The notion of perform is of paramount importance for characterizing artifacts, however the notion is used much more broadly. The notion of an artifact’s function appears to refer essentially to human intentions.
On the other hand it is generally taken for granted that there are no regularities that all knives or airplanes or pistons reply to. This, nonetheless, is loosely based on concerns of multiple realizability that totally apply solely to useful sorts, not to artifact varieties. Artifact kinds share an operational principle that gives them some commonality in bodily options, and this commonality turns into stronger as soon as a specific artifact sort is subdivided into narrower varieties. Since these sorts are specified in terms of bodily and geometrical parameters, they are much nearer to the natural kinds of science, in that they support law-like regularities; see for a defense of this position (Soavi 2009).
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A latest assortment of essays that discuss the metaphysics of artifacts and artifact kinds is Franssen, Kroes, Reydon and Vermaas 2014. It is equally problematic whether a unified account of the notion of function as such is feasible, however this concern has obtained …