Past events


MuST10: Causation and Complexity

10th Munich-Sydney-Tilburg Conference in the Philosophy of Science

Tangled kitty

March 1-3 2017
The University of Sydney

Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP), Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich
Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science (SCFS), University of Sydney
Tilburg Centre for Logic, Ethics and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS), University of Tilburg

In collaboration with the Centre for Complex Systems (CCS) University of Sydney

About the conference

Causation and Complexity is the tenth MuST conference, an international collaborative conference series with a distinctive focus on philosophical issues in the sciences that can be addressed using exact reasoning and which have some potential policy relevance. MuST conferences bring together philosophers and scientists to explore these topics.

Organising Committee:

  • Prof. Mikhail Prokopenko (CCS)
  • Prof. Paul Griffiths (SCFS)
  • Prof. Mark Colyvan (SCFS)
  • Prof. Stephan Hartmann (MCMP)
  • Prof. Jan Sprenger (TiLPS)

Conference Program and Abstracts
Download the MuST10: Causation and Complexity Conference Program and an alphabetical list of abstracts.

Keynote speakers

Prof. Stuart Kauffman
One of the most distinguished scholars of complexity, Stuart Kauffman is the author of several acclaimed books, including The Origins of Order: Self Organization and Selection in Evolution (OUP 1993), At Home in the Universe: The Search for Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity (OUP 1995), and Humanity in a Creative Universe (OUP 2016)

Prof. Anne-Marie Grisogono
Currently Professor at the Flinders Centre for Science Education in the 21st Century (Science21), Anne-Marie Grisogono spent more than twenty years as a researcher at Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organisation applying complex systems science to the problems of understanding and intervening in large human organisations

Prof. Kevin Korb
Kevin Korb is a Reader in the Faculty of Information Technology at Monash University. He specialises in the theory and practice of causal discovery in Bayesian networks, machine learning, evaluation theory, the philosophy of scientific method, and informal logic.


Science and Nature in the Long Eighteenth Century

August 19 2016, The University of Sydney

Sponsored by The Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science

This workshop will examine a broad range of issues pertaining to the study of nature in Germany from the period of the renouvellement of the Berlin Academy in the 1740s, to the writings of Hegel in the early nineteenth century. Moving from discussions of disciplinary boundaries and disciplinary interrelations to the contents of specific writings in natural philosophy, the workshop will engage with the thought and writings of Maupertuis, Formey, Kant, Schelling, Fichte and Hegel.

Philosophical and Historical Dimensions of Biological Individuality

July 18- 21, 2016
The nature of biological individuality has excited considerable debate and controversy during the past decade or more. The problem of what constitutes a biological individual is an old one, but philosophers and historians recently have refreshed and transformed the conceptual field. In this winter school we bring into conversation leading historians and philosophers of biology who have studied different aspects of the problem, and have diverse opinions on the matter. In particular, we hope to explore similarities and differences between the individual of evolutionary theory and the organismal or physiological individual posited in, for example, developmental biology or modern immunology. That is, we ask how the individual of natural selection might be related to, or distinguished from, physiological concepts such as the immunological self or other temporally framed entities.

Until recently, evolutionary questions have dominated discussion of biological individuality. Which units function as distinct members of an evolving population? How do new levels of individuality emerge through evolution? Increasingly, however, philosophers and historians have come to focus on other forms of individuality, such as physiological individuality, which involves identifying individuals by their organizational and functional properties rather than their capacity to play a role in evolutionary processes. Microbial communities are a compelling application for this organismal approach, whether considered in their own right or as a component of a holobiont (a multicellular organism and its microbial symbionts). Organizational perspectives on individuality shift the focus (or enlarge it?) from how entities replicate themselves to how metabolic and developmental processes allow recognition, maintenance, and propagation of selves. In the light of these developments, it may make sense to think of a biological individual as an interactive process without a single, unified telos.

We are looking forward to discussing these issues and many others, according to the interests of participants. Through a mix of seminars, small group discussions, and case studies, graduate students and early-career researchers will find themselves on the frontiers of knowledge of biological individuality. The workshop faculty will illustrate their arguments with examples of their own recent and forthcoming research. We expect participants to shape these discussions and to contribute ideas and examples from their own studies. Additionally, there will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy Sydney’s harbor, beaches, food, and cultural activities.

Participating faculty:

  • Lynn K. Nyhart (University of Wisconsin-Madison), a distinguished historian of nineteenth- and twentieth-century biology, author of Modern Nature: The Rise of Biological Perspective in Germany (2009), and co-editor of Biological Individuality: Integrating Historical, Philosophical, and Scientific Perspectives
  • Alan Love (University of Minnesota), director of the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science, a leading philosopher focusing on conceptual issues in evolutionary and developmental biology, giving special attention to the epistemology of scientific practice (e.g., “Individuation, Individuality, and Experimental Practice in Developmental Biology”).
  • Paul Griffiths (University of Sydney), a leading philosopher of biology, who has written extensively on concepts of biological individuality, genomics, and developmental biology.
  • Warwick Anderson (University of Sydney), an historian of science and medicine, whose inquiries into concepts of the immunological self, and biological individuality more generally, resulted in Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity (2014).
  • The Winter School is supported by the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science, and the International Research Collaboration Fund of the University of Sydney.


The Fortunes of the Speculative Sciences in the Early Modern Period

William Hogarth The Analysis of Beauty

William Hogarth The Analysis of Beauty*

Friday 30 October 2015
Sponsored by The Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science

Workshop Theme
The category of the Speculative Sciences has a long pedigree going all the way back to Aristotle. However, in the seventeenth century the status and classification of the speculative sciences underwent significant change. Natural philosophy, for example, moved from being a speculative science to an experimental or practical science. Furthermore, in some quarters there was increasing hostility to ‘speculative philosophy’ and a general devaluing of the epistemic status of the speculative sciences. This workshop will examine the causes and implications of such changes, the defenders of the speculative sciences, and the various reconfigurations of this category in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

This workshop was run in conjunction with the visit to the Centre of Professor Mordechai Feingold from Caltech.

More information
For more information please contact Professor Peter Anstey.

*William Hogarth
The Analysis of Beauty, Plate I, 1753
original copper engravings on thick wove paper 39 x 50 cm
University of Sydney Art Collection
Donated by Lynette Jensen in honour of the Philosophy Department, the University of Sydney 2015

Aviation Cultures Mk. II: Technology, Culture, Heritage

Download conference abstracts. (Dated 7 October 2015)

DC10 and altimeter

10–11 December 2015
The University of Sydney and the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences

Aviation has formed a significant aspect of Australian life for over a century, yet its cultural impact has only recently begun to be explored. From science to sociology, fashion to fiction, this will be the first event to offer a truly national approach to interpreting the technologies, cultures and collections that embody Australia’s aviation heritage. Hosted by the University of Sydney and the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, we welcome participation by curators, scholars, authors and students of our flying past. Three themes will characterise our discussions, in the hope of creating a common language and a mission for the future: technology, culture and heritage.

For more information, please contact:
Peter Hobbins

This event was made possible with the support of the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science.

Click here Update 4 September 2015: Download the conference programme.

Natural history and the life sciences in the long eighteenth century

18 August 2015

This workshop will examine the nature and diversity of natural history as practised and theorised in the period from Leibniz to Herder and Kant, with a special focus on the relation between natural history and the life sciences in the period. In addition to addressing the impact of developments in natural history on traditional disciplinary domains such as botany, this workshop will explore the role of natural history in debates about generation, vitalism and the emergence of anthropology.


  • Peter Anstey (Sydney)
  • Stephen Gaukroger (Sydney)
  • Jennifer Mensch (UWS)
  • Dalia Nassar (Sydney)
  • Mike Olson (Macquarie)
  • Justin Smith (Paris VII)
  • Anik Waldow (Sydney)

9.00–9.45 Justin Smith (Paris VII) Leibniz as Prospector
9.45–10.30 Peter Anstey (Sydney) The Methodology of Charles Bonnet

11.00–11.45 Stephen Gaukroger (Sydney) Comparative Natural History and the Question of the Human Species
11.45–12.30 Anik Waldow (Sydney) Reason in Nature: Herder on Species Borders and Forces

2.00–2.45 Dalia Nassar (Sydney) Interpreting Nature: ‘Hermeneutics’ and the Study of Nature in Herder and Goethe
2.45–3.30 Michael Olson (Macquarie) Physiological Anthropology

3.45–4.30 Jennifer Mensch (Western Sydney) Like Mother, Like Daughter: Degeneration and Regeneration in Wollstonecraft’s and Shelley’s Medical Imaginary

For more information please contact

Research Day in 18th Century Studies at the University of Sydney

Adolph Menzel, German, 1850, Tafelrunde. Oil on canvas.

Topic: 18th Century Philosophy in Dialogue

Friday 28 August 2015
University of Sydney

The Sydney Intellectual History Network (SIHN) is sponsoring a Research Day in Eighteenth-Century Studies at the University of Sydney on 28 August 2015. The event supports the efforts of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Eighteenth-Century Studies (ANZSECS) in building a new community of scholars and postgraduate studies from a broad range of disciplines within the humanities.

The Research Day will begin with an interdisciplinary panel discussion with experts from a number of fields speaking on the relationships between philosophy, music, literature, art and architecture during the eighteenth century. Led by Dalia Nassar (Philosophy), the panel features visiting scholar Justin Smith (Université Paris Diderot - Paris VII) engaged in discussion with Jennifer Ferng (Architecture), Alan Maddox (Musicology), Jennifer Milam (Art History) and Matthew Sussman (English Literature). Postgraduate students will then take part in an intensive seminar (full description below) on The Praxis of Philosophy and the Role of the Philosopher in the Eighteenth Century with Professor Smith and Dr Nassar. A public lecture concludes the day with Professor Smith speaking on Philosophy as a Way of Life: Not Just for the Ancients. The date marks the 266th anniversary of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s birth.

Click here for more information

Scholars in Dialogue: Experimental Newtonianism in the Eighteenth Century


Friday June 12, 2015

Muniment Room
Quadrangle A14,
The University of Sydney

Professor John Zammito of Rice University and Professor Peter Anstey of The University of Sydney will discuss and debate a set of theses about experimental Newtonianism in the eighteenth century. The event will be chaired by Professor Stephen Gaukroger.

This event has been made possible with the support of the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science.

Workshop on Approaches to Variation and Sustainability in Contemporary Biology


26 May 2015
9.00am - 5.00pm
The experimental evidence of widespread (not to say ubiquitous) variability in biological systems has induced a progressive shift in its theoretical and epistemological understanding. Far from being mere 'noise', variation is nowadays considered as a constitutive biological dimension at any level of description. Acknowledging the crucial role of variability in biological systems, however, raises the question of understanding their stability, both at the individual and evolutionary scales. This conference explores various issues related to biological variation and stability – as well as their mutual relations – as they emergene in various fields of contemporary biology.

Public Lecture

25 March 2015
A World on The Make: From Modern Quantum Mysteries to Early American Pragmatism
Professor Christopher A. Fuchs

Quantum theory is the great foundation for nearly all of modern physics. Since its discovery in 1925, it has never met a single experimental failure, and without it we could kiss our technological society goodbye. Without quantum theory, there would be no transistors, no lasers, no GPS satellites, no smart phones—we might as well be living in 1910. But this foundation, for all it is worth, sits itself on some pretty shifty metaphysical sands. Some physicists look into quantum theory and see evidence that the universe is a vast web of instantaneous connections, making a laughingstock of the idea that any two events in the universe are really independent. Some physicists look into quantum theory and see not one universe, but a continuum of parallel worlds, each disconnected from the others except for having the same physical laws. Still other physicists—a tiny minority—look into quantum theory and see overwhelming evidence that the theory's key terms have not so much to do with nature itself, but with our place in nature. Metaphorically, the physicist is like a tiny paramecium caught up in nature's stream, and quantum theory is his best tool yet for navigating the course. This is the foundational stance of QBism. (Q is for quantum, of course, but what of the B? For that you will have to come to the lecture.) In QBism, the singular role of quantum theory is to make better decisions and better gambles as we confront nature. But this is not to say that we might not learn a lot about nature itself by studying the tool's design. To a great surprise, that study does take us back to 1910, but now in a good way, to a nearly-forgotten philosophy called "American pragmatism". Crucial to pragmatism is the idea that our world is always on the make; the big bang is not just something remote and at the beginning of time, but something intimate and all around us. The philosopher William James once asked, "How can new being come in local spots and patches which add themselves or stay away at random, independently of the rest?" That this is so is QBism's vision of the world and the subject of this lecture.

Christopher A. Fuchs is currently Professor of Physics at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Previously, he held research positions at BBN Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Canada, and Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey. From 1996-1999 he was the Lee DuBridge Prize Postdoctoral Fellow at the California Institute of Technology. He has authored over 85 scientific papers, with more than 9,000 citations on Google Scholar. One of his co-authored papers “Unconditional Quantum Teleportation” was voted a top-ten "breakthrough of the year 1998'' by the editors of Science. In 2010 he was a winner of the International Quantum Communication Award, and in 2012 he was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society. On top of physics, Dr. Fuchs's humanistic interests come through in his Cambridge University Press book Coming of Age with Quantum Information: Notes on a Paulian Idea. In a recent posting, he described himself as "for the last 25 years having lived and breathed the question of what quantum theory is trying to tell us about the world." He calls his current understanding of this QBism.

Friday June 12, 2015

Muniment Room
Quadrangle A14,
The University of Sydney

Professor John Zammito of Rice University and Professor Peter Anstey of The University of Sydney will discuss and debate a set of theses about experimental Newtonianism in the eighteenth century. The event will be chaired by Professor Stephen Gaukroger.

This event is free but participants will need to register. Click here to register

This event has been made possible with the support of the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science.


Principles in Early Modern Thought

27–29 August 2014

Engraved word map by Leonhard Euler

Engraved word map by Leonhard Euler

  • Professor Peter Anstey (Sydney)
  • Mr Joe Campbell QC (Sydney)
  • Professor James Franklin (UNSW)
  • Professor Daniel Garber (Princeton)
  • Professor Michael LeBuffe (Otago)
  • Professor William R. Newman (Indiana)
  • Professor Sophie Roux (ENS, Paris)
  • Professor Kiyoshi Shimokawa (Gakushuin, Tokyo)
  • Dr Alberto Vanzo (Warwick)
  • Ms Kirsten Walsh (Otago)

Colloquium Sponsors

This colloquium forms part of Professor Peter Anstey’s ARC Future Fellowship project on ‘The nature and status of principles in early modern philosophy’. It is sponsored by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science.

Colloquium Organisers

Daniel Garber, Why the Scientific Revolution Wasn't a Scientific Revolution

25 August 2014
6:00 - 7:30pm

Law LT 101
Sydney Law School
The University of Sydney

Download Information Here

Jennifer Mensch (Penn State) on Kant's Organicism

20 August 2014
3:30 - 5:00pm

Muniment Room, Main Quad

Click for Map

Anthony Grafton, How Jesus Celebrated Passover: Renaissance Scholars and the Jewish Origins of Christianity

13 August 2014

The Great Hall
The University of Sydney

Download Information Here

The Future of the History of Ideas Workshop

11–12 August 2014
The Professorial Board Room
(upstairs from the Nicholson Museum)
Quadrangle, The University of Sydney

Download Information Here

ROCK, BONE AND RUIN: Evidence in Historical Science
Rock Bone and Ruin image

Thursday & Friday 8-9 May, 2014
University of Sydney

Historical scientists frequently work under poor epistemic conditions: as traces degrade there is a dearth of direct evidence for theories about the deep past. Some philosophers and scientists are sceptical about our ability to uncover many facts about the deep past, and yet, in the face of epistemic deprivation, historical scientists produce (at least sometimes) well-supported theories and hypotheses. This suggests that some philosophers have underestimated the ingenuity of historical scientists. By incorporating approaches and evidence from a wide variety of disciplines, taking surrogative approaches such as analogous reasoning and modelling, and by weaving complex, interdependent explanations, they extend our reach into the past. The aim of this workshop is to extend our models of historical confirmation by considering two broad questions: (1) How should we understand evidence in the historical sciences? (2) How should this affect our optimism or otherwise about scientists’ abilities to know the past?
Related topics include the role of models in confirming historical hypotheses, the nature of historical explanation, material remains as evidence and their connection to behavioural and social facts, the role of background (or ‘midrange’) theories in confirmation, as well as the importance of new technologies and perspectives in historical science.

Keynote Speakers

  • Alison Wylie (University of Washington): How archaeological evidence bites back: scaffolding, critical distance, and triangulation.
  • Derek Turner (Connecticut College): A second look at the colors of the dinosaurs.


  • Lindell Bromham (ANU): Testing hypotheses in macroevolution.
  • Peter Hiscock (Sydney): Staying put or moving on? Ethnographic reference as stabilizing framework or as limiting vision in Australian archaeology.
  • John Wilkins (Melbourne): Evolutionary novelty and surprise.
  • Adrian Currie (ANU & Calgary): Ethnographic analogy, the comparative method and archaeological special pleading.
  • Malte Ebach (UNSW) and Michaelis Michael (UNSW): Do the links between evidence and causation in the historical sciences stand up to scrutiny? A need for standard criteria.
  • Roland Fletcher (Sydney): What are the entities of cultural evolution?
  • Kim Shaw-Williams (ANU) & Ivan Gonzalez-Cabrera (ANU): towards a new view of human origins: the wetlands foraging hypothesis.
  • Maureen O’Malley (Sydney): Molecular stories from the life sciences: reconciling the past.
  • Robert Hurley (Well): Ask any scientician: the unique difficulties of applying the philosophy of the historical sciences to human history.

Hosted by the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science and the Tom Austen Brown Bequest.

Thursday 8th May

All events in CCANESA Boardroom in Madsen unless otherwise noted.

9:00 Paul Griffiths (Sydney):
Welcome & Introduction
9:15 Malte Ebach & Michaelis Michael (UNSW):
Do the links between evidence and causation in the historical sciences stand up to scrutiny? A need for standard criteria.
10:15 Lindell Bromham (ANU):
Testing hypotheses in macroevolution
11:10 Tea Break
11:40 Adrian Currie (ANU/Calgary):
Ethnographic analogy, the comparative method, and archaeological special pleading
12:35 Lunch Break
1:30 Peter Hiscock (Sydney):
Staying put or moving on? Ethnographic reference as stabilizing framework or as limiting vision in Australian Archaeology.
2:30 Tea Break
3:00 Keynote: Alison Wylie (University of Washington):
How archaeological evidence bites back: scaffolding, critical distance, and triangulation.
Eastern Avenue Lecture Theatre
5:00 Reception, Macleay Museum

Friday 9th May

All events in CCANESA Boardroom in Madsen unless otherwise noted.

9:30 Maureen O’Malley (Sydney):
Molecular stories from the life sciences: reconciling the past
10:30 Tea Break
11:00 Kim Shaw-Williams & Ivan Gonzalen-Cabrera (ANU):
Towards a new vision of human origins: the wetlands foraging hypothesis.
12:00 Lunch
1:00 Keynote: Derek Turner (Connecticut College):
A second look at the colors of the dinosaurs
3:00 Tea Break
3:30 John Wilkins (Melbourne):
Evolutionary novelty and surprise
4:30 Roland Fletcher (Sydney):
What are the entities of cultural evolution?
6:30 Workshop Dinner:
The Hut Thai on Glebe Point Road

Katherine Dunlop (Texas): SCFS Visitor
Kant on “Transcendental” and Ordinary Logic’

Wednesday 5 March, 3:30-5:30pm

The Critique of Pure Reason is structured as an (eighteenth-century) treatise on logic. In particular, the Categories are identified through their supposed correspondence with logically basic forms of judgment. But while Kant claims logic abstracts from thought's content, i.e. its relation to an object, his own theory of cognition–which he designates 'transcendental logic'–is supposed to concern 'pure thinking of objects'. To solve the puzzle of how Kant can regard his theory as a logic, I argue that the content thematized in transcendental logic is already presupposed in ordinary logic. Like many other eighteenth-century thinkers, Kant conceives logic as rules for the use of mental faculties, and on his view the proper use of our understanding is to relate to objects (through intuition). On this interpretation, Kant's view is undeniably psychologistic. As such it faces the classic objection that it wrongly narrows logic’s scope, to things we can think about. In particular, on this interpretation logic is inapplicable to things in themselves. I argue that this consequence should be accepted: logical knowledge, as Kant conceives it, exceeds what we can claim about things in themselves.

Arithmetic and Geometry in Poincaré’s Science and Hypothesis

Monday 10 March, 4:00-6:00pm

It is usually supposed that Poincaré’s Science and Hypothesis contains a unified view of mathematics and physical science. But its defense of a role for intuition in arithmetic does not fit well with the conventionalism Poincaré advocates elsewhere in the book. After bringing out the conflict, I argue that the most usual way of resolving it does not succeed. That is to suppose the sciences are arranged in a hierarchy such that arithmetic is presupposed by geometry, which is presupposed by mechanics, etc. On the usual reading, Poincaré takes arithmetic to depend on an a priori intuition which underlies the notion of natural number (and with it the principle of mathematical induction), and is thereby seen to underlie all science. In contrast, I maintain that Poincaré conceives mathematical reasoning as a general type, of which the justification of arithmetical notions is just one instance, distinct from its application to geometry. The sense in which intuition is foundational for all science is that it helps us to decide on conventions, by showing them to be appropriate in light of our experience. So Poincaré’s account of arithmetic has a place in his overall view of science, just a different place than is usually supposed.

Workshop: ‘Methodology and Mathematics from Newton to Euler’

Thursday 20 March, 9:15-5:00pm

Participants: Peter Anstey, Katherine Dunlop, Stephen Gaukroger, Kristen Walsh

9.15       Katherine Dunlop (Texas): 'Christian Wolff on Newtonianism and Exact Science'
11:00 Peter Anstey (Sydney): 'From scientific syllogisms to mathematical certainty'
12:30 Lunch
2:00 Kirsten Walsh (Otago): 'Newton's method'
3:30 Stephen Gaukroger (Sydney): ‘D’Alembert, Euler and mid-18th century rational
mechanics: what mechanics does not tell us about thee world’

Stephan Hartmann (Munich)
The No Alternatives Argument

Wednesday 19 March, 1:00-2:30pm

Scientific theories are hard to find, and once scientists have found a theory H, they often believe that there are not many distinct alternatives to H. But is this belief justified? What should scientists believe about the number of alternatives to H, and how should they change these beliefs in the light of new evidence? These are some of the questions that we will address in this paper. We also ask under which conditions failure to find an alternative to H confirms the theory in question. This kind of reasoning (which we call the No Alternatives
Argument) is frequently used in science and therefore deserves a careful philosophical analysis.

Evolutionary Thinking: The 7th Munich-Sydney-Tilburg Philosophy of Science Conference

University of Sydney 20–22 March 2014
Evolutionary thinking is hugely influential in various areas of science as well as in philosophy. Philosophers of biology study core concepts of evolution, such as fitness and selection. Ethicists use evolutionary models to shed light on social institutions and moral practices. Evolutionary mechanisms are frequently invoked in philosophical debates about cognition and the human mind. Finally, evolutionary game theory has found its way into philosophy of language, theories of rationality, political and social philosophy. This conference will bring together scientists and philosophers from diverse backgrounds to explore the extent of evolutionary thought in contemporary philosophy and to consider the potential for future developments.

The keynote speakers at this conference are Rob Brooks (University of New South Wales), Anya Plutynski (Washington University, St Louis), and Kim Sterelny (Australian National University).

This is the 7th annual Munich-Sydney-Tilburg Philosophy of Science Conference. It is jointly sponsored by the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP), the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science (SCFS) and the Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science (TiLPS). The conference series focuses on topical subjects in philosophy of science, with an eye towards modeling, applications and policy.

Conference Organising Committee:

  • Mark Colyvan (SCFS, Sydney)
  • Ofer Gal (SCFS, Sydney)
  • Paul Griffiths (SCFS, Sydney)
  • Stephan Hartman (MCMP, Munich)
  • Daniela Helbig (SCFS, Sydney)
  • Jan Sprenger (TiLPS, Tilburg)

Download conference programme here

Themes in early modern mathematics and medicine

8 November 2013


  • 9.30 Charles Wolfe (Ghent): 'Early modern medical empiricism' (60 mins paper & discussion inclusive)
  • 10.30 Alan Salter (Sydney): 'Richard Lower's model heart. The diagram as object of inquiry in early modern anatomy'
  • 11.30 Coffee
  • 12.00 Anik Waldow (Sydney): 'Experience and its explanatory role'
  • 1.00 Lunch (provided) in Main Quad N293
  • 2.30 Peter Anstey (Sydney): 'Mathematical principles as models'
  • 3.30 Laura Kotevska (Sydney): 'Geometry at Port-Royal: some remarks on Arnauld’s Nouveaux éléments de géométrie' (45 mins paper & discussion)
  • 4.15 Roundtable discussion
  • 5.00 Wind up

The Quarantine Project Conference

14 -16th August 2014
This international conference builds from a large multidisciplinary investigation of more than 1,000 sandstone inscriptions that cover the stunning Quarantine Station in Sydney, Australia.

For further information please follow the link below
The Quarantine Project

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
Ali Navabi
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

Genevieve Lloyd
"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

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

ISHPSSB Conference
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)