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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


Departmental Seminars

Seminars are held on Thursdays from 3.30 to 5pm in Seminar Room 2. There is tea and coffee before the seminar at 3pm in Seminar Room 1, and there are refreshments afterwards at 5pm in Seminar Room 1.

Organised by Agnes Bolinska.

25 October Robert Iliffe (University of Oxford)
Principia and the air-pump: the social and political roots of Newton's science
Historical accounts both of the genesis of Newton's scientific method and of the varied reception his published work enjoyed in the late 17th century have appealed to his touchy personality and to the relative incompetence of his critics. In offering asymmetric explanations and indulging in simplistic psychologizing, this approach has serious limitations. By contrast, in this talk I examine what Newton's private and public writings say about what he took to be the ideal structure of a truth-seeking scientific community. Unlike more democratic proposals for practising natural philosophy, whose core principles were drawn from natural history, Newton's ideal scientific polity was strongly hierarchical, open only to expert subjects who had undergone rigorous training. I link Newton's comments on the structure of scientific institutions to his prescriptions for maintaining a healthy and productive mind and body, and also to his religious and political views. I conclude by considering the explanatory status of such approaches.
1 November Mat Paskins (London School of Economics)
Material substitutions in historical perspective: the cases of the British Substitutes and Vegetable Drugs Committees during World War Two
In this talk, I discuss two British government committees which were tasked during World War Two with the solution of finding substitutes for materials which had been made scarce by the war: the Substitutes Committee of the Ministry of Supply, and the Vegetable Drugs Committee of the Ministry of Health. I argue that these bodies cast a suggestive light on problems of 20th-century chemical governance in Britain, and the long history of attempts at material substitution by scientific means. The eminent industrialists and academic chemists who made up the Substitutes Committee ended up fighting a war chiefly of quotidian materials, trying to solve problems of degreasing wool, seeking replacements for leather, and worrying over the wide introduction of plastics. At the same time, their committee was tightly integrated into both government and private sector mechanisms of production and supply, and they boasted of being able to coordinate otherwise unrelated substitution efforts. They also speculated on a number of possible novel uses for colonial surpluses. The Vegetable Drugs Committee, meanwhile, was a remarkably diffuse entity which was torn between trying to provide support for voluntary collection of wild British plants, and ambitious schemes for complete self-sufficiency in drug production throughout the British Empire.
8 November Luke Fenton-Glynn (University College London)
Probabilistic actual causation
Actual (token) causation – the sort of causal relation asserted to hold by claims like 'the Chicxulub impact caused the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event', 'Mr Fairchild's exposure to asbestos caused him to suffer mesothelioma', and 'the H7N9 virus outbreak was caused by poultry farmers becoming simultaneously infected by bird and human 'flu strains' – is of significance to scientists, historians, and tort and criminal lawyers. It also plays a role in theories of various philosophically important concepts, such as action, decision, explanation, knowledge, perception, reference, and moral responsibility. Yet there is little consensus on how actual causation is to be understood, particularly where actual causes work only probabilistically. I use probabilistic causal models, and associated causal graphs, to cast some light on the nature of probabilistic actual causation.
15 November Denis Walsh (University of Toronto)
Being human, being Homo sapiens
Neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism attempts to characterise human moral goodness as a natural phenomenon. It posits a substantive, essentialist, normative concept of human nature as an explanatory primitive. Human nature, according to neo-Aristotelianism, is an instance of a generalised organismal nature. Opponents object that no such concept of organismal nature is sanctioned by best scientific practice. I offer a roundabout defence of the naturalistic status of neo-Aristotelianism. I argue that the concept of an organismal nature required by neo-Aristotelians can be found Aristotle's notion of Bios, a central feature of his theory of the organism. I next argue that something quite like Bios is required in contemporary evolutionary biology in order to explain the fit and diversity of organismal form.
22 November Amanda Rees (University of York)
Creating citizen history of science: science, fiction and the future of the 20th century
If something isn't real, or true – if it's (whisper it) fake – then, other than to debunk it, it can sometimes be hard to see why you should study it. By focusing on the histories of the future, this paper will show how the humanities, and in particular the history of science, can engage with the unreal, the fictional and the imaginary. By doing this, we will show how the idea of 'expertise' and the figure of the 'expert' can be interpreted more broadly, and indicate ways in which non-historians can influence the structure and shape of academic histories. We will begin by exploring these ideas in relation to science fiction, the nature of fictional realities and the impact of the imaginary on academic disciplines, and we will end (we hope) with a game in which players can reconstruct – and sometimes redirect – the history of the 20th century.

Twentieth Century Think Tank

The Twentieth Century Think Tank offers broad coverage of 20th- and 21st-century topics in the history, philosophy and sociology of science, technology and medicine. The regular programme of papers and discussions takes place on Thursdays over lunch.

Think Tank meetings are held fortnightly on Thursdays, 1–2pm in Seminar Room 2. All welcome!

Organised by Mary Brazelton, Joseph Martin and Richard Staley.

11 October Joe Bassi (University of Texas, El Paso)
How US science moved west: Boulder, Colorado and the development of US space sciences in mid-20th century America
From being considered a 'scientific Siberia' in the 1940s, Boulder as a scientific centre represented an important transition of US science as it 'moved west' in the 20th century. The answer to this question lies in the complex confluence of individual scientific ambitions relating to sun-earth connection research, the pre and early Cold War context of science in the US, and political machinations at various levels of government. This presentation lays out the early phases of this transition process, and particularly focuses on the efforts of solar astronomer Walter Orr Roberts, Colorado Senator 'Big Ed' Johnson, the Boulder Chamber of Commerce, and others in bringing sun-earth science to Boulder in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This investigation thereby sheds some light on the process by which scientific/academic centres (or 'peaks') were created in the US west in the 20th century.
25 October Koji Hirata (Emmanuel College, Cambridge)
A city of future past: urban planning and urban construction in northeast China after the Communist Revolution
This paper examines how industrial enterprises and ordinary people participated in construction of cities in the early years of the People's Republic of China (1949 to present), especially between 1952 and 1957. Much of the past scholarly literature on urban planning in the early PRC focused on the state bureaucracy. By contrast, I explore how urban-planning policies were implemented at the ground level, by focusing on the case of Anshan – a major steel industrial city in Manchuria (northeast China) that had previously been constructed as a Japanese colonial city prior to 1945. To examine the construction and reconstruction of this city, I draw upon a wide range of newly available sources, including interviews, local newspapers, official municipal histories, and confidential government reports. My paper begins with a brief overview of the establishment of the PRC city-planning bureaucracy, which is followed by a discussion of the process and outcomes of urban construction. I then discuss the population movement to Anshan from the countryside, and how this contributed to issues of housing shortages in the city. Altogether, this re-examination of the Chinese urban political economy demonstrates that local-level negotiations among various actors, including lower-level officials, enterprise managers, and even migrant workers, lay at the heart of urban construction in Mao-era China.
8 November Sam Robinson (University of York)
Anticipations of the ocean: technological futures of the Cold War ocean
The UN Law of the Sea (1968–1984) was intended to legislate for the new capabilities that developments in underwater science and technology opened up for developed nations. In reality the negotiations became a point when the superpower technological hegemony of the global ocean was challenged by the 'Group of 77' – nations that saw the negative potential of new technologies in terms of the external exploitation of their resources. Science policy was formed in response to the anticipated capabilities of such technologies which far outweighed the realities of extracting deep-sea minerals and resource exploitation in remote and inhospitable environments. Thus, the discussion of ocean science and technology within the treaty negotiations were built on anticipatory understandings of the potential exploitation of the oceans.

This paper will argue that international law-building for science and technology can be framed as an anticipatory response to claims made for potential future use. Thereby these negotiations, based on unsettling scientific futures, are themselves forms of scientific imaginaries. The navigation of potential uses of science, by diplomats, reveals the role of science communication within complex negotiations, and the importance of the distinction (and sometimes the blurring) of the real and the imagined in international relations. The Law of the Sea was a site where scientific futures were imagined in several contexts; a uniquely challenging moment in international law creation where lawmakers looked to the future rather than responding to their past or present situations.

22 November Cancelled
20 December Ksenia Tatarchenko (University of Geneva)
The thaw in the Pole: Cold War science and showcasing at the Siberian science-city and Antarctic expeditions (1955–1964)
This paper focuses on the interdependencies in the process of making international science and producing knowledge about extreme environments by establishing connections and comparisons between two historical episodes: the creation of the Siberian science-city and the early Soviet Antarctic expeditions. It reveals how the Cold War framework highlighted a key ambiguity of Soviet science: producing universal knowledge in socialist way. Thanks to recent works on Cold War sciences, we now know that circulating people, ideas and artefacts operationalized, breached, and occasionally transcended geopolitical divisions. Scholars working on polar regions also demonstrate how these regions are constructed both as strategic locations and rhetorical forms of domination over nature. This paper adds another dimension to a discussion of such entanglements among several historical sub-disciplines – Big Science as spectacle. It argues that showcasing was a constitutive element, not an accidental byproduct, of Khrushchev-era massive investment into ostensibly civilian scientific infrastructures across Siberia and Antarctica. In 1957, the year of Sputnik, the Soviet press announced the creation of the first Siberian science-city, Akademgorodok, and the images of 'Ob', the flagman of the Soviet expedition sailing south for the third time, proliferated. The aim here is not only to correct misleading historiographic claims conflating remoteness with 'freedom' and de-Stalinization with de-Sovietization, but to explain the very size of historical record associated with these projects. Situated across the globe, Siberian science-cities and Antarctic bases were presented in an unexpectedly similar way, as model scientific communities. In the process, both regions and their natural environments became not only the elements of scientific representations as circulating 'mobiles', but the stages for enacting the competing versions of modernity. Both locales enticed numerous visitors to record and share their experiences. Yet such visitors often passed over a key aspect of these sites – the co-dependency between the openness of international science and the secrecy regimes of national defence. Akademgorodok had many ties to 'plutopias', the closed cities of the Soviet nuclear programme, and Antarctica's international 'science and peace' to the Arctic's Cold War frontier.

Coffee with Scientists

The aim of this group is to explore and enhance the interface between HPS and science. Though many of us in HPS engage closely with science and scientists, we could benefit from more explicit discussions about the relationship between HPS and science itself, and from more opportunities for HPS-scholars and scientists to help each other's work.

Generally we meet on Fridays, 3.30–5.00pm in Seminar Room 2. Further information and reading materials will be distributed through the email list of the group; please contact Hasok Chang (hc372) if you would like to be included on the list.

Monday 15 October, 5.00–6.30pm
David Teplow (UCLA), hosted by Hasok Chang
What is science? A view from a practising scientist
Joint event with AD HOC – please note unusual day and time

Friday 23 November, 3.30–5.00pm
William Harris (Physiology, Development and Neuroscience, Cambridge), hosted by Joe Martin
Genes, neurons, development, brains and behaviours

Cabinet of Natural History

This research seminar is concerned with all aspects of the history of natural history and the field and environmental sciences. The regular programme of papers and discussions takes place over lunch on Mondays. In addition, the Cabinet organises a beginning-of-year fungus hunt and occasional expeditions to sites of historical and natural historical interest, and holds an end-of-year garden party.

All seminars are held on Mondays at 1pm in Seminar Room 1. Please feel free to bring your lunch.

Organised by Laura Brassington (lb685).

8 October Spike Bucklow (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge)
The long-lost Paston Collection
This talk will consider some aspects of a 17th-century collection of natural history, paintings, literature and musical instruments that was housed at Oxnead in North Norfolk in the 17th century. The collection was assembled by Sir William Paston and his son, Robert Paston, both of whom were famed for their hospitality and learning. The collection's core included objects obtained on Grand Tours and fabricated from materials derived from the Americas, Pacific, China and India. The full extent of the collection is known only through house inventories and auction lists, since it was dispersed by Robert Paston, 1st Earl of Yarmouth and his son, William Paston, 2nd Earl of Yarmouth. Approximately 1% of the collection's items was depicted in a monumental still-life painting of c.1664. The talk will outline the nature of exchanges implied by the collection and its painting.
15 October Emma Spary (History, Cambridge)
Putting the pieces together: Canadian ginseng and botanical expertise in the French Regency
This paper will examine the complex history of the relationship between French botanical knowledge, commerce and Royal institutions in the 1710s–1730s through the case of Canadian ginseng. Its discovery in 1717, growing in newly-colonised French Canada, was ostentatiously publicised back in the metropolis. The history of how this Canadian plant came to be attributed properties similar to those of the famous Chinese drug which was its namesake has been told several times, most recently as a story of widening separation between the interests of botanists and those of clergy. Using previously neglected archival materials, I will argue, in contrast, for a far more complex response to the new drug, centred on a reconfiguration of the relationship between state power and botanical expertise during the 1710s. These developing connections shifted the scope of botanical practice away from classical humanism and towards a new view of the distant natural world as a source of national prosperity; they also placed a new emphasis upon the botanical garden as a space of proof and demonstration. The ways in which Canadian ginseng changed as an object of knowledge can be seen to express these forming and transforming relationships between statecraft, natural knowledge and wealth.
22 October Annual Fungus Hunt
29 October Justin Rivest (History, Cambridge)
Elite paternalism and exotic drug demand in early modern France: the case of the Marquis de Louvois and quinquina, circa 1685
My talk will explore the links between household medical consumption of prominent aristocratic families and the early bulk consumption of exotic, non-European drugs by the French army in the 17th century. Men of state like the French War Secretary, the Marquis de Louvois, approached their personal health problems – as well as those of their families and servants – through personal networks of informants, suppliers and experts. Looking specifically at Peruvian cinchona bark (quinquina), I will consider how Louvois' personal advocacy of the drug helped extend its use to his subordinates, servants, the king and ultimately in bulk volumes to thousands of soldiers during an epidemic of intermittent fevers at the construction site of the Eure Canal.

Louvois' drug networks were not in any sense dependent upon traditional 'medical' actors such as physicians or apothecaries: it was in fact Louvois who supplied his physicians with quinquina, not vice versa. His networks of supply and information included reliable familial clients from many walks of life, from domestics to jewellers and bankers, and other servants scattered strategically through various institutions and settings, both in France and abroad.

Drawing on this case and a few others, I argue that the personal consumption of élites served as a crucial mediator for population-scale consumption of exotic drugs. Far from an economy of individualised consumption, I argue that the state marketplace for exotic drugs originated within a broader culture of paternalism and charity: it was an extension of the personal care of aristocratic patrons for their clients and servants.

5 November Martha Homfray-Cooper (History, Cambridge)
The Curious Martin Folkes (1690–1754): sociability and collecting in the mid-18th century
Martin Folkes, President of the Royal Society and of the Society of Antiquaries, has not been treated kindly by historians. He has either been seen as an aristocratic menace to the progress of 18th-century science or else ignored completely. And yet his contemporaries awarded him prestigious scientific positions. The vast majority of contemporary voices praised him for his involvement in a wide variety of sciences – antiquarianism, numismatics, mathematics, astronomy and natural history. The disconnect between the negative picture of Folkes as drawn by historians and contemporaries' more positive testimonies requires explanation. This talk examines Folkes's correspondence networks, his possessions, and his travels around Europe. Contemporaries had a set of criteria for what counted as good science very different to that which scholarship presumes. In the first half of the 18th century, good science shifted from being about singular, one-off curiosities to valuing large collections of knowledge. Folkes was fundamental to encouraging and modelling this shift. Science was no longer about finding the unique; it was now about building large collections and ordering them. Folkes simultaneously collected various objects and European-wide correspondents and he himself conformed wonderfully to the criteria of good science which he helped to shape. This talk seeks to reconstruct how he successfully self-fashioned himself as the Curious Martin Folkes and how this relates to mid-18th century scientific practices.
12 November Marie de Rugy (History, Cambridge)
Mountains, rivers and forests: the colonial mapping of southeast Asia, between observation and vernacular cartography in the 19th century
During British colonisation of Burma and French rule in Indochina, surveyors were sent throughout the territory to explore, measure, observe and describe it and to draw topographical maps. On the one hand, they used their own techniques and proved to be scientific actors, charting the territory on maps according to European norms. On the other hand, they collected indigenous information to help them understand an unknown territory and given that they were not always able to make proper observations themselves.

In this paper, I will concentrate on the representation of natural elements, such as mountains, rivers and vegetation to show how fundamental they have been in the mapping of territory, but also how diversely they have been depicted by different actors. European officers, Indian surveyors, Burmese foresters, Shan traders and Vietnamese administrators all have particular ways of drawing a map and describing a landscape. By analysing topographical and indigenous maps, I will try to understand these different perceptions of a territory through its constitutive elements and question the integration of vernacular knowledge in European mapping.

19 November Oscar Kent-Egan (HPS, Cambridge)
Isaac Van Amburgh the lion tamer: spectacle, education and natural history in Britain, 1825–1872
In August 1838, an enigmatic American showman by the name of Isaac Van Amburgh arrived in London with a troupe of performing lions. He exhibited daring feats of control over these creatures and helped establish lion taming as a popular and profitable act in theatres and circuses. He toured Europe until 1845 and inspired numerous imitators. His shows were the first dedicated exclusively to lion taming and attracted various sections of society, ranging from members of the working classes to Queen Victoria. The question of how Van Amburgh tamed his lions sparked widespread discussion. He was secretive about his training methods and papers speculated on whether rational instruction, brute strength or special knowledge of animal behaviour explained his powers. This talk explores the marketing and press coverage of Van Amburgh's shows. It considers the complex imagery spun around his performances. Newspaper reports often claimed that the acts revealed social and scientific lessons. They were tied in with Lord Brougham's attempts to reform working class education and debates on behavioural studies of animals. Van Amburgh's show was not merely dismissed as a vulgar spectacle or violent entertainment. I argue that the press transformed it into an illustration of the improvability of nature and the value of practical, experiential knowledge of animals. These interpretations influenced the development of lion taming in the second half of the 19th century and help explain the persistence of the practice.
26 November Margot Lyautey (EHESS, Paris/Tübingen)
Plant protection in France and Germany from the 1930s to the 1950s: the case of the Colorado potato beetle
In this paper, I aim at proposing a French-German history of the rise of chemical insecticides from the 1930s to the 1950s using the Colorado potato beetle as a case study. This particular insect was one of the most feared agricultural pests after World War I. Being such a big threat for food supply in France and Germany, especially during World War II, the potato beetle was considered as public enemy number one in agriculture. It was also one of the first agricultural pests fought at a European level through chemical means, and was contemporary to the advent of chemical pesticides. Originating from the USA, hence the name Colorado, the potato beetle infested Europe in the early 1920s, starting in Bordeaux's haven and then spreading year after year until the end of the 1950s. Furthermore, this insect had strong cultural implications throughout the 20th century. In World War II German occupation soldiers were nicknamed 'Potato Beetles' ('Doryphores') by the French population because they were invaders and were known to eat a lot of potatoes. After the war, the Colorado potato beetle was presented in East Germany in communist propaganda to be a biological weapon used by the USA, in order to sabotage socialist agriculture with insects supposedly brought on German territory using planes. Through a French-German history of the fight against the Colorado potato beetle, I will try to show what comparative history can bring to the history of agriculture, which is often studied inside national frames.


AD HOC (Association for the Discussion of the History of Chemistry) is a group dedicated to history of chemistry. While our main focus is historical, we also consider the philosophical, sociological, public and educational dimensions of chemistry. The group meets on Mondays at 5pm in Seminar Room 1. Coordinated by Karoliina Pulkkinen.

15 October David Teplow (UCLA)
What is science? A view from a practising scientist
22 October Agnes Bolinska (HPS, Cambridge)
Synthetic vs. analytic approaches to protein and DNA structure determination
12 November Hasok Chang (HPS, Cambridge)
Is everything really made up of elementary particles?
26 November Cancelled

History of Medicine

Seminars are on Tuesdays from 5.00 to 6.30pm in Seminar Room 1. Tea and biscuits are available from 4.40pm. All welcome!

Other History of Medicine events

Early Science and Medicine

Organised by Dániel Margócsy.

16 October Oded Rabinovitch (Tel-Aviv University)
Writing the Scientific Revolution in Louis XIV's France
6 November Jessica Hamel-Akré (HPS, Cambridge)
From angel food to vegetable diets: medicalizing the feminine appetite in the British 18th century
27 November Peter Jones (King's College, Cambridge)
Missing friars: rethinking late medieval medicine

History of Modern Medicine and Biology

Organised by Mary Brazelton and Nick Hopwood.

9 October Bibia Pavard (Panthéon-Assas University, Paris)
'Living differently from now on': the utopia of abortion activism in 1970s France
23 October Gareth Millward (University of Warwick)
'Since the introduction of the Sick Pay Scheme, sick absence has increased': sick pay, sick leave and sick notes in the nationalised industries c. 1948–1959
13 November Marissa Mika (University College London)
Living archives and dying wards: ethical records preservation at the Uganda Cancer Institute

Generation to Reproduction

Organised by Nick Hopwood and Dániel Margócsy.

30 October Wendy Kline (Purdue University / University of Strathclyde)
Psychedelic birth: bodies, boundaries and consciousness in the 1970s
20 November Cancelled


CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) is a network of academics and students working in the philosophy of science in various parts of the University of Cambridge, including the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and the Faculty of Philosophy. The Wednesday afternoon seminar series features current research by CamPoS members as well as visitors to Cambridge and scholars based in nearby institutions. If you are interested in presenting in the series, please contact Matt Farr (mwef2). If you have any queries or suggestions for other activities that CamPoS could undertake, please contact Huw Price, Jeremy Butterfield or Anna Alexandrova.

Seminars are held on Wednesdays, 1.00–2.30pm in Seminar Room 2.

Further details of the composition and activities of CamPoS

10 October Jonathan Cohen (University of California, San Diego)
Many Molyneux Questions
(Joint work with Mohan Matthen)
Molyneux's Question (MQ) concerns whether a newly sighted man would recognize/distinguish a sphere and a cube by vision, assuming he could previously do this by touch.

We argue that (MQ) splits into questions about (a) shared representations of space in different perceptual systems, and about (b) shared ways of constructing higher dimensional spatiotemporal features from information about lower dimensional ones, most of the technical difficulty centring on (b). So understood, MQ resists any monolithic answer: everything depends on the constraints faced by particular perceptual systems in extracting features of higher dimensionality from those of lower. Each individual question of this type is empirical and must be investigated separately.

We present several variations on MQ based on different levels of dimensional integration — some of these are familiar, some novel adaptations of problems known elsewhere, and some completely novel. Organizing these cases in this way is useful because it unifies a set of disparate questions about intermodal transfer that have held philosophical and psychological interest, suggests a new range of questions of the same type, sheds light on similarities and differences between members of the family, and allows us to formulate a much-augmented set of principles and questions concerning the intermodal transfer of spatiotemporal organization.

17 October Rune Nyrup (Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Cambridge)
Explanations for medical artificial intelligence
(Joint work with Diana Robinson)
AI systems are currently being developed and deployed for a variety medical purposes. A common objection to this trend is that medical AI systems risk being 'black-boxes', unable to explain their decisions. How serious this objection is remains unclear. As some commentators point out, human doctors too are often unable to properly explain their decisions. In this paper, we seek to clarify this debate. We (i) analyse the reasons why explainability is important for medical AI, (ii) outline some of the features that make for good explanations in this context, and (iii) compare how well humans and AI systems are able to satisfy these. We conclude that while humans currently have the edge, recent developments in technical AI research may allow us to construct medical AI systems which are better explainers than humans.
24 October Karim Thébault (University of Bristol)
Leibniz, Mach and the C-Series
According to Carlo Rovelli the (undirected) time orderings of physical states should be given relationally via reference to internal clocks [1]. Internal clocks do not generically provide an always increasing (or decreasing) parameterization of physical states. This means that Rovelli's internal time proposal allows for violations of 'temporal monotonicity'. Alternative proposals that retain temporal monotonicity have recently been shown to lead to physically distinct models for quantum cosmology [2]. The status of temporal monotonicity is thus of potential empirical significance.

In this talk we will consider the status temporal monotonicity in a philosophical perspective with reference to three particular historical figures. First, we will examine the extent to which this aspect of time features in Leibniz's positive account of time, as reconstructed by Arthur [3]. Next, we will considering the relevance of some suggestive remarks from Mach's Science of Mechanics [4]. Finally, we will consider the extent to which temporal monotonicity is equivalent to McTaggart's C-series, as reconstructed by Farr [5].

We conclude by briefly considering the challenge to various forms of realism about temporal monotonicity posed by general relativity.

[1] Rovelli, C. (2002) Phys. Rev. D 65 124013.
[2] Gryb, S., & Thébault, K. P. (2018). Physics Letters B 784 324-329.
[3] Arthur, R. T. (1985). Leibniz's theory of time. In The natural philosophy of Leibniz, pp. 263–313. Springer.
[4] Mach, E. (2013). The Science of Mechanics. Cambridge University Press.
[5] Farr, M. The C Theory of Time. Unpublished draft.

31 October Karina Vold (Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Cambridge)
Reconciling the opposing effects of neurobiological evidence on criminal sentencing judgments
(Co-authored with Eyal Aharoni, Corey Allen, Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby and Gidon Felson)
Legal theorists have characterized physical evidence of brain dysfunction as a double-edged sword, wherein the very quality that reduces the defendant's responsibility for his transgression could simultaneously increase motivations to punish him by virtue of his apparently increased dangerousness. However, empirical evidence of this pattern has been elusive, perhaps owing to a heavy reliance on singular measures that fail to distinguish between plural, often competing internal motivations for punishment. In this talk I will present a new study that employed a test of the theorized double-edge pattern using a novel approach designed to separate such motivations. This is the first study of its kind to quantitatively demonstrate the paradoxical effect of neuroscientific trial evidence and raises implications for how such evidence is presented and evaluated.
7 November Christoph Hoerl (University of Warwick)
Temporal binding and the idea of a 'sense of agency': a critical examination
Voluntary action gives rise to a temporal binding effect, in which the interval between intentional movements and their causal consequences is subjectively compressed. In the current psychological literature, temporal binding is widely conceived of as a measure of a 'sense of agency' involved in voluntary action. I provide an analysis of the explanatory framework that I take to be in play in existing accounts based on this idea. I raise two key problems for such accounts – an empirical and a conceptual one – and argue that the very idea of a dedicated 'sense of agency' rests on a confusion between two different issues. I then outline an alternative explanatory framework, which instead construes temporal binding as a measure of a belief in causality. I show how such an alternative framework, too, can explain the results of studies in which temporal binding has been shown to be affected by factors that specifically impinge on participants' judgements about the extent to which they are themselves actively involved in bringing about the timed events.
14 November Ali Boyle (Trinity Hall, Cambridge)
Memory: what is it good for?
Increasingly, memory researchers are of the view that memory is not for remembering. That is, we do not have episodic memories (memories of personally experienced events) because being able to remember is itself beneficial, but because it confers some other advantage – most often, the ability to 'project' oneself into the future. This claim has been used to lend support to novel accounts of episodic memory's nature, and to motivate new evidential standards for its detection in animals. In this talk, I aim to show that the arguments for this claim are unsound, and offer a (qualified) defence of the view that remembering is the function of episodic memory.
21 November Katie Robertson (Philosophy, Cambridge/University of Birmingham)
Time-asymmetry in thermal physics
The second law of thermodynamics has a lot to answer for. Reichenbach claims it was responsible for the direction of time. Atkins claims that 'the second law is one of the all-time great laws of science, for it illuminates why anything – anything from the cooling of hot matter to the formulation of a thought – happens at all'. And Hawking claims it is a tautology.

In this talk, I discuss the different concepts of time-asymmetry in thermal physics and claim that the second law has less bite than the authors above suggest. Instead of an arrow of time, it is more appropriate to say, as Uffink suggests, that the second law describes the ravages of time. Instead of considering thermodynamics to be the source of the arrow of time, I claim that statistical mechanics is the theory we should focus on. By looking at a particular framework advocated by Zwanzig, Zeh and Wallace, I discuss how the time-asymmetry in statistical mechanics arises out of the underlying time-symmetric dynamics.

28 November Matt Farr (HPS, Cambridge)
The C theory of time
Does time have a direction? Intuitively, it does. After all, our experiences, our thoughts, even our scientific explanations of phenomena are time-directed; things evolve from earlier to later, and it would seem unnecessary and indeed odd to try to expunge such talk from our philosophical lexicon. Nevertheless, in this talk I will make the case for what I call the C theory of time: in short, the thesis that time does not have a direction. I will do so by making the theory as palatable as possible, and this will involve giving an account of why it is permissible and indeed useful to talk in time-directed terms, what role time-directed explanations play in science, and why neither of these should commit us to the claim that reality is fundamentally directed in time. On the positive side, I will make the case that the C theory’s deflationism about the direction of time offers a superior account of time asymmetries in physics than rival time-direction-realist accounts.

HPS Workshop

Wednesdays, 5–6pm, weekly from 7 November
Organised by Jules Skotnes-Brown, Eoin Carter, Peter Rees and Emilie Skulberg (History workshops); Katy Duncan, Céline Henne and Bobby Vos (Philosophy workshops)

HPS Workshop seeks to break the isolation of graduate research and encourage collaborative thinking by allowing students to present work in progress in a supportive seminar environment. The workshops will have alternate sessions focusing on Philosophy and History, but interdisciplinary presentations are always welcome. After each seminar, we will head to a local pub.

Students are invited to present on any aspect of their research that they are grappling with or desire feedback on, including:

  • Unpacking complicated sources, concepts, or archives
  • Presenting drafts of chapters, conference papers, or publications
  • Proposing new ideas or strategies towards HPS research

The session is comprised of two parts: 20 minutes where the speaker outlines their work in progress (indicating areas that they would like feedback to be based upon) and 40 minutes of discussion. Students interested in presenting in a Philosophy workshop should contact Bobby Vos (bfmv2). Those interested in presenting in a History workshop can contact Peter Rees (pr381).

Aims and Methods of Histories of the Sciences

Mondays, 11.30am–1pm, weekly from 22 October (6 sessions)
Nick Jardine, with Geoffrey Lloyd, Hasok Chang, Raphael Scholl and Jeffrey Skopek

These graduate seminars will consider aspects of the history, aims, methods and current problems of the history of science. The opening sessions will give an overview of the formation of history of science as a discipline and of the range of recent approaches. There will then be discussion of the educational and polemical uses of histories of the sciences by scientists; and debate about the problems of anachronism faced by historians of science. Subsequent meetings will address the the roles of sympathy and antipathy in historical biographies, and approaches to the history of cross-cultural communication in the sciences.

Aims and Methods of Histories of the Sciences on Moodle

Kinds of Intelligence Reading Group

The Kinds of Intelligence Reading Group meets biweekly on Thursdays during term time from 11am to 12noon in the Board Room. Readings are focused on topics in cognitive science, biology and philosophy of mind, with topics including learning, memory, consciousness and artificial intelligence, understood from an interdisciplinary perspective. Participants from all disciplines are welcome. Organised by Marta Halina.

25 October

'Using Artificial Intelligence to Augment Human Intelligence' (2017), led by Karina Vold

8 November

'Empiricism Without Magic: Transformational Abstraction in Deep Convolutional Neural Networks' (2018), led by Marta Halina

22 November

'Deep Reinforcement Learning: A Brief Survey' (2017), led by Matthew Crosby

6 December

'Deep Learning: A Critical Appraisal' (2018), led by Henry Shevlin

Twentieth Century Reading Group

The group discusses books and papers relating to the history and historiography of 20th-century science, technology and medicine, broadly construed. We meet on Thursdays, 1pm to 2pm in the Board Room. Organised by Mary Brazelton, Joseph Martin, Charu Singh and Richard Staley.

Everyone is welcome – feel free to bring along your lunch.

This term the first meeting of the Twentieth Century Reading Group will be a general one, aiming to bring together those who are working in the history and historiography of the sciences in the long 20th century, or who are interested in doing so for MPhil/Part III papers and dissertations. We aim to share interests and projects, get a sense of common concerns, and develop an agenda for the rest of the term based around participants' research interests. Our second meeting will discuss cartography, and later meetings will be determined by our collective interests.

4 October Research and reading agendas
18 October William Rankin, After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century (Chicago/London: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2016)

Philosophy and Psychiatry Reading Group

We meet on Fridays, 11am–12noon in the Board Room starting on 19 October. Organised by Riana Betzler and Joe Gough.

19 October

  • Engel, G. L. (1977) The need for a new medical model: a challenge for biomedical science. Science, 196(4286), 129–136.

26 October

  • Pilgrim, D. (2002). The biopsychosocial model in Anglo-American psychiatry: Past, present and future? Journal of Mental Health, 11(6), 585–594.
  • Ghaemi, S. N. (2009). The rise and fall of the biopsychosocial model. The British Journal of Psychiatry, 195(1), 3–4.

2 November

  • Kandel, E. R. (1998). A new intellectual framework for psychiatry. American Journal of Psychiatry, 155(4), 457–469.

9 November

  • Murphy, D. (2010). Complex Mental Disorders: Representation, Stability, and Explanation. European Journal of Analytic Philosophy, 6(1), 28–42.

16 November

  • Cooper, R. (2004). What is wrong with the DSM? History of Psychiatry, 15(1), 005–025.

23 November

  • Insel, T., Cuthbert, B., Garvey, M. Heinssen, R., et al. (2010). Research Domain Criteria (RDoC): Toward a New Classification Framework for Research on Mental Disorders. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(7), 748–750.
  • Sullivan, J. (2016). Models of Mental Illness.  In H. Kincaid, J. Simon, & M. Solomon (eds.), The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Medicine. New York: Routledge, 455–464.

30 November

  • Murphy, D. (2017). Can psychiatry refurnish the mind? Philosophical Explorations, 20(2), 160–174.

The Intersection of Gender, Race and Disability with Philosophy of Science

This new reading group meets on Mondays, 2–3pm, in the Board Room. Organised by Azita Chellappoo (asc63).

8 October

Allen, Anita L. (2009). The Poetry of Genetics: On the Pitfalls of Popularizing Science. Hypatia 24 (4): 247–257.

15 October

McKinnon, Rachel (2015). Trans*formative Experiences. Res Philosophica 92 (2): 419–440.

22 October

Carlson, Licia (2016). Feminist Approaches to Cognitive Disability. Philosophy Compass 11 (10): 541–553.

29 October

Shiva, V. (1987). The violence of reductionist science. Alternatives, 12 (2): 243–261.

5 November

Boisselle, L. N. (2016). Decolonizing Science and Science Education in a Postcolonial Space (Trinidad, a Developing Caribbean Nation, Illustrates). SAGE Open, 6 (1): 2158244016635257.

12 November

Gallegos, Sergio A. & Quinn, Carol V. A. (2017). Epistemic injustice and resistance in the Chiapas Highlands: the Zapatista Case. Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 32 (2): 247–262.

19 November

Goldenberg, Maya J. (2013). How can Feminist Theories of Evidence Assist Clinical Reasoning and Decision-Making? Social Epistemology (TBA): 1–28.

26 November

Roth, A. (2018). Experience as Evidence: Pregnancy Loss, Pragmatism, and Fetal Status. Journal of Social Philosophy 49 (2): 270–293.

Science and Literature Reading Group

AI Narratives

This term the Science and Literature Reading Group joins forces with the AI Narratives research programme from the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence.

All are welcome to join in our wide-ranging and friendly discussions. The group is organised by Kanta Dihal and Melanie Keene.

For recaps, further readings, news, and other updates, please follow us on Twitter @scilitreadgrp or visit our blog.

Readings will include:

Philosophy of Medicine Reading Group

This reading group is dedicated to new and old problems in philosophy of medicine. All are welcome.

Meetings take place on Tuesdays, 1–2pm, in Seminar Room 1.

Conveners: Tim Lewens, Stephen John, Jacob Stegenga, Anna Alexandrova

9 October

Schaffner, K. 2000. 'Medical informatics and the concept of disease', Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 21: 85–100.

16 October

Chin-ye, B. & Upshur, R. 2018. 'Clinical judgment in the era of big data and predictive analytics', Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice 24: 638–645.

23 October

Mittelstadt et al. 2018. 'Is there a duty to participate in digital epidemiology?', Life Sciences, Society and Policy 14:9.

30 October

Anderson, A. & Anderson, L.S. 2007. 'Machine ethics: creating an ethical intelligent agent', AI Magazine 28: 15–26.

6 November

Coeckelbergh, M. 2015. 'Artificial agents, good care, modernity', Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 36: 265–277.

13 November

LaRosa, E. & Danks, D. 2018. 'Impacts on trust of healthcare AI', Proceedings of the 2018 AAAI/ACM Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society.

Danks, 2016, 'Finding trust and understanding in autonomous technologies', The Conversation, 30 December 2016.

Philosophy and History of Physics Reading Group

The reading group meets on Tuesdays, 4.30pm to 6.30pm in the Board Room. Organised by Joe Martin (jdm205) and Matt Farr (mwef2).

This Michaelmas, we'll be exploring the theme Physics and Empiricism. Our ultimate goal is to discuss ongoing debates about the role of empirical data in advancing the forefront of physics, for which we'll use two recent books:

Dawid is currently available as an e-book through the UL, and the Whipple has ordered several copies of the Hossenfelder book, which it will keep on hold.

Before we dive into the contemporary debate, however, we'd like to develop a historical perspective on empirical philosophy as it relates to physics, and to that end, we'll revisit some classics.

9 October

For the first session, we'll read excerpts from William Whewell's Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, in particular book 1, chapter 2 (pp. 16–50) and book 3, chapter 8 (pp. 245–54).

16 October

W. V. O. Quine, 'Two Dogmas of Empiricism', The Philosophical Review 60, no. 1 (1951): 20–43.

In addition, try to take a look at one (or both!) of the following:

23 October

Guest paper by Karim Thébault (University of Bristol):

On the Universality of Hawking Radiation
Sean Gryb, Patricia Palacios and Karim Thébault

In all major derivations of Hawking radiation there is an exponential red-shift between the late time radiation detected and the black hole horizon, where the radiation originates. Unruh has estimated that the 'frequencies which are needed to explain the radiation produced even one second after a solar mass black hole forms, correspond to energies which are e10^5 times the energy of the whole universe'. What we take to be the essential lesson is that, absent a well-trusted theory of quantum gravity, any derivation of Hawking radiation as a phenomena that depends on near horizon physics must be supplemented with an argument for the insensitivity of the effect to short distance physics. That is, we need an answer to the question 'is Hawking radiation universal?' (Jacobson 2005, p.80). We will seek to answer Jacobson's question as follows. In Section 3, we will consider what is meant by a universality argument. To do this we will examine, in some detail, the structure and limits of more familiar Wilsonian universality arguments found in the condensed matter context. Then in Section 4 we will consider three potential arguments for the universality of Hawking radiation that respectively draw upon: i) appeal to the universality of the Unruh effect combined with the equivalence principle; ii) the anomaly cancellation derivation; and iii) our ability to arbitrarily modify the dispersion relation of the scalar field used in the Hawking style derivation. Finally, Section 5 provides a detailed comparison between the two families of universality arguments. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we will conclude that none of the universality arguments for Hawking radiation that are available measure up to the standard set by Wilsonian universality arguments in condensed matter context physics. This largely negative conclusions offers a framework for future development.

30 October

  • Richard Dawid, String Theory and the Scientific Method (Cambridge, 2013), Introduction and Chapter 1
  • Sabine Hossenfelder, Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray (Basic, 2018), Preface and Chapter 1

6 November

13 November

20 November

27 November

The readings for this week are:

In addition, the proceedings of the 'Why Trust a Theory?' conference at LMU Munich are online. We will discuss the final roundtable discussion, 'Has Physics changed? – and should it?'.

Early Science and Medicine Work-in-Progress

This is a termly forum for early career scholars to discuss their work-in-progress. We usually discuss two pieces of work at each session.

If you would like to participate, please email the organisers, Justin Rivest (jr723) and Carolin Schmitz.

Meetings are held in the Board Room at the start of each term:

  • Tuesday 2 October, 5–8pm
  • Tuesday 15 January, 5–8pm
  • Tuesday 23 April, 5–8pm

Convened by Lauren Kassell, Silvia De Renzi (OU), Elaine Leong (MPI) and Dániel Margócsy.

Casebooks Therapy

Organiser: Lauren Kassell

'Casebooks Therapy' is an informal reading group for those interested in using the manuscripts of Simon Forman and Richard Napier in their research.

The aim of the reading group is to improve the palaeography skills of those who attend, as well as to provide guidance about how to make sense of Forman's and Napier's records. No familiarity with early modern handwriting is necessary, and the group is open to all. Attendees are invited to suggest a particular page or case from the casebooks that they have trouble reading to work through collaboratively. Participants should bring a laptop.

If you are interested in attending, please email Lauren Kassell (ltk21).

Latin Therapy

Latin Therapy is an informal reading group. All levels of Latin are very welcome. We meet on Fridays, 3.00 to 4.00pm in the Board Room starting on 12 October, to translate and discuss a text from the history of science, technology or medicine. This is an opportunity to brush up your Latin by regular practice, and if a primary source is giving you grief, we'd love to help you make sense of it over tea and biscuits!

To be added to the mailing list, or to suggest a text, please contact Arthur Harris.

Manchu Therapy

The Manchu Therapy group meets fortnightly on Tuesdays, from 3.00 to 4.00pm, in the Lodge starting on Tuesday 9 October.

Manchu Therapy is an informal group for those who have an interest in the Manchu language, or who are working with Manchu documents, to learn more and improve their reading skills. (See this brief description of the Manchus and the Manchu language.) Every other week, we will meet to read texts together. All are welcome.

For more information or to be added to the mailing list, please contact Mary Brazelton.

Greek Therapy

Greek Therapy meets every Wednesday during term time in the Board Room from 5.30 to 7pm.

We are an informal group for beginners and for experienced readers of Greek seeking to brush up their skills – all levels are welcome. Sessions usually involve a basic grammar session at the beginning followed by reading through a more advanced text. This term we will be reading selections from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics.

For more information or to be added to the mailing list, please email Liz Smith.