University of Leeds, UK
Academic Year 2010-11
Project: Doing Without ‘Theory’: Towards a More Transparent Philosophy of Science
Peter Vickers was awarded his PhD from the University of Leeds, UK, in 2009. His thesis focused on inconsistent scientific theories, and in particular how one is to identify such theories. This led him to a particular methodology of philosophy of science, where ‘theory’ is eliminated as a concept, and debates are reformulated accordingly.
This methodology will be his focus at Pittsburgh, as he experiments applying it to various different debates in the philosophy of science. He is also interested in comparing this strategy with other eliminativist moves which have already been suggested (including ‘belief’, ‘emotion’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘concept’ in psychology and cognitive science, ‘law’ in philosophy of science, and ‘art’ in aesthetics).
His other major research interest is the scientific realism debate, and in particular the role played by historical case studies in that debate.
Recent publications include ‘Was Newtonian Cosmology Really Inconsistent?’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics (2009), and ‘Miraculous Success? Inconsistency and Untruth in Kirchhoff’s Diffraction Theory’ (with Juha Saatsi) forthcoming in the BJPS. He is currently writing a book, forthcoming with Oxford University Press (2012), entitled Unbelievable Science: A Study of the Nature of Inconsistent Scientific Theories.
In his spare time Peter enjoys playing chess (especially outrageous sacrifices), playing the piano (especially jazz, blues, and Rachmaninoff), swimming, and hiking. And, most of all, going on holidays with his wife Laura (safaris in Tanzania are especially good).
I spent much of my year at the Center working on a monograph Understanding Inconsistent Science, forthcoming with Oxford University Press (2012). As well as an investigation of inconsistent scientific theories, the monograph also stands as a test-case for a philosophical methodology I have called ‘theory eliminativism’. Whilst at the Center I wrote a paper on this methodology entitled ‘Theory Eliminativism as a Methodological Tool’ which I will present at the 2011 conference of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, and the 2011 conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association. In the past year I also finalised two other papers: ‘Historical Magic in Old Quantum Theory?’, forthcoming in the European Journal for Philosophy of Science, and ‘Are There No Things That Are Scientific Theories?’, forthcoming in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (co-authored with Steven French). Whilst at the Center I also spent time co-editing (with Otávio Bueno) a forthcoming special issue of Synthese, entitled ‘Is Science Inconsistent?’
I took up an appointment at the Department of Philosophy, Durham University, UK, in October 2011. In January 2012 I secured an AHRC grant for a project entitled ‘Evaluating Scientific Realism: A New Generation of Historical Case Studies’, which is running from February until September 2012. The project will investigate new historical case studies in the realism debate, and attempt to uncover further, currently unknown case studies. There are two major project events: (i) A workshop entitled ‘The Physics and Philosophy of Kirchhoff’s Theory of Diffraction’, held at Durham on 29th May 2012, and (ii) A two-day colloquium entitled ‘Scientific Realism in Light of the History of Science’, to be held at Durham on 7-8th September 2012. Full details of the project, and the events, can be found here: http://www.dur.ac.uk/evaluating.realism/.