History and Philosophy of Science Research Seminars 2013
Paul Oslington (Australian Catholic College)
The Religious Background of Adam Smith's Economics
Adam Smith (the historical Smith – not the imagined Smith of certain apologists for the contemporary American economic order) is a crucial figure in the history of economics, and the history of the larger scientific enterprise. Like his 18th century Scottish Enlightenment friends Smith was shaped by the Calvinism of the dominant Presbyterian Kirk. Newton and the British tradition of scientific natural theology provided the framework for his economic investigations. Continental natural law ethics influenced his moral philosophy, far more than utilitarianism. Aristotle was always in the background.
Whether or not Smith was an orthodox Christian is an unanswerable and ultimately irrelevant question, but the presumption of significant influence of theology on his system of thought is strengthened by his student notes of his (now lost) Glasgow lectures on natural theology, the prevalence of the language and thought forms of natural theology in his works, and the almost universal theological reading of his economics by his contemporaries.
I will test a theological reading of Smith’s works through the invisible hand passages. There are only three passages and each expresses an ambivalence about the harmonious functioning of the new market order, and the need for special providential divine action (or something of the sort) to maintain rough equality and thus the stability of the market order. This reading of the passages against their Calvinist and Newtonian natural theological background is directly opposed to the traditional economists reading of the passages as celebrating the co-coordinating and stabilizing properties of markets –the “magic of markets”. Smith did believe that a competitive market order generates good outcomes (applying the doctrine general providence to the economy) but the somewhat wistful invisible hand passages express something quite different.
The argument about Smith applies to some of the other major figures such as Paley, Malthus, Whately and Whewell who shaped the emergence of political economy as a discipline in the early 19th century.
When: Monday, September 2, 6pm - 8pm
University of Sydney Philosophy Seminars
Against Boltzmann's Brain Argument
Abstract: I set out an argument call it the Boltzmann Brain Argument to the effect that it is very likely that I am a disembodied brain-in-thermal-equilibrium vat with false perceptions and memories that have just fluctuated into being out of a state of chaos. In resisting the epistemic catastrophe brought about by Boltzmann Brain Argument, some philosophers of physics, notably Sean Carroll, have raised the early low entropy condition of the universe embodied in the Past Hypothesis to the status of a condition necessary for our knowledge of the external world. In this paper I attempt to dethrone the Past Hypothesis from this grandiose, transcendental status. I propose two arguments, arguably independent of the Past Hypothesis, to evade Bolzmann's epistemic catastrophe. One, which builds upon an argument by Richard Feynman, takes into account the orderliness of the observable portion of the universe. The other starts from the observation that we are carbon-based sentient life forms.
When: Monday, September 2, 1pm - 2:30pm
Where: University of Sydney Philosophy Common Room, Quad Building
"The Philosophical History of Wonder"
When: Friday September 6th, 10:30am - 12pm
SHAPE: Diego Bubbio (UWS)
"Hegel, the Trinity, and I
The main goal of this paper is to argue the relevance of Hegel’s notion of the Trinity with respect to two aspects of Hegel’s idealism: the overcoming of subjectivism and his conception of the I. I contend that these two aspects are interconnected and that the Trinity is important to Hegel’s strategy for addressing these questions.
I first address the problem of subjectivism by considering Hegel’s thought against the background of modern philosophy. I argue that the recognitive structure of Hegel’s idealism led him to give the Trinity a decisive role in his philosophical account. Next, I discuss the Trinity by analysing the three divine persons. This analysis paves the way for the conclusion, where I argue that the Trinity represents a model for re-thinking the I in a way that overcomes a “naïve realist” and a “subjective” account of the self. I suggest that Hegel’s absolute idealism can be conceived as an approach to the I that considers the role of acts of mutual recognition for the genesis of self-conscious thought, and that the Trinity is the Darstellung of the relational and recognitive structure of the I.
When: Friday, September 13, 10:30am - 12pm
The Munich-Sydney-Tilburg Conference Series: Models and Decisions (Munich, 10-12 April 2013)
History and Philosophy of Science in Australia: Looking Forward
26-28 September 2012
University of Sydney
The National Committee for History and Philosophy of Science workshop. Click here to go the workshop's webpage.
New Perspectives on Human Diversity
6-7 September 2012
Novotel Manly Pacific
Click here to go to the workshop's webpage.
The Inaugural Sydney Winter School in History and Philosophy of Science was held 16-27 July 2012. Click here to go to the Winter School website.
Visiting Fellow Steven Orzack appears in and will be discussing, along with Paul Griffiths, Flock of Dodos, a film which looks at how and why the debate over evolution has changed. The film will be screened at 6.00pm, Monday 14 May at the Eastern Av. Auditorium, and will be followed by a panel discussion including Steven and Paul and the film's director, Randy Olson.
Co-presented with Sydney Ideas and the School of Biological Sciences
Integration in Biology and Biomedicine workshop, 3-4 May 2012, held in conjunction with the Charles Perkins Centre and the Institute for Sustainable and Integrated Solutions.
Click here to go to the workshop's webpage, which includes information on the speakers, talks, and the program.
The Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS) conference
Friday 1 July to 1 pm Sunday 3 July, 2011
University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand.
4th Sydney-Tilburg conference on the philosophy of science: "The Authority of Science"
8-10 April 2011, The University of Sydney
Click here for more information.
John Armstrong (University of Melbourne) and Paul Griffiths (USyd, SCFS): Ways of Seeing
Sydney Ideas event co-presented by the SCFS and Griffith Review
7 April 2011
Sydney Ideas lecture by Professor Alison Gopnik (University of California, Berkeley): The Philosophical Baby: What Childrens' Minds Tell Us About Truth, Love and the Meaning of Life
Thursday 24 February 2011
Law School Foyer, Eastern Av.
Sydney Ideas lecture by Professor Michael Hunter (University of London): The Royal Society and the Decline of Magic
Co-presented by the SCFS
Tuesday 15 February 2011
Summer workshop on Causation
13-14 January, 2011
This meeting is to be held in conjunction with a visit to the Centre for Time by the world-renowned Berkeley psychologist, Professor Alison Gopnik. Further details are available here.
"A Philosophy of Science Answerable to Chemistry"
An International Collaborative Workshop
Australian Academy of the Humanities
15-16 December 2010
Visiting Fellow Brian Keeley will present a paper, "Positing the Sixth Sense: Ground Rules and Candidates," at the HPS Research Seminar series.
23 August, 6-8pm, Carslaw 441
"Evolving the Future" workshop
28 September 2010
Organised by the Committee on the Human Aspects of Science and Technology & the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, University of Sydney.
Sydney International Ideas lecture: "Writing Science Lives" with Janet Browne, Harvard History of Science
The Seymour Centre, University of Sydney
12 August 2010, 6.30pm
The Australasian Association for Logic 2010 conference
2-4 July 2010, Room MB211 Morven Brown Building, The University of New South Wales
2010 Australasian Association of Philosophy (AAP) conference
4-9 July 2010, Kensington Campus, The University of New South Wales
Australasian Association for the History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Science (AAHPSSS) conference
9-11 July 2010
Professor Robert Olby International Ideas Public Lecture
"Francis Crick: Who was the Man Who Discovered DNA?"
9 March 2010, 6:30pm
Seymour Theatre Centre
Sydney-Tilburg conference on The Future of Philosophy of Science
14-16 April 2010
Tilburg University, The Netherlands
12-16 July 2009
Sydney-Tilburg Philosophy of Science Conference on "Evidence, Science and Public Policy"
26-28 March 2009
The opening of the SCFS, 31st July 2008. Public Lecture by Brian Skyrms:
"Groups and Networks: Their Role in the Evolution of Cooperation" (Podcast)