One can divide the debates over the ontology of artifacts into two different questions: the existential question and the question about the nature of artifacts. The existential question is simply the question whether there are artifacts, or whether artifacts are among the constituents of reality. The following questions on the nature of artifacts are important to settle the existential question. Are artifacts mind-independent entities, and if not, does that make them less ‘real’ than natural kinds? Do artifacts have essential properties like their intended functions or the material that they are made out of? The answers to these questions are also significant for our theory of reference for artifactual kind terms.
|Key works||For negative answers to the existential question on the grounds of parsimony, causal adequacy, and other metaphysical principles/virtues see Van Inwagen 1990, Merricks 2001, and Sider 2001. Wiggins 2001, Baker 2007, Thomasson 2007, Elder 2004 and more recently Korman 2010 provide a very different kind of defenses for the existence of artifacts. For a discussion on the theory of reference for artifactual kind terms see Kornblith 1980, Schwartz 1977 and Thomasson 2003.|
|Introductions||Hilpinen 1999 provides a very nice introduction to the philosophical problems surrounding artifacts, including ontological questions mentioned above. See also Korman 2011, though the scope of his article is wider than artifacts. Margolis & Laurence 2007 is a good collection for different theories of artifacts.|
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