Public artifacts, intentions, and norms

Amie L. Thomasson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

19 Scopus citations


Artifacts are often said to be things intentionally created to serve a certain function, where function plays the dominant role in classifying artifacts into artifactual kinds. Here I argue, however, that artifacts need not have intended functions and that even when they do, that does not always play a core role in artifactual classification. Artifacts, I argue, must have intended features , but these may include not only functional but also structural, perceptible, or even receptive and normative features regarding how the object is to be regarded, used, or treated. Indeed, I argue that members of public artifact kinds depend on the existence of public norms of treatment. Recognizing the role of receptive and normative features in public artifact kinds enables us to provide a better account of artifact categorization, solve old puzzles about exaptation and minimal creation, and provide a better understanding of the significance of artifacts in our lives and in the social sciences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationArtefact Kinds
Subtitle of host publicationOntology and the Human-Made World
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9783319008011
ISBN (Print)9783319008004
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Artifact
  • Artifact kind
  • Intended function
  • Normative features
  • Public norms
  • Works of art

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Engineering(all)


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