Affiliations: Laboratory for Applied Ontology, ISTC-CNR and KRDB FUB, Trento, Italy | Philosophy Department, Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands | Department of Philosophy, John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland | Institute of Scientific and Industrial Research, Osaka University, Osaka, Japan | Research Center for Service Science, School of Knowledge Science, Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Komatsu, Japan
Abstract: Humans are always interested in distinguishing natural and artificial entities although there is no sharp demarcation between the two categories. Surprisingly, things do not improve when the second type of entities is restricted to the arguably more constrained realm of physical technical artifacts. This paper helps to clarify the relationship between natural entities and technical artifacts by developing a conceptual landscape within which to analyze these notions. The framework is developed by studying three definitions of technical artifact which arise from different perspectives. All these perspectives share two intuitions: that technical artifacts are physical objects that exist by human intervention; and that technical artifacts are entities to be contrasted to natural entities. Yet the perspectives are different in the way they spell out these intuitions: the relevant human intervention may range from intentional selection to intentional production; and the contrast between technical artifacts and natural entities may be introduced by a constitution relation or by defining properties that set technical artifacts apart. The three perspectives are compared and their similarities and dissimilarities are explored with the help of ontological analysis.