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Welcome to the homepage of Maarten Franssen

Associate Professor
Philosophy Section
Delft University of Technology
Jaffalaan 5
2628 BX Delft
The Netherlands
phone +31-15-2785795



Two souls dwell, alas!, in my breast. Although I have no reason to quote this as a lament.
I studied Physics at the University of Amsterdam from 1974 to 1981 and History at the same university from 1979 to 1989. In physics I specialized in theoretical physics and wrote a master's thesis on the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. In history my major topic was  eighteenth-century history of ideas. I received a cum laude degree in both studies.
In the 1980s I became a collaborator of Professor Jon Dorling, chair of Philosophy of Science at the University of Amsterdam. After an interlude spent on a brief career in publishing, I received my PhD in philosophy from the University of Amsterdam in 1997, for a thesis on the problem of methodological individualism in the social sciences.
I joined the Philosophy Section in Delft in 1996.

research interests

* Normativity, or the ways in which action-oriented and belief-oriented concepts are linked, a theme that is of prime importance for the philosophy of technology.
* The conceptualization and modelling of systems in technology, in particular socio-technical systems, and the relations between different kinds of systems used in the natural and social sciences.
* The application of theoretical accounts developed within philosophy and the social sciences (i.e., models of intentional and rational action, decision theory, game theory, etc.) to methodological issues in engineering and design methodology.
* The relative shares that human convention and choice and hard facts of nature play in our conceptualization of the world and what it contains.

main publications

Artefact kinds: ontology and the human-made world (Synthese library, vol. 365), M. Franssen, P. Kroes, T.A.C. Reydon & P.E. Vermaas, eds., Dordrecht etc.: Springer, 2014.
‘Modelling systems in technology as instrumental systems’, in Model-based reasoning in science and technology: theoretical and cognitive issues, L. Magnani, ed., Heidelberg etc.: Springer, 2014, pp. 543-562.
‘Artifacts’, Oxford Bibliographies - Philosophy, ed. D. Pritchard, June 2013.
‘The goodness and kindhood of artefacts’, in Norms in technology, M. de Vries, S.O. Hansson & A. Meijers, eds., Dordrecht etc.: Springer, 2013, pp. 155-169.
A philosophy of technology: from technical artefacts to sociotechnical systems (jointly with Pieter Vermaas, Peter Kroes, Ibo van de Poel & Wybo Houkes), Morgan & Claypool, 2011.
‘Technology, Philosophy of’ (jointly with Gert-Jan Lokhorst & Ibo van de Poel), in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, E. Zalta ed., first published February 20, 2009; major revision December 13, 2013.
‘Artefacts and normativity’, in Philosophy of technology and engineering sciences (Handbook of the philosophy of science, vol. 9), A. Meijers, ed., Amsterdam: North-Holland, 2009, pp. 923-952.
‘Rationality in engineering design’ (jointly with Peter Kroes & Louis Bucciarelli), in Philosophy of technology and engineering sciences, A. Meijers, ed., Amsterdam: North-Holland, 2009, pp. 565-600.
‘The inherent normativity of functions in biology and technology’, in Functions in biological and artifical worlds: comparative philosophical perspectives, U. Krohs & P. Kroes, eds., Cambridge, Mass. & London: MIT Press, 2009, pp. 103-125.
‘Analytic philosophy of technology’, in A companion to the philosophy of technology, J.K. Berg Olsen, S.A. Pedersen & V.F. Hendricks, eds., Malden, Mass., Oxford & Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 184-188.
‘Sociotechnical systems’ (jointly with Peter Kroes), in A companion to the philosophy of technology, J.K. Berg Olsen, S.A. Pedersen & V.F. Hendricks, eds., Malden, Mass., Oxford & Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009, pp. 223-226.
‘From nutcracking to assisted driving: stratified instrumental systems and the modeling of complexity’, in Engineering systems: achievements and challenges, papers presented at the Second International Symposium on Engineering Systems, MIT, Cambridge, Mass., June 15-17, 2009.
‘An impossibility theorem for verisimilitude’ (jointly with Sjoerd Zwart), Synthese 158 (2007), 75-92.
‘The normativity of artefacts’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 37 (2006), 42-57.
‘Arrow’s theorem, multi-criteria decision problems and multi-attribute design problems in engineering design’, Research in Engineering Design 16 (2005), 42-56.
‘On rationality in engineering design’ (jointly with Louis Bucciarelli), Journal of Mechanical Design 126 (2004), 945-949.
‘Technological regime as a key concept in explaining technical inertia and change: a critical analysis’, International Journal of Technology, Policy and Management 2 (2002), 455-470.
‘The not-so-trivial truth of methodological individualism’, paper presented at the 20th World Congress of Philosophy at Boston, 16-20 August 1998.
‘Constrained maximization reconsidered - an elaboration and critique of Gauthier’s modelling of rational cooperation in a single prisoner’s dilemma’, Synthese 101 (1994), 249-272.
‘Did King Alfonso of Castile really want to advise God against the Ptolemaic system? The legend in history’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 24 (1993), 313-325.
The ocular harpsichord of Louis-Bertrand Castel. The science and aesthetics of an eighteenth-century cause célèbre’, Tractrix. Yearbook for the History of Science, Medicine, Technology and Mathematics 3 (1991), 15-77.
Archimedes in bad: mythen en sagen uit de geschiedenis van de wetenschap (in Dutch), Amsterdam: Prometheus, 1990.


I have developed and currently teach or have taught courses on:

  • philosophy (methodology) of science and engineering
  • reasoning, argumentation, and critical thinking
  • technology as human action and social practice
  • philosophy of technology
  • decision making
  • description and explanation of social phenomena
  • environmental philosophy


Research project The Dual Nature of Technical Artifacts
Research project Modelling infrastructures as socio-technical systems

Naam auteur: D.Droog
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