Sciences of the Artificial
There are many ways to categorize the sciences. Herbert Simon (Nobel Prize winner, pioneer of artificial intelligence as well as economics, organization theory, etc.) wrote a book-length essay called The Sciences of the Artificial to make a case for why the "applied" sciences have a rightful place in academia.
In The Sciences of the Artificial, Simon laid the foundations for a philosophy of the artificial and a science of design. Artificial (i.e. “man-made”) things surround us. They are constrained by physical laws and, if we want, we can study them “objectively” using the natural sciences: for example, a physicist could take an airplane as a given and study the way it is affected by the flow of wind. But this doesn’t really capture the whole truth of the artifact. An artifact such as an airplane also embodies certain goals that we need to grasp if we are to understand it.
“If science is to encompass these objects and phenomena in which human
purpose as well as natural law are embodied, it must have means for
relating these two disparate components.” (Simon, p. 3)
An artifact for Simon could be seen as a meeting point between an “inner environment”, the way the artifact itself worked, and an “outer environment”, the problem it addresses and the context in which it operates. The relationship between the inner and outer environments is where we find human purpose. A problem solver, engineer, or designer is someone who tries to make the inner environment appropriate to the outer environment. For example: for the inventor of an airplane, the outer environment is characterized by the known laws of gravity and air pressure. He makes choices about the inner environment (the materials to use, the type of engine, and so forth) in order to achieve a goal—flight.
"Goals" as subject of study
For a while I did a lot of reviewing papers in the "design science" domain in my academic field. Somewhere in all of that material (I can't remember the author) I came across a categorization of the sciences that used the relationship between the science and human purpose:
- The physical sciences such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, pay no attention to human goals.
- The social sciences such as psychology, sociology, economics, study human motivations as natural phenomena, but are indifferent to them.
- The design sciences or sciences of the artificial such as architecture, engineering, medicine, business, allow researchers to take sides, to work on important human goals. They study problems as perceived by humans, and they study solutions, both using scientific methods.