CFP: Theoretical Virtues and Non-Empirical Guides in Scientific Theory-Development

Submission deadline: July 11, 2022

Conference date(s):
November 23, 2022 - November 24, 2022

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Aarhus University
Aarhus, Denmark

Topic areas


As part of Establishing the Nordic Network for Philosophy of Physics, we will host a workshop on Theoretical Virtues and Non-Empirical Guides in Scientific Theory-Development.

Theoretical virtues are desirable features of scientific theories, and may include principles such as consistency, simplicity, unification, and consilience/coherence---not all of which are directly related to empirical evidence. These principles play various roles in scientific theory development, including as heuristic, exploratory guides in scientific discovery, as indicators of pursuit-worthiness, or means of confirmation. But there are also other non-empirical features used in these roles that are not typically classified as theoretical virtues, such as analogy and thought experiment.

In philosophy of physics, interest in non-empirical guides to theory development and assessment is growing, given the prominent status of these guides in the search for new theories of fundamental physics. These features---such as naturalness, symmetry principles, and singularity-resolution---are more specific than the traditional theoretical virtues, but nevertheless appear to bear interesting relations to the broader theoretical virtues.

This workshop aims to connect discussions on theory development and assessment in the philosophy of physics with that in general philosophy of science, and other specific sciences. The topic is conceived of broadly, as including any theoretical virtues, heuristic guides, and principles that are not directly related to experiment and observation.

Example questions:

  • Considering the utility of particular theoretical virtues in different roles – e.g., What is the heuristic function of unification? Can inconsistency be an indicator of pursuit-worthiness? Can simplicity be a guide to truth?
  • The role of analogy in the development of physical theories
  • Do theoretical virtues have a role to play only in the context of pursuit, or do they also enter considerations concerning the justification of theories?
  • Why is explanatory coherence more desirable than ad hoc connections?

Keynote speakers:

Elena Castellani (Florence)

Karen Crowther (Oslo)

Richard Dawid (Stockholm)

Rune Nyrup (Cambridge)

Samuel Schindler (Aarhus)

Mike Stuart (National Yang Ming Chiao Tung)

We welcome submissions of abstracts of approx. 500 words from interested speakers anywhere in the world, but especially encourage submissions from researchers in the Nordic region. Accepted speakers will have travel and accommodation expenses covered.

To submit a proposal, please submit your 500 word abstract, including your name and affiliation at

Please address any questions about the workshop to Karen Crowther at [email protected]

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