Document Type

Book Chapter


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Publication Details

This article is a near-last version of a chapter that has been published as: Grimson W., Murphy M. (2015) The Epistemological Basis of Engineering, and Its Reflection in the Modern Engineering Curriculum. In: Christensen S., Didier C., Jamison A., Me-ganck M., Mitcham C., Newberry B. (eds) Engineering Identities, Epistemologies and Values. Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, vol 21. Springer


Perhaps unlike other professions, engineering is strangely difficult to define or describe. This is nowhere as evident as when an attempt is made to articulate its epis-temological basis. Engineering has a rich and complex ‘gene pool’ which goes back to when people first built shelters and shaped implements for agricultural purposes. Throughout the ages one constant characteristic of engineering has been its readiness to avail of whatever material is on hand together with whatever knowledge or skill is available to meet the challenge of enhancing an object or making something which nev-er previously existed. On occasion engineers have created new knowledge but for the most part they have been users of knowledge: borrowing from nature, science, mathe-matics, arts in order to meet their requirements to solve specific problems. The art of engineering is in the appropriate selection of knowledge coupled with an ability to use that knowledge in achieving an objective. A three-layer model is proposed to describe the epistemological basis of engineering. This layer consists of a foundational layer con-taining subject material such as mathematics and science, above which is a middle-layer largely populated by domain knowledge associated with engineering program learning outcomes, and with the final top layer acting as a capstone and expressed in terms of professional competences.