The Editors of the BJPS and the BSPS committee are delighted to announce that Grant Ramsey and Andreas de Block are the 2017 winners of the BJPS Popper Prize for their article ‘Is Cultural Fitness Hopelessly Confused?’.
Endowed by the Latsis Foundation, the Lakatos Award is given to an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science. Winners are presented with a medal and given the chance to deliver a lecture based on the winning work. To celebrate the 2015 and the 2016 award winners—Thomas Pradeu and Brian Epstein, respectively—they each delivered a lecture at the LSE last week. Introduced by Hasok Chang, Pradeu’s lecture is entitled ‘Why Philosophy in Science? Re-Visiting Immunology and Biological Individuality’ and Epstein’s is ‘Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences’.
Paradigmatic physical attributes, like energy, mass, length, charge, or temperature are quantities. That these attributes are quantitative is important for experiments (they can be measured), as well as theories (we can formulate quantitative laws that hold between them). Quantities are arguably central to science, and especially to the physical sciences. Quantities pose peculiar epistemological and metaphysical challenges.
Suppose that it is already determined that the coin I just flipped will land heads. Can it also be the case that that very coin, on that very flip, has some chance of landing tails? Intuitively, the answer is no. But according to an increasing number of contemporary philosophers, especially philosophers of physics, the answer is yes.
Christian Wüthrich delivered one of the plenary talks at this summer’s BSPS conference in Edinburgh and lo! It was recorded (future is now!).
Given the suggested philosophical nature of cosmology, it may seem somewhat surprising that philosophers have paid relatively little attention to the physical study of cosmology, namely, what one might call the science of little ‘u’ physical universes. If philosophy aims at understanding the Universe, then surely an important piece of the complete story is to be found in its physics.
Another year, another impact factor. Thomson Reuters, who compile the figures, have released their 2017 report and the BJPS continues to perform very well (a brief explanation of the IF can be found here). We’ve jumped from last year’s 1.738 to a not-to-be-sniffed-at 1.985.
A ‘no miracles’ argument is still prevalent in the scientific realism debate, even if a lot has changed since Hilary Putnam’s formulation of it, and even if the word ‘miracle’ is generally avoided. For example, realists think that if the most central ‘working’ parts of a scientific theory were not even approximately true (for any serious theory of ‘approximate truth’), then it would be incredibly unlikely (‘miraculous’) for that theory to deliver successful novel predictions with ‘perfect’ quantitative accuracy (e.g. to several significant figures). It would be like perfectly predicting the time and position of the next solar eclipse based on a completely false (not even approximately true) model of how the sun, moon, and earth interact. Here it is appropriate to talk in terms of ‘counterexamples’ to scientific realism: any historical case where a scientific theory delivered ‘perfect’ predictions but where the central working parts of the theory are now thought to be radically false would be a very serious thorn in the side of nearly every contemporary scientific realist position.
While we have a better understanding of the olfactory pathway today, many of the central questions remain unresolved. How do you classify smells and how do you make their perception comparable? (And how do you control the volatile stimulus, its concentration, and its administration in psychophysical studies?) What are the perceptual dimensions of smell? Are there such things as primary odours? How does the brain represent smells? From this perspective, the discovery of how the sense of smell works presents us with an intriguing, yet untold, history of creativity in scientific reasoning.
Philosophers of science of all stripes draw on the history of science. However, within philosophy of science there are diverging trends between literature in the history and philosophy of science and the work in (what often goes under the name of) ‘general’ philosophy of science. With the caveat that what follows paints a picture with very broad brushstrokes, the trend among those working on integrated history and philosophy of science is towards recognizing particular differences between scientific fields, periods, and practitioners. On the other hand, the driving motivation in general philosophy of science is towards unified frameworks and theories.