. 371-383
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press on behalf of the Society for the History
of Technology
Stable URL:

Accessed: 29/12/2009 17:45

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR’s Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR’s Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

Society for the History of Technology and The Johns Hopkins University Press are collaborating with JSTOR
to digitize, preserve and extend access to Technology and Culture.

The Structure of Thinking
in Technology

Inquiry into the philosophy of technology, due to the infancy of the

subject, must start with some reflections on what technology itself is.
There is at present a tendency to identify technology with a demiurge
of our times, or perhaps even with a Moloch who will bring doom to
mankind, that is, mankind as dreamt of by philosophers, not by organi-
zation men. In this setting technology assumes a role similar to that
which was ascribed to history in the nineteenth century: the role of the
final cause which shapes the destiny of mankind and, more specifically,
which aims at the total subjugation of man to the machine or, in other
words, at turning the human being into a technological component.

It cannot be denied that reflections on technology in this fashion are

philosophical reflections and that consequently they belong to some
system of the philosophy of technology. At this point, however, a vital
distinction should be made between a philosophy of technology and a
technological philosophy. The former belongs to the realm of epistemo-
logical inquiry and attempts to situate technology within the scope of
human knowledge; the latter belongs to the realm of sociology, broad-

ly conceived, or social philosophy, and is concerned primarily with the
future of human society.

Those who prophesy that our civilization will be devoured by the
Moloch of technology are expanding a certain vision of the world, are
viewing the world through technological lenses, are attempting to
establish a new kind of monism, the technological monism, in which the
technological order is shown to be the prime mover and the ultimate
justification of other orders, moral, aesthetic, cognitive, social, and polit-
ical. The articulation of this technological philosophy is perhaps most

important from a social point of view-as a way of alerting us to the
dangers of technological tyranny. However, for the time being this
technological monism, or whatever name is given to this sociohistorical
prophecy, is but a prophecy. As important as it may be from a human

DR. SKOLIMOWSKI, a philosopher of science and technology, is at the School of
Philosophy of the University of Southern California.


372 Henryk Skolimowski

point of view, it cannot serve as a substitute for a philosophy of tech-
nology proper, that is, for a philosophy that aims at the investigation of
the nature and structure of technology, conceived as a branch of human
learning and analyzed for its cognitive content.

I shall not be concerned here with the transformation of society by
technology. It seems to me that the “monolithic technical world” is but
a graphic and perhaps fearsome expression, but not reality. For the time
being the evidence that technology pervades the totality of human rela-
tionships is rather slim. In the realm of art, for example, modern tech-
nology perpetuates at least some traditional human values. The unprece-
dented spread of superb reproductions of the great masters, the easy
availability of the finest recordings of music of the last five centuries, the
spectacular rise in the production and distribution of paperback books,
are all due to the advances of technology, and all serve, at least in part,
the cause of highbrow culture, not technological culture.

It may be that a comprehensive philosophy of technology should in-
clude the moral implications of technological progress. It may be, as
some philosophers insist, that, in spite of the semiautonomous develop-
ment of technology, a substantial part of modern technology is moved
by non-technological forces, that, for example, motor cars are produced
in order to make money, intercontinental missiles in order to kill
people. Consequently, a comprehensive treatment of the philosophy of
technology must examine the presuppositions lying at the foundation of
these technological “events” and must attempt to assess their implica-
tions for mankind at large. The weight of these problems cannot be
underestimated. However, they are outside the scope of my consider-

In this paper I shall be concerned with what I call the philosophy of
technology proper, that is, with the analysis of the epistemological status
of technology. Technology is a form of human knowledge. Epistemol-
ogy investigates the validity of all human knowledge, its conditions,
its nature. Therefore, it is the business of epistemology to investigate
the peculiarities of technology and its relation to other forms of human
knowledge. In particular, it is of crucial importance to analyze the
relationship of technology to science. I shall argue in the course of
this paper that: (1) it is erroneous to consider technology as being an
applied science, (2) that technology is not science, (3) that the differ-
ence between science and technology can be best grasped by examining
the idea of scientific progress and the idea of technological progress.

In the following sections I shall attempt to provide a basis for a
philosophy of technology rooted in the idea of technological progress.
Then I shall proceed to show that in various branches of technology

The Structure of Thinking in Technology

there can be distinguished specific thought patterns which can be seen
as explaining technological progress.

* * *

Many methodologists and philosophers of science insist that technol-
ogy is in principle a composition of various crafts. Regardless of how
sophisticated these crafts may have become, they are still crafts. It is
argued that technology is methodologically derivative from other
sciences, that it has no independent methodological status, and that what
makes it scientific is the application of various other sciences, natural
sciences in particular. Thus, the scientific part of technology can be de-
composed into particular sciences and accounted for as physics, optics,
chemistry, electromagnetics, etc. This view misconstrues the situation
because it does not take into account the idea of technological progress.

My thesis is that technological progress is the key to the understand-
ing of technology. Without the comprehension of technological prog-
ress, there is no comprehension of technology and there is no sound
philosophy of technology. Attempts that aim at reducing technology to
the applied sciences fail to perceive the specific problem situation in-
herent in technology. Although in many instances certain technological
advancements can indeed be accounted for in terms of physics or
chemistry, in other words, can be seen as based on pure science, it should
not be overlooked that the problem was originally not cognitive but
technical. With an eye to solving a technical problem, we undertake in-
quiries into what is called pure science. Our procedures are extremely
selective. Out of infinitely many possible channels of research only very
few are chosen. Problems thus are investigated not with an eye to in-
creasing knowledge but with an eye to a solution of a technical problem.
If it were not for the sake of solving some specific technological prob-
lems, many properties of physical bodies never would have been
examined, and many theories incorporated afterward into the body of
pure science never would have been formulated. Perhaps the most ob-
vious examples can be found in the sciences of electronics and of space
physics. The development of computors resulted in the replacement of
tubes by transistors. In developing transistors many properties and laws
governing the behavior of semiconductors have been formulated which
might never have been formulated otherwise. To take another example,
the problem of metal fatigue and many other phenomena concerning the
behavior of solids in space might never have been investigated, and
theories resulting from them might never have been established if it
were not for the sake of constructing supersonic planes and intercon-


374 Henryk Skolimowski

tinental rockets. To mention finally atomic physics, it was in the Man-
hattan Project where plutonium, an element not found in nature, had to
be developed in the process of producing the atom bomb. Thus, in one
sense science, that is pure science, is but a servant to technology, a char-
woman serving technological progress.

* * *

I shall now discuss the thesis that technology is not science. By this
statement I mean to say that the basic methodological factors that ac-
count for the growth of technology are quite different from the factors
that account for the growth of science. Consequently, the idea of tech-

nological progress as contrasted with scientific progress must be
examined more carefully.

I am in full agreement with Karl Popper that science, in order to exist,
must progress; the end of scientific progress is the end of science. This

progress results from the continuous improvement of scientific theories
and constant enlargement of the scientific store; more precisely it results
from a permanent overhaul of theories and incessant replacement of
worse theories by better ones; “better” means simpler, or more uni-
versal, or more detailed, or of greater explanatory power, or all these

things together. The objective underlying this endless succession of
theories is the increase of knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge
(which is another expression for the pursuit of truth) has been and still
is the most important aim of science. We critically scrutinize our
theories by devising tests of increasing ingenuity and severity in order to
learn how squarely they can face reality. Whatever operationists and
conventionalists of various denominations may say, science is about real-

ity. The acquisition of knowledge and the pursuit of truth are only pos-
sible if there is reality. Thus it is contained in the idea of scientific prog-
ress that we investigate reality and that we devise theories of increasing
depth in order to comprehend this reality.

What about technology? Is it another instrument for investigating
reality? Does it aim at the enlargement of knowledge and the acquisition
of truth? The answer is negative in both cases. Hence we come to
significant differences between science and technology. In science we
investigate the reality that is given; in technology we create a reality
according to our designs. In order to avoid confusion I should perhaps
say at once that these two kinds of reality are not of the same order. To
put it simply, in science we are concerned with reality in its basic mean-
ing; our investigations are recorded in treatises “on what there is.” In
technology we produce artifacts; we provide means for constructing

The Structure of Thinking in Technology

objects according to our specifications. In short, science concerns itself
with what is, technology with what is to be.

The growth of technology manifests itself precisely through its abil-
ity to produce more and more diversified objects1 with more and more
interesting features, in a more and more efficient way.

It is a peculiarity of technological progress that it provides the means
(in addition to producing new objects) for producing “better” objects
of the same kind. By “better” many different characteristics may be in-
tended, for example: (a) more durable, or (b) more reliable, or (c)
more sensitive (if the object’s sensitivity is its essential characteristic), or
(d) faster in performing its function (if its function has to do with
speed), or (e) a combination of the above. In addition to the just-men-
tioned five criteria, technological progress is achieved through shorten-
ing the time required for the production of the given object or through
reducing the cost of production. Consequently, two further criteria are
reduced expense or reduced time, or both, in producing an object of a
given kind.

It hardly could be denied that contemporary freeways and highways
mark a technological advancement in terms of durability when com-
pared with Roman or even nineteenth-century roads; that modern
bridges are far more reliable (in addition to other advantages) than
bridges of previous centuries; that photographic cameras installed in
artificial satellites are considerably more sensitive (in addition to being
more reliable and more durable) than those used in the pre-Sputnik age;
that the speed of jet airplanes makes them superior to the planes of the
brothers Wright. And no one can deny that if the same plane or bridge
or camera can be manufactured less expensively, or alternatively in
shorter time (at the same expense), then it will equally mean a tech-
nological advancement.

The criteria of technological progress cannot be replaced by or even
meaningfully translated into the criteria of scientific progress. And, con-
versely, the criteria of scientific progress cannot be expressed in terms
of the criteria of technological progress. If an enormous technological
improvement is made and at the same time no increase in pure science is
accomplished, it will nevertheless mark a step in technological progress.
On the other hand, it is of no consequence to pure science whether a
given discovery is utilized or not; what is of significance is how much
the discovery adds to our knowledge, how much it contributes to the
comprehension of the world.

It may be argued that in the pursuit of technological progress we
1 By the “technological object” I mean every artifact produced by man to serve

a function; it may be a supersonic airplane as well as a can-opener.


376 Henryk Skolimowski

often bring about scientific progress as well. It should be observed, on
the other hand, that scientific progress may and indeed does facilitate
technological progress. Discoveries in pure science, regardless of how
abstract they appear at first, sooner or later find their technological em-
bodiment. These two observations lead to a conclusion that perhaps
neither scientific nor technological progress can be achieved in its pure
form; that in advancing technology, we advance science; and in ad-
vancing science, we advance technology. This being the case, it should
not prevent us from analyzing these two kinds of progress separately,
particularly because scientific progress is often treated autonomously
and is regarded as the key to an explanation of the growth and nature
of science. If we are permitted to divorce scientific progress from
technological progress when examining the nature of science, we should
be equally permitted to divorce technological progress from scientific
progress when examining the nature of technology.

In this context it is rather striking that even such mature and eminent
philosophers of science like Popper have nothing better to say than to
equate technology with computation rules. Neither Popper nor, to my
knowledge, any other authority in the philosophy of science, has cared
to examine the idea of technological progress. Hence their remarks on
technology, whenever they find it convenient to mention it, are rather
harsh and far from adequate.

To summarize, scientific and technological progress are responsible
for what science and technology, respectively, attempt to accomplish.
Science aims at enlarging our knowledge through devising better and
better theories; technology aims at creating new artifacts through devis-
ing means of increasing effectiveness. Thus the aims and the means
are different in each case.

* * *

The kernel of scientific progress can be expressed simply as being the
pursuit of knowledge. The answer seems to be less straightforward with
regard to technological progress. However, in spite of the diversity of
criteria accounting for the advancement of technology, there seems to
be a unifying theme common to them all, or at any rate into which they
can be translated. This theme is the measure of effectiveness. Techno-
logical progress thus could be described as the pursuit of effectiveness
in producing objects of a given kind.

Now, the question is: Can this measure of effectiveness be studied in
general terms or, to put it differently, can we aim at a general theory of
efficient action and then incorporate it in the idea of technological
progress? And a second question: Is there only one, or are there many

The Structure of Thinking in Technology

different patterns leading to an increase of the measure of effectiveness
in different branches of technology?

In relation to the first question, it should be observed that, in addition
to specific formulas for efficient action constructed for limited scopes of
human activity (e.g., the science of management), there is indeed a
general theory of efficient action for all activities we choose to analyze.
This general theory of efficient action is called praxiology. This theory
has been worked out in detail by the Polish philosopher, Tadeusz Kotar-
binfski. Since the principles of praxiology are treated extensively in
Kotarbiniski’s treatise,2 I shall be very brief here.

Praxiology analyzes action from the point of view of efficiency.
Praxiology is a normative discipline; it establishes values, practical
values, and assesses our action in terms of these values. Practical values
should not be confused with other values, aesthetic or moral. Whether
we are aware of this or not, it is through constructing praxiological
models that we accomplish progress in technology. Progress means an
improvement of the measure of effectiveness in at least one aspect.
Usually the praxiological model assumes some losses in effectiveness in
order to attain more substantial gains. It is sometimes facinating to ana-
lyze how meticulous and impeccable is the calculus of gains and losses
in the praxiological model, which very often is constructed without an
awareness of its praxiological nature.

It seems to me that if the characterization of technological progress as
the pursuit of effectiveness is correct, the philosopher of technology
must include the study of praxiology and in particular the study of
praxiological models in his inquiry. Organization theory is simply inade-
quate for this purpose because of its limited scope. The advances of
modern technology take on a very complex form requiring integration
of a variety of heterogeneous factors as well as the establishment of a
hierarchy of levels. What finally matters is the increased measure of
effectiveness, but the road to this increase is multichanneled and multi-
leveled. Traditional organization theories are unable to handle this com-
plexity, but praxiology can.

* * *

Technological progress, analyzed in terms of measures of effective-
ness, led us to two questions. The first was whether technological
effectiveness can be treated in general terms-this prompted us to con-
sider praxiology. The second was whether we can distinguish specific

2Praxiology-An Introduction to the Science of Efficient Action (London,
1965). See also my article, “Praxiology-the Science of Accomplished Acting,”
Personalist, Summer 1965.


378 Henryk Skolimowski

patterns of thinking leading to the increase of effectiveness in different
branches of technology.

I shall devote the remaining part of this paper to the second question.
That is, I shall attempt to discern specific patterns of technological
thinking for some branches of technology. I do not propose to find such
patterns for technology as a whole. What I can offer are some sugges-
tions as to how one may approach the problem and discern these pat-
terns in less complex fields. If the procedure is right, it will lead to the

discovery of other patterns in other branches of technology.
Before I attempt to spell out some of the structures or patterns of

thinking in technology, I shall show what they are and how they work
in microbiology. The microbiologist makes daily observations of micro-

scopic sections which are quite simple from a certain point of view.
Now what is a microscopic section, for example, of a diphtheria culture?
It is, in the layman’s language, a specific configuration of certain forms
which possess characteristic structures. This is how far we can go in de-

scribing the phenomenon verbally. In other words, no amount of verbal

explanation will render it possible for the layman and generally for the
untrained person to recognize the diphtheria culture by mere description.
At first the layman and beginning students of microbiology are simply
unable to perceive what is there to be seen. After some period of train-

ing they do perceive and are in fair agreement as to what they see. The
ability to recognize certain microscopic structures is thus peculiar to
students of microbiology.

The art of observation is not universal but specific for a given field or
subject matter. Whenever observation plays a significant role in scien-
tific investigation, it is selective observation directed toward perceiving
some objects and their configurations and toward neglecting others.
Observation, however, is not only a perceptual process but also involves
some conceptual thinking. Certain types of observation are intrinsically
connected with thinking in terms of certain categories.

In general, it seems to me that specific branches of learning originate
and condition specific modes of thinking, develop and adhere to cate-
gories through which they can best express their content and by means
of which they can further progress. I shall illustrate this thesis by
examining some branches of technology, namely, surveying, civil engi-
neering, mechanical engineering, and architecture, with the understand-
ing that the last, architecture, is only in part a branch of technology.

I will start with surveying. The final products of surveying are maps,
plans, and profiles in elevation. In order to avoid complications in the
analysis, instead of considering a map that is a projection of a larger area
of land on a sphere, I shall examine a plan that consists of a projection of

The Structure of Thinking in Technology

a smaller piece of land on a plane as the referential surface. It is quite
obvious that we must measure all angles of the figure to be projected on
the plane, all its sides, and at least one azimuth. Now, the specific ques-
tions for this surveying operation, and indeed for all geodesy, are: Why
is this method applied, not any other? Why should we measure the sides
with a metal tapeline and not by steps or by eye? Why should we check
and adjust our instruments? A surveyor, who is quite capable of skil-
fully performing all the geodetical operations, might be less capable of
relating all these operations to one theme, one central element that
accounts for the specificity of surveying. It is one thing to follow a
procedure and another to be able to grasp and verbalize the essence of
this procedure or, in other words, to make measurements and to be
aware of the specific structures of thinking characteristic for surveying.

What, then, is specific for thinking in surveying? It is the accuracy of
the measurement. This can be seen while tracing the development of
surveying from its earliest stages as well as while following its recent
progress. In the final analysis, it is always the accuracy that lies at the
bottom of all other considerations. Sometimes it is expressed in an in-
direct and disguised form, for example, when we inquire which of two
or three methods is most economic or most efficient. However, even in
this case, the silent assumption is that the accuracy remains the same or,
at any rate, that the decrease of accuracy is negligible and the economic
gains-which sometimes may be of prime importance-are quite con-
siderable. It is thus the most conspicuous feature of geodesy that it aims
at a progressively higher accuracy of measurement; in an indirect form
this may mean a reduction of cost or time or work while preserving the
same accuracy. Thus, we may say in a succinct form: To think geodeti-
cally is to think in terms of accuracy.

Succinct forms have the virtue that they pin down one crucial ele-
ment of the analysis; they have the vice that (for the sake of brevity)
they neglect other elements and consequently present a simplification
of the phenomenon under investigation. So it-is with our succinct char-
acterization of geodetical thinking. It is by no means the only kind of
thinking the surveyor performs. It is not even the dominant thinking in
terms of the actual time devoted to it. But thinking in terms of accuracy
is the most instrumental for surveying. And that means that the practi-
tioner of surveying will be a better practitioner if he is aware of the
specificity of geodesy and if he applies consistently his knowledge in his
practice. And this also means that the researcher in geodesy will be a
better one if he consistently keeps in mind that geodesy aims at a pro-
gressively higher accuracy of measurement. Furthermore, the grasp of
the specificity of surveying will help the scholar who investigates the


380 Henryk Skolimowski

history of surveying. History of any branch of learning is twisted and
full of unexpected turns and blind alleys. Unless we discover the
“Ariadne’s thread” in its development, a history of any discipline will be
but a mosaic of unrelated or loosely related events, descriptions, theo-
ries. Thus, the discernment of patterns specific for a given branch of
learning is not only an activity that may give us the comfort and aes-
thetic satisfaction that accompanies neat classifications for the sake of
classification but may indeed be of a concrete value to the practitioner,
researcher, and historian. It is in these terms that I deem the analysis of
patterns of thinking important.

To return to technology, when we consider a typical civil engineer-
ing project-whether the construction of a house or a bridge-the deci-
sive element is the durability of the construction. Therefore, we may
say that thinking, specific for the civil engineer, is in terms of durability.
Durability is the starting point, or at any rate the ultimate element of
the analysis. The choice of materials and the methods of construction
must be related to the required durability.

Theoretical research in civil engineering is directed toward the dis-
covery of combinations of materials that will either increase the durabil-
ity (of the construction) or lower the costs at the same durability. Dur-
ing the execution of a project, some calculations may be made and the
accuracy of the calculations taken into account, but here they are of
subsidiary importance. The main issue is durability, although admittedly
the form of its manifestation may be very complex or disguised.

Perhaps this can be seen even more clearly when we review the his-
tory of civil engineering or, in other words, when we review the history
of architecture in its constructional aspect. If we omit the aesthetic and
utilitarian aspects, the history of architecture can be seen as the develop-
ment and perfection of those architectural forms and those combina-
tions of materials that increase durability. Although the progression of
more and more durable forms is often hidden under the guise of artistic
trends and movements, it is there and can be traced easily.

Turning now to architecture proper, architectural thinking is simul-
taneous thinking in terms of durability and aesthetics and utility, and
the two latter categories are perhaps more important than the first one.
When projecting a house, the civil engineer must consider new mate-
rials and their combinations as well as new constructional designs. When
designing the same house, the architect must consider the standards of
comfort, hygiene, and, generally speaking, the “livability” prevailing for
his times, as well as the aesthetic tastes of his epoch, its predilections and
aversions. Thus, thinking in terms of utility and artistic predilections
separates the architect from the civil engineer.

The Structure of Thinking in Technology

I shall now very briefly consider mechanical engineering. The key
element in this branch of engineering is efficiency (in the narrow sense
of the term when it refers to the efficiency of an engine, whether steam
or combustion). Thus, thinking, specific for mechanical engineering, is
in terms of efficiency (efficiency here is meant in the narrow sense speci-
fied above). In designing engines, the problem of efficiency has two
aspects: either we attempt to increase the absolute efficiency and raise it
as close as possible to 1, or we attempt to construct a “better” engine
while keeping the same efficiency (“better” can mean: safer, cheaper,
longer lasting, more resistant). Obviously, certain problems concerned
with the strength of materials have to be considered and solved, and
therefore thinking in terms of durability takes place here as well; it is,
however, of a derivative character. By saying it is derivative, I do not
mean to say that it has little significance or no significance at all but,
rather, that the starting point for an analysis of durability are problems
of efficiency. Problems of durability are not chosen at random but are
selected with an eye to the solution of the problems of efficiency.

In considering machine tools, the question of efficiency is not im-
mediately obvious but may be shown to be of crucial importance as
well. A number of other factors, such as the cost of construction, dura-
bility, and useful life, are analyzed at the same time. Finally, we either
attempt to raise efficiency while preserving the same cost, the same use-
ful life, and the same durability; or we attempt to reduce the cost while
preserving the same efficiency, the same useful life, and the same dur-
ability; or to prolong the useful life with the remaining data unchanged.

To summarize, to think in terms specific for a given discipline is to
think in those terms that (a) determine the lines of investigation within
this discipline; (b) account for the historical development of this disci-
pline; (c) explain the recent growth of the discipline.

Once again it should be emphasized that categories specific for various
branches of technology or, more generally, specific for various branches
of learning, are not those that end all but rather those that begin all.
They are the key to the analysis. They are the key to the idea of tech-
nological progress. Neither should it be surmised that categories I call
specific have anything to do with Kantian categories. Perhaps my termi-
nology is unfortunate. My point was simply to draw attention to certain
patterns of thinking which can be discerned as characteristic for various
branches of technology and elsewhere. The most important conceptual
elements in these patterns I call categories.

I should not be surprised if the “categorical” analysis as sketched
here will be viewed as insufficient for an exhaustive epistemological
description of technology. Perhaps it should be remembered that as yet


382 Henryk Skolimowski

no general philosophy of science-which after all has been developed for
some centuries-is viewed as sufficient. Can we then expect more from a
subject that is beginning to emerge than we expect from a related sub-
ject that has achieved a considerable maturity?

* * *

The analysis of the structure of thinking in technology is hampered
by the fact that nowadays the construction of bridges, highways, auto-
mobiles, or even domestic gadgets is inseparably linked with the con-
sideration of beauty and comfort which are basically “non-technical”
categories. Technical categories, such as accuracy and durability, are,
so to say, the technological constants. They are the yardstick of techno-
logical progress. Aesthetic satisfaction and comfort are to a certain de-
gree variables. They cannot be measured objectively for all epochs. The
more decisive their influence on the object designed, the more difficult
it is to recapture the structure of thinking peculiar to a given branch of
technology. Architecture again can serve as an example.

Luigi Nervi, Oscar Niemeyer, and Frank Lloyd Wright, among
others, are architects for whom the element of a construction (e.g., the
beam of a house) is often at the same time a component of an over-all
aesthetic pattern. These constructor-architects think at the same time in
terms of durability and in terms of aesthetic satisfaction; they find
aesthetic expression in functional, that is, purely constructional elements.
A similar situation occurs in other domains of technology. While de-
signing and constructing automobiles or lathes, can-openers or inter-
continental ballistic missiles, the purely technical aspects often are inter-
woven with aesthetic and utilitarian aspects. The technological phe-
nomenon no longer is identical with the technical phenomenon and can-
not be analyzed entirely in terms of the engineering sciences. The social
context, the economic structure of a society, the existing social mores
and aesthetic predilections-all have their imprint on the technological
phenomenon and, to a certain extent, determine its character.

* * *

In summary, I should like to observe that mistaken ideas about the
nature of technology reflect what technology was a century or two
centuries ago and not what it is today. In the twentieth century, and
particularly in our day, technology has emancipated itself into a semi-
autonomous cognitive domain. There are many links between science
and technology, but a system of interrelations should not be mistaken
for a complete dependence. A fruitful way of reconstructing the epis-

The Structure of Thinking in Technology 383

temological status of technology is through grasping the idea of tech-
nological progress. Technological progress is the pursuit of effectiveness
in producing objects of a given kind. The purely technical elements,
such as the accuracy or durability of our products, are often considered
in larger economic frameworks which complicate the basically techno-
logical typology and even impede the analysis in terms of purely tech-
nological categories. In addition, the standards of beauty and utility are
becoming intrinsic ingredients of technological products, and this
makes our analysis even more difficult. However, our task is to meet
these difficulties, not to avoid them. The point is that the structure of
technology is far more complex than the methodologist of science is
prepared to admit. It is only through recognizing this complexity, and
through granting to technology a methodological autonomy, that we
may be able to end the stagnation in a field which as yet has only a name
-the philosophy of technology.

  • Article Contents
  • p.371













  • Issue Table of Contents
  • Technology and Culture, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Summer, 1966), pp. 301-451

    Front Matter

    Towards a Philosophy of Technology

    Prefatory Note [pp.301-302]

    Technics and the Nature of Man [pp.303-317]

    Technology as Skills [pp.318-328]

    Technology as Applied Science [pp.329-347]

    The Confusion between Science and Technology in the Standard Philosophies of Science [pp.348-366]

    The Need for Corroboration: Comments on Agassi’s Paper [pp.367-370]

    The Structure of Thinking in Technology [pp.371-383]

    The Social Character of Technological Problems: Comments on Skolimowski’s Paper [pp.384-390]


    Lynn Thorndike (1882-1965) [pp.391-394]

    The Cover Design

    Dyeing Fabrics in Sixteenth-Century Venice [pp.395-397]


    A Postscript to Reti’s Notes on Juanelo Turriano’s Water Mills [pp.398-401]

    Technology, Traditionalism, and Military Establishments [pp.402-407]

    The Inaccurate “Slide Rule” [pp.408-409]

    Book Reviews

    untitled [pp.410-411]

    untitled [pp.412-413]

    untitled [pp.413-415]

    untitled [pp.415-418]

    untitled [pp.418-420]

    untitled [pp.420-421]

    untitled [pp.421-424]

    untitled [pp.424-426]

    untitled [pp.426-428]

    untitled [pp.428-429]

    untitled [pp.429-432]

    untitled [pp.432-434]

    untitled [pp.434-436]

    untitled [pp.436-438]

    untitled [pp.438-440]

    untitled [pp.440-441]

    untitled [pp.441-443]

    untitled [pp.443-444]

    untitled [pp.444-445]

    untitled [pp.445-446]

    untitled [pp.446-447]

    Notes and Announcements [pp.448-451]

    Back Matter

Expert paper writers are just a few clicks away

Place an order in 3 easy steps. Takes less than 5 mins.

Calculate the price of your order

You will get a personal manager and a discount.
We'll send you the first draft for approval by at
Total price: