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The Logic of Decision Making in Engineering Design: An Examination of Design Theories From A Logical Point of View

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 4

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Paper Authors


Soheil Fatehiboroujeni Indiana-Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Soheil FatehiBoroujeni received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Merced in 2018. As a postdoctoral researcher at Purdue University, School of Engineering Education, Soheil is working on a multi-institutional project characterizing governance processes related to change in engineering education, and pursuing other research interests in epistemology and design, among other philosophical topics in engineering education.

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Donna M. Riley Purdue University-Main Campus, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Donna Riley is Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education and Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Designers rely on a variety of objects, practices, norms, and domain-specific knowledge when confronting the design tasks and undertaking their professional responsibilities. The responsibilities of individuals or groups (i.e., specific tasks at each stage of the design process) in their terminal phase, form a set of decisions that need to be negotiated horizontally, i.e., across teams, domains, and disciplines, as well as vertically, i.e., across hierarchical chains of authority that institute the design process. Therefore, a theory of justification and rationality of decision making in design has to account for the intersubjective or social nature of design. In negotiations, a diversity of constraints, commitments, and priorities clash, yet resolutions are found by some type of justification or rationalization. Design researchers and methodologists have developed or adopted theories of rational decision making, all with an impetus to enhance the efficacy of this process. While in meta-theoretical debates in human sciences or philosophy, the notion of logic is itself examined and debated, the majority of design methodologies take the meaning of logic as a given foundation or self-evident core of truth, traceable to what is often called classical logic.

In this paper, a number of design methodologies are briefly reviewed and three categories are introduced based on the logical commitments of methodologies. The first category entails methods such as the rational choice theory that first developed within the discipline of economics and are built upon ternary axioms of classical logic. The second type of methods which have found application in the world of design to a lesser extent are built upon probabilistic or multi-valued logic. And finally, the third category encompasses theories of decision making built upon a dialectic interpretation of logic which we propose as a viable alternative for engineering design. decision making in the literature of social and political sciences has been continuously a focus of scholarly attention. Models and frameworks in this space often take into account the complex socio-political context of decision making and ensuing strategic action. We discuss the elemental role of epistemology and ontology in both theory and practice of design considering the socio-historical character of rationality, negotiations, and justification in engineering. In addition, we present how formal disputations as the most prominent instance of dialectic processes can provide a framework to map the reasoning and thinking in design by using a preliminary data analysis.

Fatehiboroujeni, S., & Riley, D. M. (2019, June), The Logic of Decision Making in Engineering Design: An Examination of Design Theories From A Logical Point of View Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33405

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