Measuring the Human: New developments in the epistemology of measurement in the human sciences

July 10, 2023 - July 11, 2023
Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

History and Philosophy of Science
United Kingdom


  • Canada Research Chairs Program (via McGill University)
  • Ann Johnson Institute for Science, Technology and Society
  • King's College (Cambridge)


Cambridge University
University of Warwick
Cambridge University
University of South Carolina
McGill University
University of Amsterdam


Cambridge University
Cambridge University
McGill University

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Workshop description & Call for Abstracts:

Details: Although measurement is widespread across the human sciences (psychology, economics, sociology, medicine, and related fields), the reliability of measurement in these disciplines is often contested. Philosophers of science have developed conceptual models for how measurement practice progresses in the natural sciences, highlighting in particular the virtuous co-development of theoretical understanding and measurement procedures (e.g., Chang 2004; van Fraassen 2008; Tal 2017). The extent to which these accounts of measurement are applicable outside the physical sciences, however, remains unclear. In the human sciences, measurement faces a number of challenges that are related to the peculiarities of the phenomena under study and, as a consequence, the evaluation of measurement in these disciplines may require different criteria than those employed in the physical sciences. To name a few: In the human sciences, measurements are carried out in contexts where there are much fewer theoretical resources to draw from. Moreover, many of the properties studied in the human sciences are complex and multidimensional, which raises questions about their very measurability. Finally, some of these properties are value-laden and context-dependent, which challenges the appropriateness of standardization and raises difficult moral and political questions. Although recent scholarship has already made progress analyzing some of these challenges (e.g., Alexandrova 2017), the conditions of reliable and legitimate measurement in the human sciences remain to be spelled out. Doing so might require a unifying account of measurement across disciplines (see McClimans et al 2017 and Mari et al 2022 for recent work that unifies natural science and human science measurement).  The workshop aims to foster dialogue among philosophers and methodologists interested in measurement practices across the human sciences and to explore opportunities for developing an integrated account of measurement in these disciplines. It will feature invited speakers alongside contributed talks. We welcome authors working on measurement in the diverse human sciences to present research that sheds light on the possible shape(s) of such a framework. 

We invite 500-word abstracts describing your proposed contribution to the workshop. This workshop is meant as a first step towards a special issue titled “Measuring the Human”, to be published by a leading philosophy of science journal. Authors of accepted abstracts will be expected to submit an article-length version of their contribution for publication in the special issue following the workshop (see dates below). Topics The range of topics of interest includes but is not limited to:

  • Challenges to the very possibility of quantitative measurement in the human sciences
  • The role of standardization and calibration in the human sciences
  • The applicability of coherentist accounts of measurement across the human sciences
  • Meaning and use of validity concepts (validity, precision, accuracy) in human measurement
  • Intertwinement of moral and epistemic aspects in measurement practices
  • Conditions of reliability for context-dependent and/or morally charged parameters
  • The role of models in the measurement of human parameters
  • Theory-ladenness of measurement in these disciplines
  • New methodological and epistemological developments of measurement in one discipline that could be of interest to other disciplines

Confirmed Invited Speakers: Leah McClimans (University of South Carolina), Alistair Isaac (University of Edinburgh), Mark Fabian (University of Warwick), and Riet van Bork (University of Amsterdam)

Important dates

-Deadline for submission: 30 April 2023

-Notification of acceptance: 15 May 2023

-Workshop dates: 10-11 July 2023

-Submission deadline for the special issue: 1 July 2024

Submission guidelines We invite submissions for 30-40 minute presentations. Please send a 500-word abstract in PDF format for review. All abstracts should be submitted electronically to Cristian Larroulet Philippi at [email protected]  All inquiries concerning the workshop should be sent to the above email address.   

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