Scientific Realism in Light of the History of Science

September 7, 2012 - September 8, 2012
Hatfield College, Durham University

Birley Room
United Kingdom


  • Arts and Humanities Research Council

Main speakers:

Theodore Arabatzis
University of Athens
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Jed Buchwald
California Institute of Technology
Anjan Chakravartty
University of Notre Dame
David Knight
Durham University
Helge Kragh
University of Aarhus
Stathis Psillos
University of Athens
Gregory Radick
University of Leeds
Juha Saatsi
University of Leeds
Derek Turner
University of Connecticut
Peter Vickers
Durham University

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It is ubiquitously acknowledged that the history of science is a crucial consideration when assessing contemporary scientific realist positions. Laudan’s seminal paper ‘A Confutation of Convergent Realism’ (1981) laid down the challenge to the realist explicitly: what kind of substantial realist position can stand up against the abundance of successful but false theories in the history of science? Since then the realist has responded in a number of ways, and has enjoyed considerable success in answering the challenges. But just recently a new wave of historical case studies has been presented, especially tailored to challenge the contemporary realist. These new cases, combined with some recalcitrant old cases, continue to ask important questions of today’s realists, and at the very least help us to choose between the different available positions. This two-day meeting brings together some of the world’s leading historians and philosophers of science to assess the current state of play, and move towards finally answering the fundamental question: which scientific realist positions, if any, survive full knowledge of the history of science?


7th September

9.00-10.15 Peter Vickers (Durham)

10.20-11.35 Helge Kragh (Aarhus)

11.35-12.40 Lunch

12.40-13.55 Anjan Chakravartty (Notre Dame)

14.00-15.15 Jed Buchwald (Caltech)

15.15-15.45 Break

15.45-17.00 Greg Radick (Leeds)

8th September

9.00-10.15 Derek Turner (Connecticut)

10.20-11.35 Theodore Arabatz (Athens)

11.35-12.40 Lunch

12.40-13.55 Juha Saatsi (Leeds)

14.00-15.15 David Knight (Durham)

15.15-15.45 Break

15.45-17.00 Stathis Psillos (Athens)

17.00 Conference ends

For titles and abstracts, see:

This colloquium is part of the project 'Evaluating Scientific Realism: A New Generation of Historical Case Studies'.


Please register for the colloquium by 6th August at the latest, by sending an email to Jean Best: [email protected] The first 15 people to register won’t have to pay anything, and will receive free coffee and tea, biscuits, and a buffet lunch each day, which will all be provided by the university. For all others registration will cost £12.


There will be a small budget to help towards to travel costs of students who wish to attend, allocated on a first-come first-served basis. Please enquire with Jean Best about this.


For any other queries about this workshop, please contact Peter Vickers ([email protected]).

For titles and abstracts of talks, see:

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August 6, 2012, 10:00am BST

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