Bergen Philosophy of Science Workshop 2017

May 31, 2017
Department of Philosophy, University of Bergen

Seminar room 1
12-13 Sydnesplassen
Bergen 5007

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Michael Baumgartner
University of Geneva
University of Bergen
Gordon Belot
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Alexander Bird
University of Bristol
Eleanor Knox
King's College London
Stathis Psillos
University of Athens
Laura Ruetsche
University of Michigan

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Bergen Philosophy of Science Workshop

31 May 2017

Dept. of Philosophy, Univ. of Bergen, Norway


  • Laura Ruetsche (Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
  • Stathis Psillos (Univ. of Athens)
  • Alexander Bird (Univ. of Bristol)
  • Gordon Belot (Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
  • Michael Baumgartner (Univ. of Geneva / Univ. of Bergen)
  • Eleanor Knox (King's College London)  

Titles and abstracts below.

No registration, everyone welcome.

For more information

If interested to attend, please let me know at [email protected]

Sorin Bangu, Univ. of Bergen

BPSW 2017

31 May

Alexander Bird (Univ. of Bristol)
Is there meta-scientific knowledge? Against both the no-miracles argument and the pessimistic induction

The No-Miracles Argument (NMA) and the Pessimistic Meta-Induction (PMI) are two global meta-scientific arguments—arguments that aim to draw conclusions for or against scientific realism from general considerations about science. I argue that we have reason to reject both arguments. No theory of truth gives the truth of a theory greater explanatory power than the facts alluded to by the theory itself. So the NMA at best reduces to the claim that we should believe theories that are well supported by the relevant data. The acceptability of the in- duction in the PMI depends of conceiving of all science as operating by a shared epistemic process. I reject that view, arguing that at most there may be local arguments regarding the efficacy of theorising in a particular field. In summary, we should not expect there to be global meta-scientific arguments that trump or second-guess the first-order arguments presented by the scientists themselves.

Gordon Belot (Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Gravity and GRACE: Does Underdetermination Undermine Objectivity?

I will present an underdetermination argument that targets scientific objectivity rather than scientific realism — and argue that the considerations raised should unsettle scientific realists.

Stathis Psillos (Univ. of Athens)
Laws and Powers in the Frame of Nature

The aim of this talk is to revisit the major arguments of the seventeenth century debate concerning laws and powers. Its primary points are two. First, though the dominant conception of nature was such that there was no room for power in bodies, the very idea that laws govern the behaviour of (bits of) matter in motion brought with it the following issue, which came under sharp focus in the work of Leibniz: how possibly can passive matter, devoid of power, obey laws? Though Leibniz’s answer was to re-introduce powers, two radically different conceptualisations of the relation between laws and powers became available after him. Hume denied powers altogether, whereas Newton thought that to introduce a power is to introduce a law. The second main point will be that though laws were meant to replace powers, the real dilemma ended up being not laws vs powers, but rather necessity vs non-necessity in nature. To exploit, an expression used by Newton, the question was: what is the place of necessity in the frame of nature?

Michael Baumgartner (Univ. of Geneva / Univ. of Bergen)
Boolean difference-making: A modern regularity theory of causation

While regularity theories of causation had almost completely vanished from the philosophical discussion for decades, there have recently been several promising attempts to bring the long-standing Humean tradition of analyzing causation in terms of sufficiency and necessity structures back to life (cf. Grasshoff & May 2001, Strevens 2007, Baumgartner 2008, Psillos 2009). In this talk, I present a regularity theoretic analysis of type-level causation which I claim to be immune to the objections that have traditionally been leveled against the regularity theoretic project. Moreover, I argue that this regularity theory grounds a powerful methodology of causal inference that is custom-built for uncovering the Boolean dimensions of causal structures.

Laura Ruetsche (Univ. of Michigan, Ann Arbor)
Renormalization Group Realism: An Unduly Skeptical Review

One strategy by which the realist might respond to the pessimistic
meta-induction is *divide et impera*: distinguish aspects of our best
current theories we can reasonably expect to persist in the face of theory change from idle theoretical wheels, and espouse realism about the
distinguished aspects. For the strategy to amount to a move (rather than a promise or a bluff), the realist needs a way to pick out the distinguished aspects. Principles of identification invoking structure, causal powers, and explanatorily essential elements have all been proposed.  Each exhibits an openendedness proponents of *divide et impera* realism regard as resource and its skeptics as a vice. I intend to explicate and assess a much more precise *divide et impera *strategy suggested by the recent work of philosophers of physics familiar with effective theories and renormalization group techniques. This strategy, which I’ll call *Renormalization Group Realism *(RGR)*,* has the virtue of directly engaging the gears of our best current physical theories, the perturbative QFTs making up the Standard Model.

Eleanor Knox (King's College London)
Spacetime Functionalism

Many (perhaps all) concepts in science are functional, but the idea that we should conceive of spacetime as whatever fills some functional role has not been much explored. Nonetheless, a functional conception of spacetime seems to be required by some theories of quantum gravity in which spacetime is non-fundamental. I'll also argue that functionalism is helpful in the context of classical spacetime theories; it has the potential to dissolve some old problems. I'll advocate a particular kind of spacetime functionalism inspired by the work of Harvey Brown.

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