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Call for Papers: 2nd Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Group in India

Submission deadline: August 15, 2015

Conference date(s): December 19, 2015 – December 21, 2015

Conference Venue:

Centre for Science, Technology and Society, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
Mumbai, India

Conference Web page: https://psgi2015.wordpress.com


Topic Areas

  • General Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Social Sciences
  • Philosophy of Biology
  • Philosophy of Economics

Keynote Speakers:

  • Richard Boyd, Cornell University
  • Sahotra Sarkar, University of Texas at Austin
  • Anjan Chakravartty, University of Notre Dame
  • Harold Kincaid, University of Cape Town
  • Amita Chatterjee, Jadavpur University
  • Federica Russo, University of Amsterdam
  • Dhruv Raina, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Purpose of Conference

The philosophy of science, while a relatively new topic of study in the long span of philosophical inquiry, has come to occupy a central place in the discipline. Besides addressing traditional epistemological, metaphysical and ethical questions as applied to the practice of science, contemporary philosophers of science engage fruitfully with foundational questions that arise within particular scientific theories, blurring the artificial boundaries between philosophy and science. As a consequence, the field offers great potential for interdisciplinary interaction between philosophers and scientists, leading to clearer analyses of difficult scientific concepts and the application of new scientific discoveries to traditional philosophical questions.

Despite the importance and dynamism of the field internationally, philosophy of science remains a nascent discipline in India. The community of researchers is small, and students often feel unprepared to tackle a subject that requires knowledge not only of philosophy but also of science. The philosophy of science group was formed with the intention of overcoming these obstacles – to encourage young scholars to conduct high-quality research in the philosophy of science, and to provide a space for the existing philosophy of science community to collaborate and exchange ideas.

Call for Extended Abstracts

We will host a conference with papers submitted by scholars, both young and experienced, interested in the philosophy of science.

  • Each day will begin with two or three 1 hour talks from invited speakers, including 15-20 minutes of discussion.
  • These will be followed by six or seven 30 minute presentations of contributed papers, including

10 minutes of discussion.

  • Submitted abstracts will undergo peer review, in order to ensure a high standard of discourse.
  • We expect a broad range of papers in the philosophy of science.

Submissions are invited to the second meeting of the expanded group. Extended abstracts (up to 1000 words) can be submitted on this site:https://easychair.org/conferences/?conf=philsci-india2

Deadline for Submission: August 15, 2015.

Notification of Acceptance: September 15, 2015.

Papers should be accessible to an audience of researchers and those keenly interested in doing research in philosophy of science. Papers will be held to the usual high standards of research publications. In particular, they should:

  1. explain the significance of the work—its novelty and its practical or theoretical implications; and
  2. include comparisons with and references to relevant literature.

Topics include, but are not limited to:

  • semantic and syntactic models for scientific knowledge,
  • realism and anti-realism,
  • nature of method(s) in science (including social science),
  • reasoning in science,
  • causality,
  • nature of space and time,
  • complex systems,
  • philosophy of biology,
  • philosophy of economics,
  • philosophy of technology
  • experiments and simulations in science, and
  • science and ethics.

Organizing committee

Jayaraman­– Co-chair (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India)

Bijoy Mukherjee – Co-chair (Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan, India)

Prasanta Bandyopadhyay (Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, USA)

Prajit Basu (University of Hyderabad, India)

Manjari Chakraborty (Visva-Bharati, Shantiniketan, India)

Amita Chatterjee (Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India)

Sreekuamar Jayadevan (Indian Institute of Technology, Jodhpur, India)

Stephen Jayard (Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, India)

Priyedarshi Jetli (Mumbai, India)

Philose Koshy (Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, India)

Tarun Menon (Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India)

Smita Sirker (Jadavpur University, Kolkata, India)

CFP also available at : http://philevents.org/event/show/17777

Further Inquiries:



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Why is Death Bad for You?

Most would think that death is bad. But why exactly is it bad? Once we attempt to answer this question, it take us to a whole host of puzzles. Here is an interesting talk on this by Shelly Kagen in his characteristically interesting fashion.

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Why Philosophy of Biology?

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intellectual virtues of “blind deference” and “perseverance”

A discussion on the intellectual virtues of “blind deference” and “perseverance”.


Kiss of love, Hindutva, Hinduism, Kamasutra, Khajuraho etc. : some basic lessons of reasoning.

India witnessed a powerful protest for last few weeks since November 2, 2014 namely ‘Kiss of Love’. This is a protest where people kiss in public to register their protest against moral policing. Many of the supporters of Kiss of Love protest (hence forth KoL) has referred to elements of the tradition: the sculptures in Khajurāho temples, texts such as Kāmasutra, Gitā Govinda, religious gatherings such as Kumbha mela etc. to make a point in arguments. They points out that all these elements of tradition which mentioned above indicates that emphasis on sexuality, nudity, eroticism etc. are part of the tradition (by presuming that art and literature often reflects tendencies in traditions/cultures).

kol logo

Is it the case that though they -these supporters of KoL- seemingly opposing the moral policing of Hindutva, they are implicitly exhibiting a commitment to Hinduism, if not to Hindutva, by referring to elements of tradition? Some seem to think so. Do you think so? I do not think so: I do not think that the fact that many of the supporters of KoL has referred to some such elements of tradition indicates their commitment to tradition, Hinduism, or Hindutva. Why do I say that?

Please consider 2 types of arguments related to the Kol:

1. Argument from tradition (AFT): Many who opposes KoL, has argued that activities such as expression of affection in public is not in compliance with our (Indian) tradition. Therefore KoL is not acceptable. Let me call this argument as ‘argument from tradition’ (AFT).

2. Argument from internal contradiction (AIC): Many who supports KoL points out that the AFT (‘argument from tradition’ mentioned above), is fraught with difficulties. This is because of the fact that there are elements in the tradition itself which will undercut AFT by resulting in a contradiction . Let me call this argument as Argument from internal contradiction (AIC).

Some who have discussed about KoL, it seems to me, have invoked the following argument: those who present AIC (Argument from internal contradiction) are committed to tradition in a disguised manner. Many supporters of KoL have invoked, AIC. Therefore, they conclude, many supporters of KoL are committed to tradition. As far as I can see, such a conclusion does not logically follow. One can clearly see that such a conclusion does not follow, if one construes and examines the premises of the argument carefully.

Please consider the following:
Suppose R holds Tb, a theory T about b. How does someone else, let us say K, criticise R for holding Tb? Two important techniques to do it are the following:

Case1: First technique is: show that if R were to consider Xb, another theory X about b, then R can no longer hold Tb rationally (Showing this will involve to show that in some important way Xb undermine Tb).

Case 2: Second technique is: show that if R were to consider the details of Tb, then R will see that there are propositions t1 and t2 within the theory Tb which are contradictory. Thus R can no longer hold Tb rationally.

In the above mentioned two techniques of criticising a theory, the latter is stronger than the former. This is so because:
(a) In case 1, R can (rationally) say that (s)he does not believe Xb (the alternate theory) and does not take it seriously (due to reason z).
(b) In case 2, R cannot (rationally) say that (s)he does not believe in t1 or t2 and thus does not take it/them seriously. R cannot (rationally) say this since t1 and t2 are subsets of the set Tb to which R is committed.

The second approach criticises the theory Tb in its own terms. The first approach criticises the theory Tb in terms of/ by making use of some other theory. Criticising a theory in its own terms is stronger than criticising a theory in terms of/making use of other theories. That is to say that case 2 is stronger than case 1. It is stronger since, in this case the advocate of the theory cannot defend by saying that (s)he does not believe in t1 or t2 (since, as I already mentioned above, t1 and t2 are subsets of the theory Tb to which R is committed to). That explains, I believe, as to why case 2 is stronger than case 1.

Sculpture at Khajuraho temple

Sculpture at Khajuraho temple

Illegitimate charge on the critic: While the critic K points out the contradictory nature of t1 and t2, K need not be committed to t1, t2, or Tb. Thus, the claim that K is committed to Tb does not logically follow from the fact that (s)he has referred to t1 and/or t2. Claiming that K has a commitment to Tb is to make a (logically) illegitimate charge against K. (It very well can be the case that K is indeed committed to Tb, but the point here is, one cannot make this claim on the basis of the kind of argument provided . One needs some other argument(s) to show that indeed K is committed to Tb)

Unfortunately, in many of the discussions on KoL, I am afraid, this ‘illegitimate charge on the critic’ (which is mentioned above) is presumed. Once such scenario is as follows: many of the supporters of KoL has pointed out that, the sculptures in Khajurāho temples, texts such as Kāmasutra, Geetā Govindam, religious gatherings such as Kumbh mela, etc. are also part of the tradition which the proponents of AFT (Argument from tradition) invokes. But these elements of tradition are explicit in describing sexuality, nudity, eroticism etc.

Naga sadhu's at Kumbhmela

A scene from Kumbhmela

That is to say that there are elements in the tradition itself -which AFT invokes- that will undercut the claim made by AFT: the claim that activities such as expression of affection in public, emphasis on sexuality, nudity etc. is not in compliance with our (Indian) tradition. They (some of the supporters of KoL) were simply pointing out that all these elements of tradition which mentioned above indicates that emphasis on sexuality, nudity, eroticism etc. are very much an acceptable part of the tradition (by presuming that art and literature often reflects tendencies in traditions/cultures). That is to say that invoking AFT to criticise KoL is fraught with difficulties. Pointing out this problem of AFT no way implies (logically) that the one who points out these elements of tradition is committed to the tradition or any of its subsets: it does not logically follow.

That is to say that if K points out t1 or/and t2, It does not imply that K is committed to Tb, t1 or t2. When a KoL supporter points out elements in tradition such as the above mentioned ones -(the sculptures in Khajurāho temples, texts such as Kāmasutra, Geetā Govindam, religious gatherings such as Kumbha mela etc.)- (s)he is making the argument namely AIC (Argument from Internal Contradiction) against AFT (argument from tradition).

Kamasutra (in Oxford world Classics series)

Kamasutra (in Oxford world Classics series)

As I already explained, AIC is a stronger argumentative technique (because of reason ‘a’ and ‘b’ that I already elaborated) than many other techniques (such as Case 1 that I explained). That shows in what way referring to the elements of tradition such as the above mentioned kind is an important argumentative strategy against AFT.

kol manorama

That makes it clear that the supporters of KoL who refers to elements of the tradition to points out the contradiction in AFT no way are (logically) implying that they (the supporter of KoL) are committed to the tradition, Hindusim or Hindutva in any explicit or implicit manner. To deny this, which unfortunately many seem to have done, I am afraid, is to violate basic rules of reasoning.

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Sir Karl Popper Prize for 2014

The decision of the Co-Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science is that the Sir Karl Popper Prize for 2014 should be awarded to Rachael L. Brown for her paper ‘What Evolvability Really Is’ (Br J Philos Sci [2014], 65, pp. 549-72). The paper is free to read here: http://bjps.oxfordjournals.org/content/65/3/549.full

The prize is awarded for the best of those papers appearing in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science that concern themselves with topics in the philosophy of science to which Sir Karl made a contribution. The prize is awarded on the basis of the judgement of the Editors (in liaison with the BSPS Committee, as the Editors see fit) from papers appearing in that year’s volume of the BJPS.Popper

The concept of evolvability has attracted increasing interest within the philosophy of biology, yet it remains conceptually muddled. By focusing on the theoretical roles played by ‘evolvability’ in ‘evo-devo’ and evolutionary biology more generally, Brown aims to both clarify the notion and offer a unified account of it. Her analysis is driven by a case study on the evolution of primate limbs and within that context she picks out a role for ‘evolvability-based’ explanations that complements other explanatory approaches in evolutionary biology. This allows her to identify the core (categorical) properties that evolvability (as a dispositional property of populations) must supervene on and in terms of which she constructs a probabilistic account of the notion. Within that formal framework, various hypotheses concerning evolvability can then be represented and the factors relevant to assessing their truth illuminated.

Thus, Brown’s paper represents an important contribution to the foundations of evolutionary biology. It relates its central explication of evolvability to an accessible and engaging case study in particular, and to a range of issues in the philosophy of science more generally, thus illustrating the power of an integrated approach to the topic. In all these respects, and especially by bringing the technical, scientific, and philosophical features of the issue together in such a deft and thought-provoking manner, it stands as a worthy winner of this year’s BSPS Popper Prize in the philosophy of science.


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