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Auxiliary Hypotheses
Edinburgh/Leeds/London
Interests: This is the blog for the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. We cover trends in (subfields of) philosophy of science, current news/science stories that link up with issues in the philosophy of science, informal philosophy of science conference reports, stories from the world of academic philosophy from a philosophy of science angle, and anything else that might take our fancy. The journal itself may be found here: http://bjps.oxfordjournals.org/. We are Prof. Michela Massimi, Prof. Steven French, and Dr Elizabeth Hannon. Email us at bjps[at]leeds.ac.uk. Many thanks to Andrew Buskell for the title of the blog!
Recent Activity
It’s widely appreciated that contemporary philosophy of science, when done well, engages with actual scientific practices. Philosophers should not sit back (in armchairs, of course), consider what we think good science would look like, then inform scientists of our findings. Rather, current thinking goes, we should take seriously what scientists actually do, using these practices as the starting points for our philosophical accounts of the aims, processes, and products of science. Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2018 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
The BJPS is pleased to note that two of the papers it published last year have been included in The Philosopher's Annual top ten papers of 2017. These papers have been made free to access, with links below. Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2018 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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If you didn't make it to this year's BSPS annual conference in Oxford, we've teamed up with Philosophy Streaming to record the Presidential Address and the plenary discussions for your listening pleasure! Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2018 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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As any journal editor will tell you (at length, possibly via the medium of rant), the trickiest part of the job is not the papers, not the authors, and not even the typesetters. It’s the referees. It is no mean feat to secure referees who are, first, reliable in their academic judgement, second, responsive to emails, and third, willing to return reports when they say they will. But the frustrations of editors aside, the far more pressing concern is for the career prospects of early-career researchers. Jobs and funding can depend on timely decisions. Indeed, whether an early-career researcher gets to become a mid- or late-career researcher can depend on whether a decision is made in a reasonable amount of time. Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2018 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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The Editors of the BJPS and the BSPS committee are delighted to announce that Grant Ramsey and Andreas de Block are the 2017 winners of the BJPS Popper Prize for their article 'Is Cultural Fitness Hopelessly Confused?'. Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2018 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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Endowed by the Latsis Foundation, the Lakatos Award is given to an outstanding contribution to the philosophy of science. Winners are presented with a medal and given the chance to deliver a lecture based on the winning work. To celebrate the 2015 and the 2016 award winners—Thomas Pradeu and Brian Epstein, respectively—they each delivered a lecture at the LSE last week. Introduced by Hasok Chang, Pradeu's lecture is entitled 'Why Philosophy in Science? Re-Visiting Immunology and Biological Individuality' and Epstein's is 'Rebuilding the Foundations of the Social Sciences'. Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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Paradigmatic physical attributes, like energy, mass, length, charge, or temperature are quantities. That these attributes are quantitative is important for experiments (they can be measured), as well as theories (we can formulate quantitative laws that hold between them). Quantities are arguably central to science, and especially to the physical sciences. Quantities pose peculiar epistemological and metaphysical challenges. Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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Suppose that it is already determined that the coin I just flipped will land heads. Can it also be the case that that very coin, on that very flip, has some chance of landing tails? Intuitively, the answer is no. But according to an increasing number of contemporary philosophers, especially philosophers of physics, the answer is yes. Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
Christian Wüthrich delivered one of the plenary talks at this summer's BSPS conference in Edinburgh and lo! It was recorded (future is now!). Continue reading
Posted Aug 30, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
Given the suggested philosophical nature of cosmology, it may seem somewhat surprising that philosophers have paid relatively little attention to the physical study of cosmology, namely, what one might call the science of little ‘u’ physical universes. If philosophy aims at understanding the Universe, then surely an important piece of the complete story is to be found in its physics. Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
Another year, another impact factor. Thomson Reuters, who compile the figures, have released their 2017 report and the BJPS continues to perform very well (a brief explanation of the IF can be found here). We've jumped from last year's 1.738 to a not-to-be-sniffed-at 1.985. Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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A ‘no miracles’ argument is still prevalent in the scientific realism debate, even if a lot has changed since Hilary Putnam’s formulation of it, and even if the word ‘miracle’ is generally avoided. For example, realists think that if the most central ‘working’ parts of a scientific theory were not even approximately true (for any serious theory of ‘approximate truth’), then it would be incredibly unlikely (‘miraculous’) for that theory to deliver successful novel predictions with ‘perfect’ quantitative accuracy (e.g. to several significant figures). It would be like perfectly predicting the time and position of the next solar eclipse based on a completely false (not even approximately true) model of how the sun, moon, and earth interact. Here it is appropriate to talk in terms of ‘counterexamples’ to scientific realism: any historical case where a scientific theory delivered ‘perfect’ predictions but where the central working parts of the theory are now thought to be radically false would be a very serious thorn in the side of nearly every contemporary scientific realist position. Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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While we have a better understanding of the olfactory pathway today, many of the central questions remain unresolved. How do you classify smells and how do you make their perception comparable? (And how do you control the volatile stimulus, its concentration, and its administration in psychophysical studies?) What are the perceptual dimensions of smell? Are there such things as primary odours? How does the brain represent smells? From this perspective, the discovery of how the sense of smell works presents us with an intriguing, yet untold, history of creativity in scientific reasoning. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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Philosophers of science of all stripes draw on the history of science. However, within philosophy of science there are diverging trends between literature in the history and philosophy of science and the work in (what often goes under the name of) ‘general’ philosophy of science. With the caveat that what follows paints a picture with very broad brushstrokes, the trend among those working on integrated history and philosophy of science is towards recognizing particular differences between scientific fields, periods, and practitioners. On the other hand, the driving motivation in general philosophy of science is towards unified frameworks and theories. Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
The decision of the Co-Chief-Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science is that the Sir Karl Popper Prize for 2016 should be awarded jointly to Elizabeth Irvine for her paper ‘Model-Based Theorizing in Cognitive Neuroscience’ (Br J Philos Sci, 2016, 67, pp. 143–68) and Eran Tal for his paper ‘Making Time: A Study in the Epistemology of Measurement’ (Br J Philos Sci, 2016, 67, pp. 297–335). Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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Need scientists worry about philosophy? Or should philosophers get off their backs and let them do their work in peace? Unsurprisingly, many scientists want to stay clear of philosophical discussions. What is more disturbing is when I hear philosophers themselves announce that our discipline has nothing useful to offer science. In my view, they could not be more wrong. Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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A while back, we decided to implement a ‘soft’ word limit of 10,000 words and we asked authors who wanted to exceed this limit to write to us with a justification. More than a year later, we’ve found that not one paper submitted that exceeded 10,000 words couldn’t have been pruned and nonetheless retained all that mattered (and, indeed, was and did). So to make things more straightforward for all concerned, the Editors have decided to make the 10,000-word deadline firm. Papers exceeding this length will automatically be returned to authors. Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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Aesthetic considerations feature widely in science. Many scientists claim that aesthetic values guide their activities, motivate them to study nature, and even shape their attitude regarding the truth of a theory. Some scientists also regard the product of their intellectual activities, whether scientific theories, models, or mathematical proofs, as works of art. Interestingly, recent studies in neuropsychology have shown that exposure to beautiful equations activates the same area of the brain in mathematicians and scientists as exposure to beautiful pieces of art. How is the concept of beauty understood by scientists; how do they come to regard some features of a theory as aesthetically appealing; and what role can be given to aesthetic considerations in scientific reasoning? Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
A couple of years ago when we started this blog we claimed that ‘the philosophy of science is entering an exciting era’. This is reflected in the submissions we’ve received at the BJPS which have covered a huge range of topics, from the hole argument in general relativity to the science of well-being, and from the status of climate change modelling to the nature of delusions in schizophrenia. This sense of excitement will hopefully extend to our up-coming series of blog posts, which will spotlight the new projects of philosophers of science. Continue reading
Posted Sep 27, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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There are many good reasons to want social policy to be based, where possible, on numerical evidence and indicators. If the data clearly shows that placing babies on their back reduces the risk of cot death, this information should guide the advice which midwives give to new parents. On the other hand, not everything that matters can be measured, and not everything that can be measured matters. The care a midwife offers may be better or worse in ways that cannot be captured by statistical indicators. Furthermore, even when we are measuring something that matters, numbers require interpretation and explanation before they can be used to guide action. It is important to know if neo-natal mortality rates are rising or falling, but the proper interpretation of this data may require subtle analysis. To make matters worse, many actors aren't interested in proper interpretation, but in using the numbers to achieve some other end; as a stick with which to beat the midwifery profession, say. Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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The Editors of the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science recently took the decision to publish book reviews online-only in order to save as much space as possible for original articles in print editions. Following from this, we are happy to announce the launch of the BJPS Review of Books. Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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The BJPS is getting a shiny new look thanks to the good people at Studio Carreras. You might find the design familiar: Studio Carreras created the fantastic Philographics series, depicting philosophical ideas using simple graphics Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
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BJPS Associate Editors don't just act as midwives to great philosophy, they produce it too! Hot on the heels of ex-Associate Editor Marc Lange, Lara Buchak is featured in this year's Philosopher's Annual for her joint paper 'Groupthink', written with Jeffrey Sanford Russell and John Hawthorn, and published in Philosophical Studies. Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
Editing is more often than not a thankless job (look away now, potential Co-Editor-in-Chiefs). However, this is one of those rare happy moments when it all comes good. Yesterday, Thomson Reuters released the Journal Citation Report for 2015 and the BJPS continues its lead among philosophy of science journals, with an impact factor of 1.738. Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
We are looking for a new Co-Editor-in-Chief. Prof. Michela Massimi is stepping down from her role with the Journal after two terms at the helm to work on, among other things, her ERC-funded project Perspectival Realism: Science, Knowledge, and Truth from a Human Vantage Point. We are bereft at her parting, and will have more to say about that in the future. But for now, here are the details for anyone interested in joining us: The BSPS invites expressions of interest regarding the appointment of a new Co-Editor-in-Chief for the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, to join current Co-Editor-in-Chief Prof. Steven French. The new Co-Editor-in-Chief will succeed Prof. Michela Massimi, who has decided to step down at the end of two BJPS editorial mandates. We hope to have the new editor in place by the beginning of 2017. In the first instance, interested parties should e-mail Assistant Editor... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses