2014 Hempel Award

Elliott SoberThe Governing Board of the Philosophy of Science Association is pleased to announce that the recipient of the Carl Gustav Hempel Award for 2014 is Elliott Sober.  Professor Sober is William F. Vilas Research Professor and Hans Reichenbach Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin.  The Hempel Award was established in 2012 to recognize lifetime scholarly achievement in the philosophy of science and to acknowledge the example of scholarly excellence and collegiality set by Professor Hempel (1905-1997).

Professor Sober has played a formative role in the establishment of the field of philosophy of biology and has also made essential contributions to the topics of causality and confirmation.  He has brought standards of philosophical rigor, clarity, and deep knowledge of evolutionary theory to his philosophical practice, which inspired many younger philosophers to enter the field of philosophy of biology.  His books include the ground-breaking The Nature of Selection (1984), Reconstructing the Past– Parsimony, Evolution, and Inference (1988), Evidence and Evolution – the Logic Behind the Science (2008), and, with David Sloan Wilson, Unto Others – the Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (1997).  Each of these books has initiated philosophical literature exploring and developing the issues articulated in them. Professor Sober publishes in scientific as well as philosophical publications, establishing the relevance of philosophy of biology to biologists, and the relevance of philosophy of science to scientists more generally.  His forthcoming book Ockham’s Razors extends the treatment of the concerns of his first book, Simplicity (1975).

Professor Sober has also contributed to the profession's teaching mission by editing or authoring books intended for use in courses. Among these is his 1993 Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology – an Anthology, for decades the indispensable textbook in philosophy of biology.  He has also ventured beyond philosophy of biology in the coauthored Reconstructing Marxism – Essays on Explanation and the Theory of History (1992).

While Professor Sober is a sought after visitor in all corners of the academic world, he has also been an active mentor to his students, supervising dissertations of scholars who have themselves become major contributors in the philosophy of science.  He has also served the profession in multiple capacities, including as President of the Central Division of the American Philosophical Association, as President of the Philosophy of Science Association, as Secretary (1991-1999) and currently as President (2012-2016) of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology – Division of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, and has been elected to serve as Chair of Section L (History and Philosophy of Science) of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.  Recipient of numerous awards, he is a fellow of the Linnean Society of London and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The letters nominating Professor Sober for the award all spoke of his intellectual generosity, his open-mindedness, and his willingness and ability to listen.  As a trailblazing scholar and as an exemplary citizen of the scholarly world, he is indeed a fitting recipient of the 2014 Hempel Award for lifetime accomplishment in the philosophy of science.


2012 Hempel Award

Bas van FraassenThe inaugural, 2012 Hempel Award was presented to Bas C. van Fraassen at the Twenty-Fourth Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. Bas van Fraassen, the McCosh Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Princeton University and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, is the chief architect of modern empiricism in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In four volumes — The Scientific Image (1980) (co-recipient of the 1986 Lakatos Award), Laws and Symmetry (1989), The Empirical Stance (2002), Scientific Representation (2008) — and dozens of articles, van Fraassen has produced a systematic account of science, constructive empiricism, which advocates a semantic approach to scientific theories and, on that basis, urges skepticism regarding laws of nature, anti-realism regarding unobservables, and pragmatism regarding explanation. In the three decades since its introduction, constructive empiricism has emerged both as a locus of outstanding scholarship in the philosophy of science and as an intellectual monument to Professor van Fraassen's exceptional philosophical insight, clarity and creativity. Professor van Fraassen has also made foundational contributions to subfields within the philosophy of science, in many cases not merely shaping these areas of research but helping to form them. This will be most evident to contemporary philosophers of physics, many of whom were introduced to the field by van Fraassen's An Introduction to the Philosophy of Time and Space (1970), and who almost certainly have his Quantum Mechanics: An Empiricist View (1991) on the shelf as well. But something similar is true for several other fields, notably the philosophy of probability and the philosophy of logic. Where van Fraassen has focused his attention, the invariable result has been a clearer and deeper understanding of the issues for all. Professor van Fraassen is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has served as President of the Philosophy of Science Association, editor of the Journal of Philosophical Logic, and co-editor of the Journal of Symbolic Logic. In recognition of Professor van Fraassen's record of scholarly achievement and service in the philosophy of science, and in light of the great intellectual energy, generosity, egalitarianism and kindness that he brought to the philosophy of science (including, especially, his mentoring of graduate students and junior scholars in philosophy of science) the Governing Board of the PSA congratulates Professor van Fraassen on the occasion of the inaugural Hempel Award. At the invitation of the Governing Board, Carl Hempel's children, Miranda and Peter Hempel, presented this inaugural Hempel award prior to the PSA Presidential Address at PSA2012 in San Diego, California, November 15-17, 2012.

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