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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Fall 2003

T C 357 • Philosophy of Technology-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
40650 TTh
2:00 PM-3:30 PM
ETC 4.120

Course Description

The study of the engineering method is important in understanding the world in which we live. The environment of man is a collage of engineering problems and solutions. Political alliances and economic structures have changed dramatically as a result of the telephone, the computer, the atomic bomb, and space exploration--undeniably products of the engineering method. Yet, although we speak freely of technology, most of us do not have the vaguest philosophical notion of what it is or what is befalling us as technology soaks deeper into our lives. The purpose of this course is to define engineering method and to generalize it to universal method. A unique feature of this course is that it includes both students from Plan II and from engineering. The class itself is a microcosm of C.P. Snow’s "Two Cultures." Through class discussions, readings, and shared activities during the semester, both groups of students come to realize the poet writing a poem, the engineer building a bridge, and the student choosing a class are all using the universal method. This course has the following three primary educational objectives: 1) to examine the preconceived differences between the liberal arts and engineering. 2) to justify philosophically the engineer’s method of solving problems. 3) to generalize engineering method to universal method and, in effect, provide an overall synthesis of the liberal arts and engineering. This course focuses on universal method. I am interested in the most effective way to cause the changes I feel are desirable. Would you establish global peace or squelch an impending feud? Would you improve your nation or modify your local government? Would you feed the one-quarter of the world population that goes to bed hungry or decide what to serve for dinner? If so, the world is not as you would have it; if so, you too are interested in method.

About the professor: Dr. Billy V. Koen, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, received M.S. and ScD degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Diplôme d’Ingenieur en Génie Atomique from L’Institut National des Sciences et Techniques Nucléaires, Saclay, France. He was a pioneer in the application of artificial intelligence to nuclear reactor reliability. After 20 years of research in the theory of engineering design, he produced a widely acclaimed definition of engineering method published in a popular monograph now used in many engineering classes throughout the world. Dr. Koen is a member of ten professional societies and nine honor societies, including Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. He has published more than 200 technical papers, has presented 110 invited lectures world-wide, and has received 14 local, state, and national teaching-based awards including a Centennial Medallion given to 175 engineering educators throughout the world. In 1980, he was selected a Minnie Stevens Piper Professor. Dr. Koen has enjoyed teaching Plan II students for over 20 years. In 1996 he was designated a Plan II Parlin Fellow.

Grading Policy

Two one-hour exams (10% each) 20% Two short papers (10% each) 20% One longer paper 30% Final 30%


Koen, B.V., Discussion of The Method; Conducting the Engineer’s Approach to Problem Solving Snow, C.P., The Two Cultures and a Second Look Nagel and Newman, Gödel’s Proof Exerpts from: Plato, Phaedrus; Aristotle, Organum; Bacon, Novum Organum; Descartes, Discours de la Méthode, trans.


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