Universität Wien FIND

180068 SE Material culture and artifactuality (2021S)

5.00 ECTS (2.00 SWS), SPL 18 - Philosophie
Continuous assessment of course work


Note: The time of your registration within the registration period has no effect on the allocation of places (no first come, first served).


max. 30 participants
Language: English


Classes (iCal) - next class is marked with N

The course uses the Moodle platform and either Blackboard Collaborate or Zoom for online classes.

Tuesday 09.03. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 16.03. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 23.03. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 13.04. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 20.04. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 27.04. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 04.05. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 11.05. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 18.05. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 01.06. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 08.06. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 15.06. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 22.06. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital
Tuesday 29.06. 11:30 - 13:00 Digital


Aims, contents and method of the course

Aims and contents:

This is an advanced philosophy seminar on material culture and artifactuality, focusing especially on scientific practice. The course is a follow-up of the seminar “Artefacts and Scientific Reasoning” WS2020, but does not require any prior knowledge of the topic. We will be particularly interested in the question of how material culture is epistemically relevant in science. The course begins with a brief recapitulation of how different notions of function, intentionality, production and reproduction have been used to define artifacts and material culture in philosophical discussion. Next, we will discuss different perspectives on the material culture in science. We will begin with some science and technology studies literature on the role of artifacts in scientific practice. Then we proceed to examine empirical evidence from cognitive psychology showing that different modalities (e.g.: pen and paper vs. word processors) influence the performance of users. Finally, we address mathematical practice, and study how scientists exploit different media in their modeling endeavors (e.g. mathematical equations, biological preparations, computer simulations, synthetic systems).


- short introductions by the instructor
- close reading and critical discussion of the literature (concepts, themes, arguments)
- online discussion of the weekly readings in the Moodle platform, each student has to contribute at least two inputs to the weekly Moodle discussion (by making a new question and/or commenting the questions of the other students)
- chairing or co-chairing the group discussion on the basis of the Moodle discussion
- a learning diary, to be submitted weekly; the final diary compiled from the weekly reflections will be graded.

Assessment and permitted materials

Active participation (20%), questions and online discussion of readings (30 %), (co-)chairing a class (10%), and learning diary (40 %).

Minimum requirements and assessment criteria

1. Active participation in the seminar
2. Readings: You have to prepare for the classes well enough to be able to present the basic argument(s) of the readings
3. Each student needs to chair, or co-chair, one class. The chair(s) should give a comprehensive overview of the online discussion, and lead the discussion in the class.
4. A learning diary in English. The more specific instructions will be given in the first class.

Examination topics

No examination

Reading list

The readings consist of articles provided in the Moodle and selected chapters of the book:
Preston, Beth (2013): A Philosophy of Material Culture: Action, Function and Mind. New York and London: Routledge. (Also available as a Kindle book).

Association in the course directory

Last modified: We 21.04.2021 11:26