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June 2010

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The purpose of this Newsletter is to keep our alumni and the public informed of the latest developments in Philosophy@LSE, which comprises the Department for Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, the Centre for the Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences, The Forum for European Philosophy, and cognate faculty in various departments.



The new UK Government still seems to be intent on protecting "strategically important subjects" which they take to be Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (the so-called STEM subjects). Philosophy does not come close to making it on the government's list. Granted, nocontribution by a philosopher ever gave a sudden jolt to the FTSE.Nonetheless, there are many reasons why it belongs on a list of subjects that are of strategic importance to secure a flourishing society:

Political debate. A vibrant political community requires a constant supply of fresh ideas. Where do these ideas come from? Certainly there are grassroots movements, but political philosophers have a huge impact. Thinkers like Friedman, Hayek, Sen, Popper, Rawls and Nozick are household names in newspaper editorials. Philosophy departments are hatcheries for political ideas through providing a culture of discussion and reflection. Students make these ideas their own, pursue careers in journalism, politics, and policy-making and spread the good word.

Professional ethics. Professionals face moral dilemmas throughout their careers and are called upon to make principled morally defensible decisions within their respective roles – be it business, medicine, human relations, etc. In introducing cohorts of aspiring professionals to moral theory, we provide our students with the tools for moral reasoning that will be invaluable in their future careers.

Argumentative skills. Philosophy departments train students in logical reasoning, critical thinking and scientific method. Our students then export these skills in the pursuit of law, scientific research, medical diagnosis, etc. The philosophers that provided these tools are many steps removed from economic indicators. But take away these (as well as many other) building blocks in the humanities and the edifice of STEM subjects will crumble.

Assessing Evidence.What constitutes evidence in court, in medicine, in science? The nature of evidence and standards of proof are core topics for philosophers who specialise in scientific methodology. We aim to teach students the critical skills to make a judicious assessment of the use of scientific evidence in public life.

The Good Life. We live in a culture in which so many people face episodes of mental health problems, often in search of direction in life. Religion has lost its relevance for many people in today’s increasingly secularised world. Communal support is often lacking in the anonymity of the metropolis. Counselling services are of great importance, but they are a cure rather than a prophylactic. Philosophy has by no means a monopoly on the task of providing insight in the eternal questions that touch on the meaning of life. But it is certainly a substantial contributor.

Culture. It is not uncommon for successful writers, film directors, entertainers,... to have an undergraduate degree in philosophy, ranging from Umberto Eco and Iris Murdoch to Ricky Gervais and Matt Groening (The Simpsons!). Would it be too self-aggrandizing to claim that an important indicator of a society’s grandeur is the philosophical depth of its cultural artefacts?

Luc Bovens
Head of Department
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method


The Department appointed two new Lecturers. Charlotte Werndl’s expertise is in Scientific Methodology, in particular in Physics and Biology. Armin Schulz’s expertise is in Philosophy of Biology and Philosophy of Economics.

The Forum and the Department appointed Kristina Musholt for a three-year LSE Fellowship. Her expertise is in Philosophy of Cognitive Science.

CPNSS appointed Eric Martin for a three-year LSE fellowship on the Order Project (see below). His expertise is in Philosophy of Science and in Philosophy of Religion.

We will be hosting Karin Edvardsson Bjőrnberg on a two-year Marie Curie fellowship with the project “Rational Decision-Making in Adaptation to Climate Change”.

Nancy Cartwright has received a prestigious grant from the Templeton foundation for the project God's Order, Man's Order and the Order of Nature which will be conducted jointly with UCSD.

Alex Voorhoeve has published an exciting new book containing interviews with prominent moral philosophers entitled Conversations on Ethics.

Roman Frigg has received a fellowship from Munich Re to study the role of uncertainty in climate modelling within the context of the Grantham Institute.

The LSE Choice Group which counts amongst its members Jason Alexander, Luc Bovens, Richard Bradley, Christian List, Katie Steele and Alex Voorhoeve has been awarded an AHRC grant to develop an international decision theory network centred on the LSE.

We have started a new BSc programme Politics and Philosophy in cooperation with the Department of Government in 2009-10.


We are starting up a fortnightly series of public talks aimed at students and alumni on Tuesday nights, 6-7.30 pm in the Wolfson Theatre (NAB) followed by a reception. Here is our schedule for Michaelmas 2010. For a schedule of upcoming talks, click here.

October 12

Luc Bovens "Green Social Advertisement"

October 26

John Worrall “Evidence: Philosophy of Science meets Medicine”

November 9

Eric Martin “Valuing the Environment”

November 23

Simon Glendinning “Varieties of Neoliberalism“

December 7

Nick Baigent "Rationality in the Social Sciences: Black Box, Empty Box, or both?"




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Armin Schulz (Philosophy of Biology and Philosophy of Economics)

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Charlotte Werndl (Scientific Methodology, Philosophy of Physics and Biology)

3-Yr LSE Fellows:

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Kristina Musholt (Philosophy of Cognitive Science)

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Eric Martin

(Philosophy of Science and in Philosophy of Religion)

2-Yr Marie Curie Fellow:

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Karin Edvardsson Bjőrnberg

(Environmental Philosophy)


The 2010 Auguste Comte Memorial Lectures titled 'Biomedical Enhancement and the Ethics of Development' were delivered by Professor Allen Buchanan (Duke University).

The 2009 Lakatos Prize recipient is Professor Samir Okasha (Bristol University) for his book Evolution and the Levels of Selection.



We were pleased to put on a dinner in gratitude to our donors on Friday 19 March 2010.

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The department has been fortunate to be the recipient of support from members of the community who identify with and wish to support the kind of interdisciplinary philosophy that the department is renowned for.

We are currently looking for charitable giving to support the following projects:


PhD LSE-Partnership Scholarship. A donor contribution of £12,500 per year with a commitment of four years will be matched by the School.


One-year MSc Scholarship. It has been difficult to attract students from non-OECD countries to our MSc programmes. We invite donors to target regions of their choice.


Conference funding. The LSE Philosophy community welcomes suggestions from donors for areas of interest.


Miscellaneous: Contributions will support invited speakers, travel funding for students presenting at conferences and provide support to students for our yearly Philosophy retreat in Cumberland Lodge.

< £5,000

Gifts below £5,000 can be made to the Annual Fund which supports scholarship, student services and facilities across the School.

Note: UK tax payers pay 80% of the above amounts and the School can claim the remainder through Gift Aid.

We are grateful to all of our donors. If you wish to become a donor, please contact Regina Simpson, Office of Development and Alumni Relations (r.simpson@lse.ac.uk).Depending on your desire for involvement with the LSE Philosophy community, we will keep you updated of recent book publications, welcome you to our conferences and events as well as social occasions.