Activités / Activities


Mercredi 9 mai / Wednesday 9 May 18:00 – 19:30
Helen Longino, Stanford University
“What is Social about Social Epistemology?”
Local W-5215, 5eme étage, Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W), 455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Co-organized talk with Fillosophie
Some approaches to social epistemology treat the social dimension of knowledge as a contingent feature of cognitive life. This talk will argue that such an approach misses a deeper social dimension of our cognitive lives. Critical contextual empiricism puts interaction at the center of human knowledge.

Lundi 16 avril / Monday 16 April 12:30 – 14:00
Mike Thicke, Bard College & Bard Prison Initiative
“Social epistemology and bibliometrics”
UQAM, Pavillon Paul-Gérin-Lajoie (N), salle N-8150 (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with Chaire de recherche du Canada en épistémologie pratique, Centre de recherche interuniversaire sur la science et la technologie (CIRST).
Social Epistemology and Sociology of Science ought to be closely-related disciplines. This is especially true for the socio-epistemic modelling of scientific activity and bibliometrics. Such models make assumptions and predictions about the reasoning and behaviour of scientists, and bibliometrics offers a way of evaluating those assumptions and testing those predictions. However, there has been very little interaction between these two fields. In this talk I will discuss ways in which bibliometrics can give empirical grounding to models of science and models of science can suggest productive avenues of research for bibliometrics. This relationship is similar to that between economic theory and the empirical study of markets. I will discuss examples of models such as from Kitcher and Strevens showing the spontaneous organization of credit-seeking scientists, Zollman’s model of communication in science, and various models showing the value of diversity in science. I will then discuss some limited ways in which social epistemologists have attempted to use bibliometrics to inform their models. Finally, I will offer some suggestions about ways in which social epistemology and bibliometrics might more fruitfully interact.

Jeudi 22 mars / Thursday 22 March 15:00 – 17:00
Philip Kitcher, Columbia University
“Progress in the Sciences and in the Arts”
Leacock 927, McGill University
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with McGill’s Philosophy Department
The view that the sciences make progress, while the arts do not, is extremely common.  This lecture will challenge it.  I begin by distinguishing teleological progress from pragmatic progress.   You make pragmatic progress not by coming closer to a goal, but by solving some of the problems of your current state.  Scientific progress should be seen as pragmatic.  When the point is recognized, it becomes evident that scientific progress has social dimensions.  A socially embedded notion of scientific progress then allows for a parallel concept of progress applicable to the arts.

Jeudi 15 mars / Thursday 15 March 12:30 – 14:00
Bernhard Nickel, Harvard University
“The Division of Ideological Labor”
UQAM, Pavillon Paul-Gérin-Lajoie (N), salle N-8150
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with Chaire de recherche du Canada en épistémologie pratique, Centre de recherche interuniversaire sur la science et la technologie (CIRST).
The concept of ideology poses the micro-macro problem particularly acutely. An ideology at least contains a set of propositions that concern a group of people and which includes stereotypes, archetypical narratives, statistics, and clichés, but also more general principles that purport to explain and ground the relatively more surface-level purported facts. Because ideologies are macro-level phenomena that help us understand the persistence of social structures and, depending on the case, unjust distributions of resources and opportunities, they raise the question of how the psychology of individual agents—a micro-phenomenon—is related to an ideology. Ideologies pose this micro-macro problem in a particularly acute way because they can operate without the conscious awareness of the people whose thought and action we understand by invoking them. In such cases, standard pictures of how social-level cognitive elements can be related to individual-level ones, e.g., via the notion of common belief, are inapplicable. This paper proposes a new model for how the psychology of individual agents is related to a social-level construct like an ideology, inspired by the paradigm of semantic externalism about reference. Because semantic deference generally operates below the level of individual consciousness, it’s a promising model for understanding how ideologies function. The paper goes beyond these more familiar forms of deference in arguing that speakers can defer about the explanatory resources they deploy. The paper makes this case by using generic generalizations as a case study.

Mercredi 14 mars / Wednesday 14 March, 12:30 – 14:00
Leah McClimans, University of South Carolina
“Ethical and Epistemic Entanglements of Person-Centred Epidemiological Measures”
Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University, Charles Meredith House, 1130 Pine Ave W
Since the 1970’s epidemiological measures focusing on “quality of life” have figured increasingly as endpoints in clinical trials. Before the 1970’s these measures were known generically as functional measures or health status measures. Relabeled as “quality of life measures” they were first used in cancer trials. They were relabeled again in the early 2000’s as “patient-reported outcome measures” or PROMs in their service to the FDA to support drug labeling claims. In this talk I begin by examining the history of these measures. Although superficially similar to subjective measures of well-being, I will argue that quality of life/PRO measures have a different history. Importantly, quality of life/PRO measures grew in popularity due to two, post-World War II, trends in medicine: an emphasis on patient input and an emphasis on standardization. Policy documents, editorials, and articles in leading medical journals over the previous forty years illustrate the promise of these measures to marry input to standardization, and the tension inherent in this alliance. Particularly, scholars worry about the degree to which these instruments faithfully report patient concerns and/or quality of life. I will argue that this ethical concern is linked to epistemic concerns about the validity, interpretability and responsiveness of these measures. And, furthermore, we cannot get very far answering these epistemic questions without addressing this ethical one. Thus, I will suggest that researchers cannot put the ethical question to one side and move forward with the methodological and epistemic ones—as some have suggested is the case with subjective measures of well-being.

Vendredi 16 février / Friday 16 February 2018, 15:00 – 17:00
Elliott Sober, University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Ockham’s Razor and the Mind-Body Problem”
Room S-205, Department of Philosophy, 2145 MacKay, Concordia University (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with Concordia’s Philosophy Department
Philosophers often view the competition between the mind/brain identity theory, functionalism, and dualism as nonempirical, since all three theories are compatible with the discovery that a mental property and a physical property are perfectly correlated. Given this, it has been suggested that parsimony considerations can justify the choice of a mind/body theory even though observations are unable to do so. In this talk I’ll describe an epistemological framework used in science (AIC, the Akaike Information Criterion) in which parsimony is relevant to estimating a theory’s predictive accuracy. AIC cannot show that the simpler of two predictively equivalent theories is better. However, the old idea that the identity theory is more parsimonious than dualism turns out to be right within that framework (and functionalism turns out to be intermediate in its parsimoniousness). The three mind/body theories are general and abstract; when they are applied to a given pair of mental and physical properties, the result is three specific theories about those two properties. These specific theories are predictively nonequivalent, and AIC applies to them.

Jeudi 15 février / Thursday 15 February 2018, 18:00 – 20:00
Elliott Sober, University of Wisconsin, Madison
“Ockham’s Razor – When is the Simpler Theory Better?”
Philosophy seminar room #927, 9th floor, Leacock building, McGill University (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with McGill’s Philosophy Department
Ockham’s razor, the principle of parsimony, says that a theory that postulates fewer entities, causes, or processes is “better” than a theory that postulates more, so long as the simpler theory is compatible with what we observe. But what does “better” mean? It is obvious that simpler theories are easier to remember, manipulate, and test. The hard problem is to say why the fact that one theory is simpler than another is relevant to deciding what the world is like. In this lecture I’ll describe two “parsimony paradigms” within which this hard problem can be solved. The first involves likelihoods; the second involves ideas from model selection in statistics.


1 décembre / December 1st, 3:30 – 5:30 pm
Anouk Barberousse, Université Paris Sorbonne
“Formalism, mathematical interpretation, and physical theories”
Philosophy seminar room #927, 9th floor, Leacock building, McGill University (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with McGill’s Philosophy Department
In this talk I shall argue in favor of considering formal settings (pieces of mathematical theories that are commonly used in physics or other empirical disciplines) as important units of analysis for understanding scientific achievements, along with theories, models, computer simulations, concepts, etc. I’ll present different examples of formal settings, from calculus to cellular automata. My main examples will be the representation of time in Discrete Mechanics.

13 octobre / October 13th, 2:00 – 4:00 pm
Kerry McKenzie, University of San Diego
Delusions of a final theory: structuralist metaphysics and the problem of theory change
Room 422, 2910 boul. Édouard-Montpetit, Département de philosophie, Université de Montréal (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with the Montreal Inter-university Workshop on History and Philosophy of Mathematics
Structuralist philosophy of science in its contemporary guise is committed to three core theses: first, that science makes progress; second, that it is structure that is ontologically fundamental; and third, that our metaphysics must be informed by science if it is to have any value. But these three theses give rise to an obvious tension, given that we as yet lack a fundamental physics theory that can inform the claims that lie at the heart of its metaphysics.  To resolve the tension, one might hope that we can regard metaphysics based on merely pro tem fundamental physics to at least be making progress toward the description of the truly fundamental level.  But I will argue that any such notion of progress cannot be analogous to that which  science enjoys.  At the root of this is the fact that structuralist metaphysics, for all its naturalistic credentials, is in fact a form of ‘analytic’ metaphysics, and the categories of the latter have an all-or-nothing character that makes them intrinsically unreceptive to any meaningful notion of approximation. However, with this now in plain sight, we are better positioned to imagine what a structuralist metaphysics have should looked like all along – a metaphysics, that is, that is tolerant enough to undergo progress as well as merely suffer change.

29 septembre / September 29th, 3:00 – 5:00 pm
Margaret Morrison, University of Toronto
“Building Theories: Strategies not Blueprints”
Local W-5215, 5eme étage, Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W), 455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Co-organized talk with the Département de philosophie de l’UQAM
Views of theory structure in philosophy of science (semantic and syntactic) have little to say about how theories are actually constructed; instead, the task of the philosopher is typically understood as reconstruction in order to highlight the theory’s essential features. However, if one takes seriously these views about theory structure then it might seem that we should also characterize the practice of building theories in accordance with the guidelines they set out. If we look at examples of some of our most successful theories we see nothing like the practices that conform to our present accounts of theory structure. Instead we have a variety of different approaches, approaches that partly depend on the phenomena we want to account for and the kind of theory we desire. A number of strategies can be identified in high energy physics, two of which are (1) top down using symmetry principles and (2) a bottom up strategy beginning with different types of models and gradually embedding these in a broad theoretical framework. Finally, in cases where methods and techniques cross disciplines, as in the case of population biology and statistical physics, we can see that theory construction was largely based on analogical considerations such as using mathematical methods for treating systems of molecules in order to incorporate populations of genes into the theory of natural selection. Using these various examples I argue that building theories doesn’t involve a blueprint for what a theory should look like, rather the architecture is developed in a piecemeal way using different strategies that fit the context and phenomena in question. 

8 septembre / September 8th, 3:30 – 5:30 pm
Sorin Bangu, University of Bergen (Norway)
“Reductionism, Constructionism and Explanation. The Case of Superconductivity”
Philosophy seminar room #927, 9th floor, Leacock building, McGill University (PLAN/MAP). Light refreshments will be served at 3:00 pm at Leacock 908.
It is perhaps old news that understanding-generating explanations of phenomena in biology, geology, economics, etc. are not, and cannot be, formulated in terms of (or in some sense reduced to) the basic constituents of reality, i.e., electrons, quarks, and other fundamental particles. These explanations are thus ‘higher-level’. While some argue that chemistry should also be on this list, it is surely controversial whether physics itself is (or could be) part of this group. This talk explores this possibility, namely that the explanation of superconductive properties of certain materials is an illustration of this kind of explanation.

12 mai / May 12th, 3:00 – 5:00 pm
Daniel Andler, Université Paris 4 Sorbonne
“How interesting is critical naturalism?”
Local W-5215, 5eme étage, Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W), 455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) (PLAN/MAP)
Critical naturalism is a position vis-à-vis scientific naturalism which I defend in my recent book, La Silhouette de l’humain, and which supports the ongoing naturalization programs of cognitive science, neuroscience, and evolutionary social science, while denying to them final authority in the understanding of human affairs. As a midway position, it doesn’t sound very exciting, and may seem easy enough to defend. I will first fill it out, and then attempt to show that it is less than obvious but nevertheless correct.

24 mars / March 24th, 1:00 – 3:00 pm
Gillian Barker, The University of Western Ontario
“Functions, Agents, and the Global Environmental Crisis”
Local W-5215, 5eme étage, Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W), 455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Co-organized talk with Fillosophie

17 mars / March 17th, 9:30 – 11:00 am
Peter Galison, Harvard University
“The Objectivity of Science”
Philosophy seminar room #927, 9th floor, Leacock building, McGill University (PLAN/MAP)
Conférence co-organisée avec / Co-organized talk with the Philosophy Department at McGill

2 février / February 2nd, 3:30 – 5:30pm
Martin Carrier, University of Bielefeld
“Agnotological Challenges: How to Capture the Production of Ignorance”
Philosophy seminar room #927, 9th floor, Leacock building, McGill University (PLAN/MAP)
Agnotology concerns the creation and preservation of confusion and ignorance. Certain positions are advocated in order to promote economic, political, or metaphysical interests with the result of creating mock controversies or maintaining unjustified agreement. I propose to identify agnotological ploys by the discrepancy between the conclusions suggested by the design of the study at hand and the conclusions actually drawn or intimated. Agnotological ploys are characterized by the unrecognized difference between those issues for which a study is sensitive and those issues that feature in its interpretation. This mechanism of “false advertising” serves to implement agnotological endeavors without having to invoke the motivations of the relevant agents. I discuss three agnotological cases, i.e., studies on bisphenol A, Bt-maize/Roundup, and Oslo’s airport Gardermoen. Agnotological challenges are best met by transparency and plurality. The former requires recognizing the partial character of a study and the latter encourages conducting a different study so as to achieve a more balanced picture. The identification of agnotological moves serves to curb the manifold of contrasting assumptions that characteristically goes along with pluralism. Identifying agnotological endeavors is a means for weeding out approaches that look fitting at first glance, but are blatantly inappropriate, in fact. Pinpointing agnotological endeavors helps transform a pluralist manifold into a manageable range of alternatives.