Proper functionalism : a new account of artifacts
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After a brief overview of the standard attempts to give the persistence conditions of artifacts through time and material changes, I develop and present an account which capitalizes on Koons’s theory that artifacts are in some robust and important way social practices in order to explain their persistence through time. After one unsuccessful attempt to formulate a view that is not susceptible to Ship of Theseus like problems concerning the persistence conditions of artifacts, I present the full view: artifacts become artifacts when they are arranged in a particular formal manner by someone who is engaging in a creative social practice. The artifact then remains the same artifact so long as its form is sufficiently preserved and maintained according to maintaining social practices. In this way, the social practice that unifies the artifact is like the life that unifies an organism—so long as the social practice and the form persist, the artifact is the same artifact. To conclude, I look at several problems my view cannot yet account for, such as the persistence conditions of objects that are not manmade artifacts, and the commitment to ontic vagueness that my view seems to entail.