The 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.