The Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science of Ghent University
(http://logica.ugent.be/centrum/) 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
(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
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.