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Durham University

Department of Philosophy

Historiography and the Philosophy of the Sciences

Historiography and the Philosophy of the Sciences


Date: Monday 25 June 2012

Venue: Seminar Room, Institute of Advanced Study, Cosin’s Hall, Durham.

Organisers: Dr Robin Hendry and Dr Ian James Kidd (Durham University)

Sponsors: The British Society for the Philosophy of Science and the Department of Philosophy, Durham University




The complexity of the relationships between the historiography of science and the philosophy of science has been long established. On the one hand, philosophical reflection on science can be guided, shaped, and, sometimes, problematized by the results of historical enquiry – an insight captured by Kuhn and subsequently explored at length by two generations of ‘post-positivist’ historians and philosophers of science. On the other hand, the activity of writing history of science raises methodological and philosophical questions, for instance, concerning progress in science, realism and antirealism, and the semantics of scientific theories. Many contemporary debates – about the contingency and inevitability of science, or the nature of biographical historiography of science – reflect the convergence of historiographical and philosophical concerns. This workshop will explore the relationship between the historiography and the philosophy of the sciences with a focus on how state-of-the-art tends in both disciplines might relate to one another.




1000-1020 Registration and welcome

1020 Robin Hendry (Durham) – ‘Immanent Philosophy of X’
1100 Peter Vickers (Durham) – ‘Philosophy of Non-existent Science’

1120 Tea and coffee

1140 James McAllister (Leiden) – ‘Realism and Materialism in Recent Historiography of Science’
1220 Alan Chalmers (Flinders) – ‘Can the Scientific Revolution Be Seen as the Beginnings of Modern Science without being Whiggish or Presentist?’

1300 Lunch

1400 Tom Bunce (Durham) – ‘Newton and his (Ir)rational Reconstructions: Biography and the Philosophy of Science’
1440 Ian James Kidd (Durham) - ‘We Should Reject Inevitabilism’

1520 Tea and coffee
1540 Roundtable discussion