CFP: Thick Concepts in the Philosophy of Science

Submission deadline: August 31, 2021

Conference date(s):
December 3, 2021 - December 4, 2021

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Department of Philosophy, Leibniz University Hannover
Hannover, Germany

Topic areas


The notion of thick ethical concepts, as originally introduced by Bernard Williams in 1985, has received growing attention in the philosophical literature, particularly in the fields of meta-ethics and the philosophy of language. According to Williams's classic definition, thick ethical concepts combine descriptive and evaluative components such that they are simultaneously world-guided and action-guiding, without a clear way of separating or disentangling these components. While philosophical analyses of thick concepts have usually focussed on virtue and vice terms, such as brave, cruel, tactful, there has also been a recognition that these concepts seem to undermine the traditional fact/value-dichotomy and thus, to provide a further challenge to the value-free ideal of science. Accordingly, attention has been drawn to many scientific concepts, which seem to fit this pattern: well-being (Alexandrova 2017), risk and safety (Möller 2009, 2012), addiction (Djordjevic and Herfeld forthcoming), GDP and Unemployment (Reiss 2017), to name just a few.

While these concepts may not easily fit into the traditional category of thick ethical concepts, they raise interesting questions to the philosophy of science, for example:

• Do thick concepts threaten the ideal of value-free science?

• What are the epistemological consequences of using thick concepts in science?

• How can scientific claims containing thick concepts be objective?

• What methodological requirements can be discerned to the study of thick concepts?

• How should concepts that are thick in everyday language be operationalized in science?

• How can scientist give good scientific advice on issues involving thick concepts?

The 1.5-day-workshop aims at providing a forum for intense discussion on the role and value of thick concepts in the philosophy of science. It will consist of presentations by participants, and a workshop section that synthesizes the findings and discusses future avenues of development.


We invite researchers to present their work-in-progress relating to the subject outlined above. If you would like to present a paper, please send an abstract of up to 300 words, suitable for a 30-minute talk (20+10), as a PDF attachment to The abstract should be suitable for blind review. Please make sure that the e-mail to which the abstract is attached contains your name, institutional affiliation, and the title of the paper. The deadline for submissions is 31.08.2021; notifications of acceptance will be sent out by 15.09.2021. Members of groups which are underrepresented in philosophy are strongly encouraged to apply.

Keynote Speakers:

Anna Alexandrova (University of Cambridge, online)

Catherine Herfeld (University of Zurich)


Institute of Philosophy, Leibniz University Hannover, Germany

The workshop will be held in person but depending on the development of the pandemic it may be shifted online.

Organizing committee:

Birgit Benzing (Leibniz University Hannover)

Robert Frühstückl (Bielefeld University)

Simon Hollnaicher (Bielefeld University)

This workshop is hosted by the DFG Research Training Group 2073 “Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research”, see

Other information:

If there is sufficient interest from participants, we would consider publishing a special issue on the workshop topic.

We are anticipating being able to provide childcare for those who need it. More details will be available closer to the conference date.

More details and updates on Please direct any questions to

Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) – Project 254954344/GRK2073/2.

Supporting material

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