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Potentiality: the ethical foundation of design

Buwert, Peter



This paper presents the argument that design is by nature an activity which extends and transforms potentiality and that therefore, because of this, it is always an ethical activity. This foundational ethicality does not guarantee that design will always be good, but rather that it always possesses within itself the simultaneous potentiality for both good and evil. To demonstrate the practical application of this abstract thinking, two relatively well-known examples of morally controversial design – eco-friendly “green bullets” and “The Liberator” 3-D printed gun – are examined through this lens. Evaluation of the extensions of potentiality in such designs does not offer an opinion as to whether these designs are good or evil. Instead, an analysis of the ethicality of design prior to considerations of moral judgement offers perspective as to the scale and significance of the ethical impact which the design in question can be counted responsible for.


Buwert, P. (2017). Potentiality: the ethical foundation of design. Design Journal, 20(sup1), S4459-S4467.

Journal Article Type Conference Paper
Conference Name Design for Next. 12th European Academy of Design Conference
Start Date Apr 12, 2017
End Date Apr 14, 2017
Acceptance Date Apr 21, 2017
Online Publication Date Sep 6, 2017
Publication Date Sep 6, 2017
Deposit Date Apr 21, 2017
Publicly Available Date Apr 26, 2017
Journal The Design Journal
Print ISSN 1460-6925
Electronic ISSN 1756-3062
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue sup1
Pages S4459-S4467
Keywords Potentiality, Ethics, Responsibility, Ethical Design, Giorgio Agamben
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Potentiality: the ethical foundation of design (559 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
The Version of Record of this manuscript has been published and is freely available in the Design Journal v.20 Supp.1

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