Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Towards an object-centered account of artifacts and prototype production

01 February 2023  |  15:00  |  Seminari de Filosofia UB


Prominent existing accounts of artifacts tend to be either author-intention-based or user-based: according to the former, an artifact is what its original author(s) (e.g., builders, designers, producers, etc.) intended it to be; according to the latter, an artifact’s history of use and  reproduction determines what the artifact is. In this paper, I argue that neither author-intention- based approaches nor user-based approaches yield the right account of artifacts and prototype- production. Instead, what is needed is a more object-centered approach, i.e., an approach which  puts greater emphasis on the object itself and its capacities. To account for cases of malfunction, however, our conception of which capacities are relevant to the object’s kind-membership must be broadened to include not only the object’s actual or current capacities, but also its potential capacities, i.e., capacities it could acquire if the object were repaired or otherwise modified in a way that is compatible with its kind-membership. Such an account, I argue, is more successful than its competitors in capturing cases in which the classification of an artifact diverges from both author-intentions and user-practices. An object-centered account, moreover, opens up the possibility of categorizing artifacts alongside members of natural kinds as full-fledged substances, i.e., matter-form compounds that are highly unified, structured, and capable of persisting through intrinsic change over time.