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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


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 fortnightly on Wednesdays, 1.00–2.30pm on Zoom.

Lent Term 2021

10 February
Adrian Erasmus (HPS, Cambridge)
P-hacking: its costs and when it is warranted

P-hacking is a misuse of analytic techniques that may lead to exaggerated experimental results. While it is widely condemned, some have suggested that there are some contexts in which the practice may be warranted. I have three aims in this paper. First, I provide a sorely needed definition of p-hacking. Second, I use philosophical tools from decision theory to articulate the prevalent position on p-hacking and illustrate how serious its effects on statistical results can be. And third, I defend the view that there are scenarios in which p-hacking may be warranted, with a particular focus on non-epistemic judgements.

24 February
Kourken Michaelian (Université Grenoble Alpes)
From authenticism to alethism: against McCarroll on observer memory

In opposition to the natural view that observer perspective memory is bound to be inauthentic, McCarroll (2018) argues for the surprising conclusion that memories in which the subject sees himself in the remembered scene are, in many cases, true to the subject's original experience of the scene. By means of a careful reconstruction of his argument, this paper shows that McCarroll does not succeed in establishing his conclusion. It shows, in fact, that we ought to come to the opposed conclusion that, while it may be possible in principle for observer perspective memory to be authentic, this is unlikely ever to happen in practice. The natural view, in short, is more or less right.

3 March
Lena Zuchowski (University of Bristol)
What kind of models are deep learning algorithms?

I will introduce a novel conceptual framework for the analysis of scientific modelling. The framework will be used to distinguish and comparatively analyse three different ways of model construction: vertical from covering theory and empirical knowledge about a given target system; horizontal through the systematic variation or transfer of existing models; and diagonal through a combination of vertical and horizontal construction steps. I will then apply this framework to analyse the construction of deep learning algorithms and will argue that they can be interpreted as the automated, vertical, bottom-up construction of a sequence of scientific models. Furthermore, I will maintain that the practice of transfer learning can be interpreted as horizontal model construction.

17 March
Ellen Fridland (King's College London)
Practical intentions, action schemas, and strategic control in skill

While much of skilled action happens 'under the radar' it is important to acknowledge that a significant portion of skill also involves good old-fashioned thinking. For instance, there is no way to be a skilled tennis player, if you don't know that you have to, e.g., pick up the racket and swing it towards a ball. But not all personal-level knowledge about skill is of this kind. In this talk, I'll argue that skills are organized and structured by embodied, strategic, personal-level intentions that guide skill instantiations. These intentional structures, on my account, are action schemas that function both to represent and guide skilled action. Relying on the mental practice literature, I'll maintain that skilled agents uniquely possess strategic, practical, organizing intentions that guide their skilled actions in appropriate and effective ways. It follows that skilled agents are better than novices not only at implementing the intentions that they have but also at forming the right intentions. That is, skilled agents have strategic control.