[SystemSafety] Engineering depends on making arguments (was Re: Fwd: Measurement + Control)

From: C. Michael Holloway < >
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2013 09:25:09 -0500

> Engineering is not about making "arguments."

At one level, the statement is trivially true. Engineering is (by definition) about constructing practical products. The desired end result is, for example, a bridge, not the designs and analyses of the bridge.

But at another level, the statement is false. Producing the desired end product necessarily requires specification, design, analysis, and associated activities. These activities in turn necessarily produce results, which are usually embodied in documents. These documents necessarily contain many arguments. Some of these arguments may be explicit (for example, calculations about the load that a particular truss must support). Some of these arguments may be implicit (for example, the implicit argument underlying a decision to adopt a particular design as sufficiently safe based on the results of a thorough hazard analysis). Whether implicit or explicit, arguments permeate every aspect of engineering.

Arguments are not the end product of engineering, as they are of philosophy. But without arguments, there is no engineering.


C. Michael Holloway

Disclaimer: My opinions are mine alone. Give neither blame nor credit to my 
employer for them.


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Received on Mon Dec 16 2013 - 15:25:27 CET

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