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::: center home >> events >> conferences >> other >> 2007-08>> &HPS

Thursday, 11 October - Sunday, 14 October 2007
Center for Philosophy of Science
University of Pittsburgh

Thematic Sessions

::: Scientific Experimentation
Moderators: Bill Newman and Jutta Schickore

::: Evidence in theory and practice
Moderator: Michela Massini

::: Beyond Case-Studies
Moderator: Hasok Chang

::: Historical and Philosophical Considerations of Newton's Mechanics
Moderator: Alan Shapiro

Beyond Case-Studies
Moderator: Hasok Chang

What can we conclude from a handful of case studies? This has been a vexing question for anyone trying to make philosophy of science more historically informed, and also for anyone trying to understand general trends in history. The field of history and philosophy of science has witnessed too many hasty philosophical generalizations based on a small number of conveniently chosen case studies. One might even speculate that dissatisfaction with such methodological shoddiness contributed to a widespread disillusionment with the whole HPS enterprise in the last few decades, giving philosophers and historians the feeling that they did not have much to learn from each other's disciplines.

In this session we propose to articulate new and more productive ways of forging the relation between concrete historical studies and abstract philosophical arguments.

I will contribute a presentation, advocating a move away from viewing historical cases as the inductive evidence-base for general philosophical theses. I emphasize that an abstract philosophical framework is necessary to tell any concrete story at all. If historians do not have ready philosophical concepts with which to frame their episodes, then they are compelled to create fresh ones, whether or not they realize that is what they are doing. Therefore, history-writing can be a very effective method of generating fresh philosophical insights. I illustrate these claims by reference to some of my own recent works in HPS; this will also raise, and solve, a problem of reflexivity: how can we use case studies to show how to go beyond case studies?

We invite other contributions to this session which offer either general proposals that complement or co3/10/08 forward by example.

Scientific Experimentation
Moderator: Bill Newton and Jutta Schickore

It is a commonplace that experimentation is one of the core activities of science. Yet historians as well as philosophers of science ignored the topic of experimentation for the better part of the 20 th century. Only in the 1980s, they began to concern themselves with experiments and their roles in knowledge generation. However, so far, there is little exchange between the two fields. Historical studies have concentrated on the material culture, the institutional settings, and the uses of experiment. The ‘New Experimentalism’ in philosophy began as a contribution to ongoing debates about Scientific Realism and moved on to questions about models, mechanisms, and causal strategies, almost always focusing on cases from recent science.

This session seeks to bring together historical and philosophical perspectives on experimentation, emphasizing the historical development of epistemically significant aspects of experimental practice. Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Scientists’ changing concepts of instruments, experiments, and scientific objects and their impact on scientific methodology

  • The changing nature of experimental reports

  • Conceptions of the causes and meanings of error and imperfection in experimental practice and their development

  • Specific epistemological challenges arising from the ‘Big Science’ projects that are so typical for the 20 th century (e.g. challenges to traditional conceptions of justification and epistemological individualism)

We also welcome contributions on the history of history and philosophy of science. Why was it that early 20 th-century philosophers of science were little interested in the nature and role of experimentation? How convincing are their arguments against the philosophical significance of experiments? And can recent philosophers of science provide adequate and satisfying responses to these challenges?

Evidence in Theory and Practice
Moderator: John D. Norton

Proposing logics of induction and confirmation has long been a central topic in philosophy of science. Identifying how scientists have used evidence in particular cases has been a correspondingly important topic in history of science. Yet the fit between the two enterprises has been imperfect, with many applications varying from contrived to Procrustean. How are we to understand the import of evidence in a way that is both principled and responsible to the history of its use?


Revised 3/10/08 - Copyright 2006