Research Output

Potentiality: the ethical foundation of design

  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.

  • Type:

    Conference Paper

  • Date:

    06 September 2017

  • Publication Status:


  • DOI:


  • Cross Ref:


  • ISSN:


  • Library of Congress:

    NC Drawing Design Illustration

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


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



Potentiality, Ethics, Responsibility, Ethical Design, Giorgio Agamben

Monthly Views:

Available Documents