Abstracts

Jean-Louis Hudry|
Edinburgh
Is Modern Mathematics a Proper Language for Natural Science?

Hilary Putnam (1963) criticises the view that the set-theoretic concept of measure, derived from real analysis, may play a role in natural science; in other words, a physical distance should not correspond to a metric defined as a nonnegative real valued function d. This paper aims to show that the use of mathematics as a proper language for physics leaves no other choice than to agree with Putnam's criticism, in the sense that only a purely geometric language, devoid of set-theoretic properties, fits the intuitive meanings of empirical concepts. Yet, this seems to lead us to the odd conclusion that if modern mathematics is a language for natural science, it is not the proper one.

Sandy Berkovski|
Oxford
Weyl and Reichenbach on Apriority and Mathematical Applicability

I examine the status of Reichenbach's 'axioms of coordination' and Weyl's 'blank forms'. Based on these examples, I argue that the statements best suited for being regarded a priori are the principles bridging mathematical formalism with physical reality. They belong neither to physics, nor to mathematics. Although falling short of the Kantian synthetic a priori, they bear several marks traditionally associated with apriority. I close by indicating consequences for holism and incommensurability.

Juha Saatsi|
Leeds
Justifying the Realist Inference: How Local Can You Go?

Local arguments for scientific realism diverge from the global No-Miracles Argument. After a juxtaposition of the global vs. local strategies, this paper analyses and compares various local realist arguments with an eye on the role and status of inference to the best explanation (IBE). Analysing the realist arguments regarding the role of IBE yields a spectrum of positions from 'wholesale' (based on second-order IBE) to 'radically local' (with no natural unifying IBE). The paper evaluates the pros and cons of the different positions on the spectrum, with respect to the way the traditional anti-realist worries arise and can be dealt with.

Alex Broadbent|
Cambridge
Realism, Structure and Reference

One prominent argument against epistemic structural realism is Newman's objection, which points out that what structures can be defined on a given domain is a matter of logic and cardinality only. This puts pressure on the epistemic structural realist's claim that all science reveals about the world is its structure. The Newman objection has found favour with many scientific realists who wish to reject structural realism (e.g. Psillos 1999). Yet arguments of a similar form are proposed by Winnie (1967), against scientific realism. In this paper I argue that Newman's objection does not tell selectively against structural realism.

Philip Kitcher 
Columbia
Carnap and the Caterpillar

Philosophers of science often take a large part of their task to consist in explicating important metascientific concepts. Carnap's official notion of explication recognizes that this activity has pragmatic dimensions. I'll explore the implications of this point for a number of enterprises in the philosophy of science.

Kelby Mason
Rutgers
Never Mind the Bullocks, What About the Bovidae?

Ulrich Stegmann|
King's College London
What, Exactly, Does Natural Selection Explain?

Natural selection is one of the major factors of evolution and it is invoked to explain the origin of adaptations. However, philosophers of biology disagree over what natural selection explains, exactly. Some think that natural selection can only explain population level facts, e.g. why all giraffes have long necks. Others believe that selection can, in addition, explain facts about individuals, e.g. why a particular giraffe has a long neck. I like to present an argument in favour of the latter view. Central to my argument is the distinction between rigid and non-rigid designators.

Steffen Ducheyne|
Ghent
Newton and Kitcher on Understanding

In this talk I will reflect upon the philosophical consequences of Newton's argument for universal gravitation. I will especially focus on whether Philip Kitcher's unificationist approach (Kitcher, 1981, 1985, 1989) of scientific explanation and understanding is tenable in view of these conclusions. At the level of understanding unification is essential, according to Kitcher. Kitcher typically focuses on the end-result of a scientific inquiry. Due to this, he portrays our knowledge and inferences from it as far more static than they really are. Understanding in the Principia is not exclusively generated by choosing from a set of complete generating patterns and bases and applying them to an invariable domain. It is established rather by extending our knowledge, and - via creative thought - applying it to new contexts and domains. It took someone of Newton's calibre to do so.

Kevin Coffey
|Michigan
Must All Scientific Understanding Be Explanatory? Lessons for Explanatory Unification from Analytical Dynamics

The concept of scientific understanding plays a central role in contemporary debates over the nature of explanation, particularly among proponents of explanatory unification. Implicit in their arguments is often the view that the twin notions of understanding and explanation are conceptually inseparable, and that it makes little sense to talk of scientific understanding beyond the context of scientific explanation. Here I challenge this general claim, with the broader aim of showing that scientific understanding is an important philosophical concept in its own right, quite apart from explanation. By considering central notions of scientific understanding drawn from the literature on unification, I use two examples from analytical dynamics to argue that derivations invoking physical theories can provide us with scientific understanding in non-explanatory ways.

Kyla Dennedy
|British Columbia
Trans-Historical Rationality of Science - Relativism or Rhetoric?

In Dynamics of Reason, Michael Friedman sets out a three-level model of the workings of the mature sciences with the hope of explaining how science is able to remain rational even during periods of Kuhnian paradigm shifts. In this paper I evaluate Friedman's tripartite model, and argue that his model does not accurately describe the way in which science is done and has historically evolved. As a better alternative, I look at an account Alan Richardson presents which suggests that the rationality of science across paradigm shifts may be merely a matter of rational persuasion.

Charles Sentell|
Cambridge
The Chicken and Egg, Revisited

In this essay I examine the relationship of theory and experiment in terms of its philosophical and historiographical implications. First, I present two philosophical problems that arise when theory is considered to be a necessary precondition of scientific experience. Next, I draw out the way in which these philosophical problems are dependent upon a specific historiographical framework stemming from the work of Bachelard and Koyré. Through an analysis of their notions of radical discontinuity, I suggest that the distinction between theory and experiment actually belies a deeper distinction between science and common sense. I conclude by suggesting that changing the way we understand the nature of these distinctions resolves many of their problematic characteristics.

Share:Facebook|Twitter|LinkedIn|