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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The Dialectic is a new, experimental seminar series premised on the idea that the format of a constructive dialogue (not: debate) is uniquely well-suited for the exposition and analysis of unorthodox/contentious views in the history and philosophy of science (broadly construed).

Each session shall take the form of a dialogue between a Proponent and an Opponent. The Proponent shall advance a thesis, about which they will be questioned by the Opponent. The Opponent may seek to rebut the Proponent's thesis, defend their own counter-thesis, or simply question the Proponent so as to better understand their reasoning.

In the academic year 2020–2021, The Dialectic will be held on a termly basis. For questions, please contact the organiser: Bobby Vos (bfmv2).

Michaelmas Term 2020

2 December, 10am–11.30am, Venue: Zoom
Discussants: Darrell Rowbottom (proponent) and Alexander Bird (opponent)
Thesis: Scientific discourse about unobservable things shouldn't be taken as literally as scientific realists typically suggest

Lent Term 2021

19 February, 11am–12.30pm, Venue: Zoom
Discussants: Henry Shevlin (proponent) and Tom McClelland (opponent)
Thesis: Conscious AI will be with us by the end of this century

Easter Term 2021

1 July, 2pm–3.30pm, Venue: Zoom
Discussants: Niels Martens (University of Bonn) (proponent) and Tushar Menon (University of Cambridge) (opponent)
Thesis: Newton would have been justified in believing in unobservable absolute velocities