Notice that these are not abstracts of individual papers, but of the entire sessions.  These abstracts are organized alphabetically by the title of the session.


Approaches in the Philosophy of Science in Practice

The Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (SPSP) grew out of a recognition of the need to promote the philosophical study of “science in practice”, by which the organizers of the Society meant both scientific practice and the functioning of science in practical realms of life. Despite occasional exceptions such as some recent literature on models, experimentation, and measurement, which have engaged in detailed consideration of scientific practices in pursuit of their philosophical points, concern with practice has tended to fall outside the mainstream of Anglophone analytic philosophy of science. SPSP was founded with the aim of changing this situation, through the promotion of conscious, detailed, and systematic study of scientific practice that nevertheless does not dispense with concerns about truth and rationality. The purpose of this session is twofold: firstly to present a concise view of the vision of ‘philosophy of science in practice’ pursued by SPSP, and secondly to present some of its approaches.

Causation, Kinds, and Structure in Chemical Theory

Chemistry is focused on understanding the structure of matter, and the ways that we can transform one kind of substance into another. The papers in this symposium ask how this is possible. From Robert Boyle’s Chymical Philosophy, to modern Ligand Field Theory, what are the conceptual tools at the heart of chemistry’s success? In the first part of the symposium, we focus on the ways causal notions are deployed (or not) in accounts of chemical transformation. The papers in the second part of the symposium concern the role of structural properties in chemical explanations past and present.

Enriching Philosophy of Science through Collaborative and Feminist Approaches

This symposium introduces, describes, and provides examples of work in Socially Relevant Philosophy of/in Science and Engineering. The symposium begins with an introduction to SRPoiSE and its fruitful overlap with an older organization committed to socially relevant work: The Association of Feminist Epistemology, Methodology, Metaphysics, and Science Studies. As a sample of SRPoiSE work, the second paper presents a philosophy of science analysis of the so-called “Hispanic Paradox,” the observation that US Hispanic health is far better than expected given the epidemiological variables known to be present in the population (high rates of poverty, etc.). The third paper provides a narrative for how the largest multi-member SRPoiSE project, the Toolbox Project, has evolved over time. In the final paper, a SRPoiSE member provides a feminist critique of the Toolbox Project, demonstrating how the SRPoiSe community fosters mutual dialogue, constructive criticism, etc., all in line with the FEMMSS mission.

Heterogeneity in Medicine and Psychiatry: Empirical Strategies, Conceptual Problems

‘People are not alike.’ This apparent truism poses considerable problems for biomedical research, diagnosis, treatment and policy decisions. Diseases have different morphologies in different patients, patients react differently to the same therapeutic regime and often it is hard if not impossible to determine the population of which a given patient is a member. And yet, methodologists of medicine and philosophers of science have tended to offer ‘one size fits all’ approaches to disease causation and classification, best epistemic practice and decision making. Focusing on epistemic and conceptual issues in biomedical research and treatment decision making, the uniting theme of all papers in this panel is that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is not good enough. Different therapeutic problems appear to require different, tailor-made solutions, and the best solutions to a specific case often conflict with widely accepted philosophical and methodological positions. The panellists do not, however, contend themselves with making this negative point about lack of homogeneity. Instead, in each case a positive response to the problem at hand is developed and defended in the context of the specific case. Samantha Kleinberg’s and David Teira’s papers examine clinical research on treatment efficacy. Kleinberg notes that many (if not most) research findings in this area are not reproducible. Specifically, she looks at observational data, notes three challenges research based on observational data faces and proposes to use simulated data for replication purposes. Teira’s topic is experimental research and, in particular, the requirements that (cancer) treatments be tested in large randomised trials. He argues that instead smaller but well-defined populations of patients provide good normative grounds for impartial regulatory decisions about targeted therapies.Maël Lemoine and Julian Reiss examine disease classification and causation in psychiatry and carcinogenesis, respectively. Lemoine asks whether statistical methods can establish or confirm the homogeneity of a biologically undefined disease entity such as ‘major depressive episode’. He argues among other things that it is unhelpful and misguided to consider the question as an instance of the ‘natural kinds’ problem. Reiss investigates the fitness of mainstream theories of causation such as Codell Carter’s, Woodward’s and Bayes’ nets to describe certain features of heterogeneous cancer causation. He finds them all wanting in some respects and proposes an alternative, inferentialist account of causation. Brendan Clark, finally, takes up the topic of therapeutic decision making. There is evidence that there is important variation in the causes and therefore also the most appropriate treatments of hypertension in different ethnic groups. To decide which therapy is best for an individual patient means to solve the reference-class problem. Clark argues that Salmon’s solution to the problem does is not successful in this case and develops a better alternative. 

A HOPOS Sampler: Exemplary Work in the History of the Philosophy of Science

The International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science is devoted to promoting serious, scholarly research in the history of the philosophy of science (HOPOS). This panel presents a sampling of such research, including considerations of HOPOS methodology and examples of HOPOS scholarship. The session will encourage historically informed work in the philosophy of science and better understanding of the general sensibility represented by HOPOS. In that spirit, we offer a session of four talks, each developed from talks given at the Society’s most recent biennial meeting, held July 3–5, 2014, in Ghent, Belgium. In “Methodologies in Context,” Jutta Schickore (Indiana University) considers the difficulties of synthesizing over‐arching perspectives offered by philosophies of science with the local contextualizations offered by its history. She thus engages with the central methodological difficulty of HOPOS scholarship: how to use facts about how science was to draw morals about how it should be? Barnaby Hutchins (Ghent University) turns to more concrete issues in his “Reduction, Integration and Mechanism in Descartes’s Biology,” comparing Descartes’s writings concerning mechanism to Descartes’s use of mechanism in his discussion of the heartbeat. Descartes’s use of mechanism, Hutchins argues, suggests his was an integrationist rather than reductionist approach to mechanism, a fact that illuminates the “new mechanism” associated with Machamer, Darden and Craver (2000). Here we have work on seventeenth-century ideas being brought to bear on a debate in the contemporary philosophy of biology. Similarly, Jennifer Jhun’s (University of Pittsburgh) study of historical uses of ceteris paribus clauses in partial and general equilibrium economic models, “A Lesson from Economic History: Idealization and Ceteris Paribus Clauses,” locates in the history of economic thought a sense of ceteris paribus more subtle, Jhun argues, than that found in contemporary debates. Finally, Janet Folina (Macalester College and, incidentally, President of the Society), in her “Poincaré and Structuralism in the Philosophy of Mathematics,” takes up a chapter in the pre‐history of contemporary structuralism in the philosophy of mathematics, arguing that Poincaré’s Philosophy of mathematics included an epistemology and metaphysics of structures.

Interdisciplinary Explanations in Economics

This symposium explores how the explanations provided by current economic theories sometimes require inputs from other disciplines, despite their apparently self-standing status. Melissa Vergara (Erasmus University Rotterdam) challenges the traditional view according to which relatively small epistemic units—arguments, causal scenarios, models––do all the explanatory work. Instead, she argues that economists explain on the basis of large clusters of models and other pieces of information, which often includes insights from disciplines outside of economics. Mariam Thalos (University of Utah) argues that the successful use of decision theory depends on a rich sociological understanding of the context of application. Tyler DesRoches (University of British Columbia) takes a look at the economics of sustainable development and argues that interdisciplinary insights, in particular from the life sciences, are incompatible with an standard assumption made by mainstream economics: that natural capital is substitutable. Lastly, Jesús Zamora-Bonilla (UNED) explores to what extent economics can be naturalized and how it can help other disciplines to provide hermeneutic explanations of action.

Pedagogy Panel: A New Paradigm for Graduate Education: A Joint Research Course for Science, Engineering, and Philosophy of Science PhD. Students

The panel will center on a full-credit graduate research course for science, engineering, and philosophy of science graduate students that aimed to prepare students for collaborating in multidisciplinary investigation and for recognizing and addressing ethics issues in the natural course of research. The three successive offerings of the course in the autumns of 2010, 2011, and 2012 at lllinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago were funded by the National Science Foundation. Science and engineering graduate students were recruited from IIT, and philosophy of science graduate students were recruited from other Chicago area universities, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, Northwestern, Loyola, and Notre Dame. The project featured five faculty: Vivian Weil (PI) IIT, ethics specialist; Jordi Cat (Co-Pi), Indiana University, philosopher of science; Eric Brey IIT, biomedical engineer; Sandra Bishnoi, Rice University (formerly IIT), chemist; and Nick Huggett, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), philosopher of science. The panel is to include two of the faculty, Weil and Brey; four of the students, two philosophy of science students, Monica Solomon, Notre Dame, and Josh Norton, University of Illinois at Chicago, and two mechanical engineering students, John Hasier, IIT, and Ming Yin, IIT; and one of the three independent reviewers for 2011 and 2012, Kevin Elliott, Michigan State University, philosopher of science. Weil will provide background on the development of the course, noting perceived gaps in graduate education in all three areas that NSF recognized. To address the gaps, the course was to prompt engineering and science students to engage with probing questions about research practices (e.g. experimentation) and to familiarize philosophy of science students with actual research at the bench. The other instructors will explain – from the point of view of their different disciplines – the problems that they encountered, and how, with the assistance of annual external reviews, they made improvements (and what difficulties remain). Of course, they will also explain the positive lessons learned for the challenging tasks of developing cross disciplinary dialogue and collaborative research between graduate students. The students will speak about their experience in the course -- class discussion, collaborations, final joint reports, and indications for further research and teaching –from the perspectives of their different disciplines. Finally, Elliot will present his perception of lessons learned and the value of carrying forward such educational efforts. The experience from three consecutive offerings of the course, building on what worked and avoiding what did not work, was intended to yield products such as this panel, among others, and educational materials for use in a variety of formats and settings, as well as the classroom and seminar room.

Perspectives in the Philosophy of Mathematics

As detailed in our Mission Statement, PMA exists for the purpose of promoting and supporting the study of, and research in, the philosophy of mathematics. It construes this subject broadly and takes it to include the study and investigation of pertinent topics in allied subjects and disciplines. These include parts of the larger study of mathematics, the history of mathematics, logic, the foundations of mathematics, computer science, cognitive science, and the history and philosophy of science. It also recognizes that the philosophy of mathematics can profitably be studied and investigated by diverse methods, and from different perspectives. The purpose of this special session is to emphasize the importance of the connection between PMA and PSA by highlighting the contributions made by philosophy of mathematics. Our aim here is to show the variety of interests of philosophers of mathematics. Specially, this session will include presentations that consider mathematical issues from historical, formal and philosophical perspectives. Since much of philosophy of science depends on, or at least is informed by, philosophy of mathematics it is crucial that such connections be both highlighted and valued. Again, well-witnessing the varying perspectives and differing investigations of philosophers of mathematics the topics of this session will include, the history and philosophy of scientific structuralism, mereologically interpreted geometry, and the formal nature of reasoning.

Recent Trends in the Philosophy of Social Science

The papers in this symposium explore a variety of interrelated trends that have emerged in different topics areas and related core issues in the contemporary philosophy of social science. These include: topics in political theory (republicanism and democratic theory) that also involve traditional concerns with rationality and cultural difference, empirical work bearing on the explanation of norms, rationality and cultural interpretation, the “return” of philosophy of history, and the alleged special status of normative explanations within social science. Discussions of these issues will also make clear how philosophy of social science may be viewed as something other than the step-child of philosophy of science proper. In particular, debates within philosophy of social science impact core issues in philosophy of science, and attention to these debates indicate how in certain respects philosophy of science ought to take more notice of topics within philosophy of social science.

Technology and the Production of Scientific Knowledge: Reflections on Converging Territories

The symposium will bring together four speakers with extensive research expertise in the intersection of philosophy of science and technology. The presentations will engage technological dimensions of practice in a broad range of scientific contexts, including theoretical and experimental particle physics, optics, interferometry, chemistry, genomics and biomedicine. They will draw upon a range of methodologies and traditions, including phenomenology, history of science, virtue epistemology and virtue ethics. Though the methodological accounts and scientific applications will vary, a common thread linking the presentations is the illustration of technology’s increasingly essential role in the production of scientific knowledge, and the importance of more intensive philosophical study of the technological dimensions of scientific practice.