Launch of the Centre for Science and Philosophy

This event took place on Tuesday 4 December 2012.

The Centre for Science and Philosophy builds on the excellence in the philosophy and history of science at the University of Bristol. The Centre will promote the understanding and interpretation of science by supporting collaborative work between philosophers and researchers in history, economics, logic and mathematics, engineering, psychology, physics and the chemical, biological, medical, geographical, social and political sciences.

The launch hosted four expert speakers from diverse areas in the philosophy of science.  They each gave a 30 minute talk on their specialism: from the philosophy of physics and mathematics to the philosophy of cognitive science. There was also introductory addresses from Professor James Ladyman, Director of the Centre, and Professor Jon Keating, Dean of the Faculty of Science.

Further information about the Centre is also available.

How should we think?

Dr Richard Pettigrew (Bristol)

Over the past fifty years, psychologists have revealed how badly we fail to follow basic principles of probabilistic reasoning. This raises a question for philosophers: What is so good about these principles? In what way does a person go wrong if she violates them? Is there a reliable way to generate new principles of this sort? I will present a new way of answering these sorts of question.

Why Philosophy of Biology?: Beyond Stamp Collecting

Professor John Dupré (Exeter)

40 years ago philosophy of science was pretty much synonymous with philosophy of physics. Since then philosophy of biology has grown steadily, and is now at least as active an area of research as philosophy of physics. Over the same period, fundamental biological knowledge has experienced an explosive growth perhaps unequalled in the history of science. Reflection on this emerging knowledge is dramatically changing our views of, among many other basic questions, scientific method, causation, and (literally) the meaning of life. Philosophy of biology, therefore, has become an essential contributor both to our understanding of science, and to our general philosophical interpretation of the world.

Consciousness and the Brain

Professor David Papineau (King's College, London)

Modern neuroscience has helped philosophy to understand that the conscious mind is not separate from the physical brain. But the conscious mind remains a very puzzling phenomenon, and perhaps philosophy can also help neuroscience to understand what kind of issues it raises for scientific study.

The curious case of the vanishing space-time: philosophy and quantum gravity

Dr Eleanor Knox (King's College, London)

The greatest challenge facing theoretical physics is how to find a theory that explains and combines the successes of both quantum mechanics and general relativity. However, many approaches to solving this problem have a surprising feature: they do not appear to involve space and time at the most fundamental level. Such theories raise deep conceptual puzzles, both in terms of how they can generate empirical results, and in terms of the world-picture they generate. I'll examine the role philosophy has to play in helping to make sense of and develop these theories.