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Winner of the 2005 Lakatos Award announced

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) announces that this year's Lakatos Award, of £10,000 for an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science, goes to Professor James Woodward, California Institute of Technology, for his book Making Things Happen: a theory of causal explanation (Oxford University Press, 2003).

Professor Woodward will visit LSE to receive the award and give the award public lecture during summer term of 2006.

An interest in the notion of causal explanation pervades both ordinary and scientific life: we wonder why our computer crashed (that is, what caused it to crash), whether the MMR vaccine caused increased levels of autism, whether increase in the money supply caused inflation in a particular economy at a particular time, and so on. But it has proved very difficult to provide a satisfactory analysis of what precisely is involved in the notion of cause and of causal explanation - particularly in cases where, as in all those just cited, the system at issue is clearly a complex and multifactorial one.

 Professor Woodward, extending the work of a number of others, develops a manipulationist or interventionist account of causation and explanation, according to which causal relationships are those that can be exploited for purposes of intervention and control and are, moreover, invariant under intervention. He argues that this analysis sheds light not just on the cases from social science and biomedicine where its ingredients were first developed, but on causal reasoning across the board.

The Lakatos Award is given for an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science, widely interpreted, in the form of a book published in English during the previous six years. It was made possible by a generous endowment from the Latsis Foundation. The Award is in memory of the former LSE professor, Imre Lakatos, and is administered by an international Management Committee organised from the LSE. The Committee decides the outcome of the Award competition on the advice of an international, independent and anonymous panel of selectors. 


For further details of the nomination procedure or more information on the Lakatos Award 2006, contact Jane Bohannon on 020 7955 7341, or email j.e.bohannon@lse.ac.uk| 


Imre Lakatos, who died in 1974 aged 51, had been professor of logic with special reference to the philosophy of mathematics at LSE since 1969. He joined the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method in 1960. Born in Hungary in 1922, he graduated (in physics, mathematics and philosophy) from Debrecen University in 1944. He then joined the underground resistance. (His mother and grandmother perished in Auschwitz). 

After the war, he was active in the Communist Party and had an influential position in the Ministry of Education. In 1950 he was arrested and spent the next three years as a political prisoner. After his release, he was given refuge in the Hungarian Academy of Science where he translated western works in science and mathematics into Hungarian. After the suppression of the Hungarian uprising he escaped to Vienna and from there, with the aid of a Rockefeller fellowship, on to Cambridge, England. He there wrote his (second) doctoral thesis out of which grew his famous Proofs and Refutations (CUP, 1976). Two volumes of Philosophical Papers, edited by John Worrall and Gregory Currie, appeared in 1978, also from CUP.

The Lakatos Award has so far been won by: Bas Van Fraassen and Hartry Field (1986), Michael Friedman and Philip Kitcher (1987), Michael Redhead (1988), John Earman (1989), Elliott Sober (1991), Peter Achinstein and Alexander Rosenberg (1993), Michael Dummett (1994), Lawrence Sklar (1995), Abner Shimony (1996), Jeffrey Bub and Deborah Mayo (1998), Brian Skyrms (1999), Judea Pearl (2001) Penelope Maddy (2002) and Patrick Suppes (2003) and Kim Sterelny (2004).

Nominations can now be made for the 2006 Lakatos Award, and must be received by Monday 24 April 2006. The 2006 Award will be for a book published in English with an imprint from 2000-2005 inclusive. A book may, with the permission of the author, be nominated by any person of recognised standing within the profession. For more details of the award and how to nominate, see Lakatos Award in Philosophy of Science|

19 December 2005