skip to content

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. In the 2023–24 year, CamPoS is being organised by Anna Alexandrova (HPS) and Neil Dewar (Philosophy).

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

Lent Term 2024

31 January

Michael Diamond-Hunter (HPS, Cambridge)
When the data cannot speak clearly: Covid-19 and minoritised groups

The ramifications of Covid-19 on vulnerable populations across the globe continues to be documented. With respect to diverse, socially-salient populations, however, the efforts to do so are fragmented. This is due to a number of reasons – metaphysical commitments regarding socially-salient concepts; methodological and ethical considerations for capturing information regarding minoritised groups and their members; and epistemological concerns regarding the quality and inter-translatability of the evidence gained (and the schema used) for categorisation of these groups. How, exactly, should we proceed with attempting to deal with understanding and mitigating racialised population disparities due to Covid-19 when both the methodology and conceptual underpinnings are lacklustre at best? In this paper, I will outline an approach for dealing with the aforementioned multiple concerns, and will utilise the UK as a case-study for proof of concept. I will offer a solution to the issue that relies on an instrumentalist understanding of race, which provides a number of positives in comparison to other contemporary ontological accounts. Finally, I will offer a some closing remarks on how philosophical work aimed at clarifying socially-salient concepts can be practically helpful for future philosophical projects (metaphysics, philosophy of language) and empirical research projects.

14 February

Miklós Rédei (LSE)
Limit objects and emergence

The talk discusses the role and some features of limit objects in physical theories. The talk recalls the concept of limit object understood in the sense of (mathematical) category theory, and defines the notion of emergent property of a limit object. Examples of limit objects and emergent properties are given, and it is argued that limit objects in physical theories display a tension between two norms of theory construction in physics: one norm dictates that one should have physical theories describing all the phenomena in a certain domain. The other norm intends to restrict the entities featuring in physical theories to those that have a counterpart in the physical world, thereby not allowing imaginary objects that cannot be interpreted realistically. The tension is illustrated by how the infinite Ising model describes phase transition and a suggestion is made about how to tolerate the tension.

28 February

Milena Ivanova (Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, Cambridge)
Is AI generated art really art?

After 'Théâtre D'opéra Spatial' (2022) won a prize in the Colorado State Fair's annual art competition there was a very strong outcry in the media that this signified the 'end of art'. Allen himself was quoted in the New York Times saying 'Art is dead, dude. It's over. AI won. Humans lost.' I start my analysis with the status question and the existential threat question, turning then to the value question and creativity question surrounding generated art. I will argue that far from posing a threat to artists or not qualifying as deserving art status, we should be focusing on what value generated images can have, and how they are transforming the creative process.

13 March

Helene Scott-Fordsmand (HPS, Cambridge)
Inferring from negative analogies: lessons on analogical reasoning from clinical medical practice (joint work with Mauricio Suárez)

One of Mary Hesse's major contributions to the philosophy of science is her work on analogical reasoning. Since the publication of Models and Analogies in Science (1966), her schematization of the problem has become the disciplinary standard. In this paper we want to bring attention to an element of the schematization which has been left remarkably underexplored, namely the negative analogies. We will argue that there is a host of functions for negative analogies in reasoning, and that, importantly, they have a 'positive' inferential potential. We map out three well-known relation-establishing functions of negative analogies – 'crucial', irrelevant, and required negative analogies (Bartha 2010, Pero & Suárez 2016, Boesch 2021) – as well as a potentially problematic kind of negative analogy which we term 'scope-fixing negative analogies' (from Bailer-Jones 2002). We end by drawing on a case study from clinical practice – the use of the Neer Classification schema for the classification of shoulder fractures. Exploring the ways clinicians reason with this schema, we suggest there are two ways in which negative analogies can serve an inferential function in reasoning, and hence, can be seen as having a positive epistemic potential.