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Auxiliary Hypotheses
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: We are Prof. Michela Massimi, Prof. Steven French, and Dr Elizabeth Hannon. Email us at bjps[at] Many thanks to Andrew Buskell for the title of the blog!
Recent Activity
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
One of the always-frustrating aspects of being a copy editor is that it requires an obsessive nature as well as a willingness to accept that perfection isn’t possible; no matter how many times your check the proofs, there’ll always be something that makes it into the final version. Obviously enough, such obsessiveness and knowing when to let go aren’t traits often found to co-exist in one mere human. And in correcting others’ mistakes—and in writing posts such as this—Muphry’s law looms large. All in all, you’re asking for trouble. But despite opening the door to public ridicule, we thought we’d add to our ‘how to’ series with something on copy-editing. Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, £60 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-107-02980-4 Jane Smith I'd have written it differently. I'd have written it differently. I'd have written it differently. I'd have written it differently. I'd have written it differently. I'd have written it differently. I'd have written it differently. I'd have written it... Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2016 at BJPS Review of Books
Another year, another plethora of referees to thank! The BJPS continues to go from strength to strength, and while our authors can bask in the limelight, as editors we get to see behind the scenes, to all the hard work done by the referees in taking strong drafts and turning them into shiny, publishable gems. As the list of names below makes clear, the number of people it takes to make a journal work is not small, and that's before we include all the editors and the team at OUP. What's more, this list isn't nearly complete—not everyone consented to be named—and there are more than a few (heroic!) people listed who have written a number of reports for us throughout the year. We are incredibly grateful for all of he considered, thoughtful reports we received throughout the year from these referees—they certainly make our job as editors easier! Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
The Editors of the BJPS are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2015 Popper Prize is Matthew Slater for his BJPS paper, 'Natural Kindness'. Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
As we’ve mentioned in various places before (for example, here), the BJPS operates a triple-masked system. That means that none of the paperwork you submit should identify you. Sounds straightforward, right? And yet, and yet… How to Fail to Anonymise Your Paper 1. Leave your name on it As self-explanatory as it is self-identifying, and more common than you could possibly imagine. 2. Identify your previously published work in all but name In (XXXX, 2014), I argued for a position that I termed the ‘Self-Identifying’ Argument. Anyone qualified enough to act as referee for this paper is very likely to be familiar with this work and thus screw you, anonymous review. This makes your editor cry. In (Hannon, 2014), she argued for a position she termed the ‘Referring to Oneself in the Third Person Is Sometimes Okay’ principle on the grounds that very anonymous. This gives your editor warm and... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
How exactly are the history and philosophy of science supposed to come together? In the case of the scientific realism debate there is a relatively straight forward answer to this. In short, scientific realists are keen to make some sort of success-to-truth inference. Typically they state that when scientific success is sufficiently impressive, we ought to infer that the hypotheses (or parts or aspects of the theory) that generated this success are at least approximately true. This allows for the possibility that, in the history of science, one might find just that sort of success, born of a theory/set of hypotheses that are definitely not approximately true (whatever your take on ‘approximate truth’). Even allowing for one or two exceptions, the possibility arises that there might be many such cases in the history of science. This makes many scientific realist positions falsifiable—loosely speaking, at least. But as things stand, nobody knows which contemporary realist positions (if any) are indeed falsified because we just don’t have at hand the relevant historical ‘facts’ (again, speaking loosely). What we need to make progress is careful and detailed history of science, dealing with relevant historical episodes... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
So, you’ve submitted your paper to the BJPS and waited with bated breath for, well, hopefully not too long, and then your email pings! And there is the longed for response... Continue reading
Posted May 28, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
Due to the very welcome fact of the BJPS's ever increasing popularity, we've been forced to make some tough decisions. All print journals work with tight page budgets, which in our case has been fixed by joint agreement between the BSPS and our publishers, OUP. The upshot of this is that it's often impossible to publish everything we would like to. Competition for space has always been fierce in the BJPS and, as the last few years have seen a 50% increase in submissions to the Journal, things have become that much tougher. Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
It hardly needs saying that referees are essential to the functioning of journals, and the discipline as a whole. Refereeing a paper is a service to the academic community. Those that take this duty seriously don’t just help the editors and the authors; we all benefit from having published papers be as polished as they can be. I’ve written before about the fact that the production of excellent papers is by no means an individualistic endeavour. It takes an academic village to raise a paper! And we all know how busy everyone is, and how refereeing has to be managed alongside all the other teaching, research, and administrative duties that demand attention. All this is to say that we in no way underestimate the hard work done by our referees; on the contrary, we are very grateful indeed. Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013, £60 (hardback), ISBN: 978-1-107-02980-4 Bob Hale This volume collects together eleven essays, most previously published (including two in this journal) but some new. Some are directly concerned with logicism as normally understood—the thesis, very roughly, that mathematics is logic—but most are concerned more with what... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2015 at BJPS Review of Books
We are very pleased to announce that the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science has adopted a triple-masked system for peer review, whereby neither the referees nor the editors know the identity of the author(s), and vice versa. Recent discussion in the corner of the blogosphere carved out by philosophers (here, here, and here, to cite but a few) has made clear the ways in which bias, implicit or otherwise, and outright bad behaviour can undermine the main mechanism we have for underwriting the integrity of the discipline. We’d like to think we are free of all explicit biases and bad behaviour here at the BJPS (in an editorial context at least!), but the data on implicit biases is pretty compelling and the technology we use makes it an easy enough change to implement. As editors, it also protects us from accusations of unfair behaviour based on personal prejudices... Continue reading
Posted Mar 19, 2015 at Auxiliary Hypotheses