Document Type

Book Chapter


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Chapter 7 in Philosophy in Engineering (Christensen, S., Meganck, M., Delahousse, B. (eds). pp.139-160. Aarhus, Academica, 2007. ISBN: 978-87-7675-454-9


In exploring the epistemology of engineering science, we propose a model of engineering. This model incorporates the goals of engineering, the approach to engineering (also called the engineering method) and the role of experience in engineering. The basis for understanding the nature of engineering science will be explored, and will be contrasted with natural science. To begin, a large-scale engineering project that was successfully completed in Ireland many years ago is discussed - specifically, the development of a megalithic passage tomb as an exemplar of the engineering method in structural design, project management and aesthetics. This exemplar firmly demonstrates that engineering method existed before the development and understanding of the relevant natural science. We next contrast the nature of engineering or engineering science and natural science. This discussion will further develop the engineering model, but will contrast the philosophical differences between engineering and science. We then return to build upon the 'engineering model' through the modern day exemplar of the development of the jet engine, demonstrating that invariably multiple factors, including creative design initiatives from different sources, global, political, economic and cultural circumstance, and the passage of time contribute to the evolution and success (or failure) of large sustainable scientific and engineering projects. In conclusion, the engineering model is mapped to a philosophical model demonstrating that philosophy is as relevant to engineering as it is to other fields.