A conference celebrating 60 years of HPS at Leeds
19-20 September 2017
University of Leeds
Deadline for Abstracts: 24 July 2017

Scientists tend to want to discover the truth about nature beyond its appearances. They want to get nature right (“scientific realism”). Historians and philosophers generally try to understand what the sciences are really like, undistorted by the views of science’s propagandists and critics. They want to get science right. This two-day conference, in commemoration of 60 years of integrated History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) at the University of Leeds, invites papers looking at these two goals – getting nature right and getting science right – and the links between them.

One aim is to use the issue of realism to take stock of developments in the field since the classic writings of Stephen Toulmin (who founded Leeds HPS), Mary Hesse (who figured in its prehistory), Thomas Kuhn and others. The question of whether and how scientific knowledge latches onto reality was one of the central ones in the field well into the 1980s. Although that debate continues, the intellectual ecology around it has grown very complex. It’s not at all clear to many that a true-to-life account of the sciences, technosciences, medicine and engineering – a realistic account, in that sense – should pay anything like the level of attention formerly paid to “scientific realism,” or even that the terms of that debate make sense, historiographically or philosophically. A second, related aim of the conference is to ask what light an HPS perspective on the realism issue, broadly construed, can throw on the field itself – its past but also its present and possible futures.

A far-from-exhaustive list of topics touching on this theme includes:

• Changing notions of what counts as real at different times (realism’s epistemologies) and of who gets to decide (realism’s politics)
• How the increased visibility of female, non-white, non-Western and other “hidden figure” practitioners is altering our picture of real science and the role of ideas of the real
• Scientific realism as a regulative ideal, in theory and practice, and in complex relationships to other kinds of realism, antirealisms, and third-way options such as pragmatism
• Historians’ own realism debates, concerning the existence of e.g. the Scientific Revolution, the Second Scientific Revolution, classical physics, the Bacteriological Revolution, the ca. 1900 revolt against morphology, the linear model etc.
• How descriptive and normative elements interact in different, putatively realistic philosophies and historiographies of the sciences, and with what consequences
• The contested relationships between theoretical success, technological success, and the case for scientific realism
• Museums, textbooks, popular-science publishing and TV etc. as sources of public knowledge of what the sciences are really like

On the evening of the 19th there will be an evening public lecture from Dr Jonathan Topham on a Victorian printing press, as part of the History and Philosophy of Science in 20 Objects series currently underway in association with the University of Leeds Museum of the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

We hope to announce keynote speakers shortly. We also hope to be able to offer travel bursaries for postgraduate students.

To submit a title plus abstract (1-200 words) for consideration, please email them, along with your name and institutional affiliation, to Polina Merkulova at [email protected] by Monday 24 July. Talks should be about 25 minutes long (which will leave 15 minutes for discussion). We will send decisions out by the end of the month.

We’re delighted to announce that the keynote speakers at the “Get real!” conference, taking place 19-20 September at the University of Leeds, will be Dr Patricia Fara (Cambridge), speaking on “A Lab of One’s Own: Science and Suffrage in World War One,” and Prof. Hasok Chang (Cambridge), speaking on “Beyond Truth-as-Correspondence: Realism for Realistic People.”

We’re also very pleased to announce that the conference will close with a launch event for Prof. Anjan Chakravartty’s (Notre Dame) new book with Oxford University Press, SCIENTIFIC ONTOLOGY, which includes a spirited argument on what can and, mostly, can’t be learned from history-of-science case studies for philosophical purposes.

There’s also now a webpage for the conference: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/arts/info/40006/centre_for_history_and_philosophy_of_science/3060/get_real

Do join us!

Organizing committee: Ellen Clarke ([email protected]), Greg Radick ([email protected]) & Juha Saatsi ([email protected])