The Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science of Ghent University

( has a vacancy for a pre-doctoral 
researcher for a project entitled “A Pragmatic Theory of Scientific 

Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Erik Weber, Dr. Jeroen Van Bouwel & Prof. Dr. 
Maarten Van Dyck.
Period: 1 October 2009 till 30 September 2013.
Salary: approx. 1550 EUR/month (net).
Profile of the candidate:
– Master degree in Philosophy.
– Advanced knowledge of the philosophy of science.
– Able to read, speak and write in English in a very fluent way.

Description of the project + task of the researcher:

With a pragmatic theory of scientific explanation we mean a theory of 
explanation with the following characteristics:
(1) It starts from the idea that why-questions originate in different 
epistemic interests.
(2) It answers questions about the structure of explanations by taking 
into account (among other things) these epistemic interests.
(3) It answers questions about criteria of explanatory power (what 
makes one explanation better than another?) also by taking into 
account (among other things) these epistemic interests.

Our approach differs from traditional approaches (from Hempel over 
Salmon to Kitcher) in that it starts from a detailed analysis of 
scientific practice in the disciplines that are studied. And it 
differs from recent approaches which also start from such a detailed 
analysis in that we study a variety of scientific disciplines (not as 
much in this particular project in itself, but in combination with 
current research projects and recently finished research).

What we aim at is a systematic answer to the following questions:
(1) Which epistemic interests can lead to explanation requests? How do 
they relate to each other?
(2) What are the possible structures of scientific explanations? How 
do they relate to each other? And how do they relate to the epistemic 
(3) What are the possible criteria for assessing explanatory power? 
How do they relate to each other? And how do they relate to the 
epistemic interests?

In the first three years, the researcher will address these questions, 
more specifically in connection with two scientific disciplines: 
biology and psychology. This research has to result in a Ph. D. thesis 
and papers in international journals. In the last year, the researcher 
will actively contribute to a book in which the results of his/her 
research are included, together with the results of previous research 
of the supervisors on scientific explanation.


The following papers illustrate the approach followed in this project:
Weber E. & Vanderbeeken R., ?The Functions of Folk-psychological 
Explanations of Actions’, in Behavior and Philosophy 33 (2005), pp. 
Weber E. & Van Bouwel J., ?Assessing the Explanatory Power of Causal 
Explanations?, in J. Persson & P. Ylikoski (eds.), Rethinking 
Explanation. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers/Springer, 2007, pp. 
Van Bouwel J. & Weber E., ?A Pragmatist Defense of Non-Relativistic 
Explanatory Pluralism in History and Social Science?, in History & 
Theory 47 (2008), pp. 169-183.
Van Bouwel J. & Weber E., ?De-ontologizing the Debate on Social 
Explanations: a Pragmatic Approach Based on Epistemic Interests?, in 
Human Studies 31 (2008), pp. 423-442.


If you are interested in this position, send an email with your CV and 
list of publications (if any) to [email protected], not later than 
20 August 2009.