Technological Objects as Problem-Solving Physical Instruments

Sadjad Soltanzadeh

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    66 Downloads (Pure)


    Common approaches to philosophizing about technological objects give a certain conceptual, if not also ontological, status to these objects by viewing them as entities whose reality is independently conceivable. An alternative view, which I develop here, starts with human activities and understands technological objects and their functions in relation to their (possible) contributions to those activities. On this alternative view, exploring the peculiarities of the activities which involve the usage of technologies becomes as important as—if not more important than— identifying intrinsic or derived activity-independent characteristics of the material objects which are used as technologies.

    Assuming the reality of (human) problem-solving activities, my aim is to introduce, defend, and explore the thesis that technologies should be understood as problemsolving physical instruments.

    I argue that the reality of technologies is derived from the reality of the problems
    they are meant to solve, and for this reason it is metaphysically more appropriate to talk about 'technological objects’, or more precisely, ‘problem-solving physical instruments’ instead of 'technologies'. The complexity of the solution to a problem is translatable to the complexity of its corresponding technology, and thus some objects become more technological than others.
    I defend and highlight the distinction between the semantics of (technical)
    functions and their metaphysics, and show that the essentialist theories of function suffer from confusing these two distinct fields. So I defend non-essentialist approaches to functions, and define the function of an object in terms of what one justifiably believes to be the intended consequences of its (possible) usage.

    I then conceptually analyse the term ‘problem’ and discuss the extent to which
    problems are constructed by purely human attributes, and the sense in which
    technologies themselves shape what are considered to be problematic states of
    affairs. I show that a satisfactory understanding of a given technology should take into account the role that other technologies play in creating the nvironment in which the reality of the technology in question can make sense. At the same time, however, I contend that certain human mental abilities (which are not themselves influenced by or extended to technologies) are essential to the conception of technological objects as problem-solving physical instruments.

    Finally, I investigate the relation between the science of unobservable entities and objectifying technologies (i.e., technologies which are used to test theories of unobservables). By making a distinction between the scientific objects and the real world objects and focussing on the reality of the former and staying agnostic about the existence of the latter, I argue that our understanding of the reality of scientifically postulated unobservables is partly shaped by objectifying
    technologies. At the same time, the functionality of objectifying technologies also depends on the accepted set of scientifically postulated entities, in the sense that these technologies would cease to function if the respective scientific theories are abandoned.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    • Weckert, John, Principal Supervisor
    • Spence, Edward, Co-Supervisor
    Award date01 Aug 2014
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


    Dive into the research topics of 'Technological Objects as Problem-Solving Physical Instruments'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this