The HPS Research Seminar Series runs on selected Mondays during Semester time.

All Welcome. No Booking Required. Free

Please note NEW START TIME: 5:30


Best access to CCANESA is from the Eastern Avenue entrance of the Madsen Building. When you enter you will be on the 3rd floor. Please proceed across the foyer and take the stairs on the right up one floor. The door to CCANESA will be straight ahead on this landing

Research Seminar Series - Semester 1, 2016
Date Venue Speaker Topic

March 13th



Barbara Osimani, PhD

Bias, random error, and the variety of evidence thesis

March 20th


Mark Honigsbaum
Wellcome Research Fellow
Queen Mary University of London

 Between Securitisation and Neglect:
Managing Ebola at the Borders of Global Health
In 2014 the World Health Organization was widely criticised for failing to anticipate that an outbreak of Ebola in a remote forested region of southeastern Guinea would trigger a public health emergency of international concern (pheic). In explaining the WHO’s failure, critics  ave pointed to structural restraints on the United Nations organisation and a leadership “vacuum” in Geneva, among other factors. This talk takes a different approach. Drawing on internal WHO documents and  nterviews with key actors in the epidemic response, I argue that WHO’s failure is better understood as a consequence of Ebola shifting medical identity and systems for managing Emerging Infectious Disease (EID) risks. Focussing on the discursive and non-discursive  ractices that produced Ebola as a “problem” for global health security, I argue that by 2014 Ebola was no longer regarded as a paradigmatic  ID and potential biothreat so much as neglected tropical disease. The  result was to relegate Ebola to the fringes of biosecurity concerns at just the moment when the virus was crossing international borders in  West Africa and triggering urban outbreaks for the first time. Ebola’s  fluctuating medical identity also helps explain the wide salience of fear and rumours during the epidemic and social resistance to Ebola control measures. Contrasting the WHO’s delay over declaring a pheic in  2014, with its rapid declaration of pheics in relation to H1N1 swine flu in 2009 and polio in 2014, I conclude that such “missed alarms” are an inevitable consequence of pandemic  preparedness and risk triage systems that seek to rationalise responses to novel emergence events.
March 27th

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building

Huw Price
Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy
Academic Director, CSER ( & CFI (
University of Cambridge

'Heart of DARCness'

Huw Price and Yang Liu 

There is a long-standing debate about whether an agent can hold a meaningful credence that she will perform some action, as she deliberates about whether to do so. No, say some authors, for Deliberation Crowds Out Prediction. Alan Hájek has recently criticised this thesis, claiming that it requires implausible 'credal gaps'. Hájek also surveys a range of arguments for the view, but finds them all wanting. We argue that Hájek's concern about credal gaps is misplaced – there are gaps, but of a benign variety, easily seen to be needed for more general reasons. And we offer what we believe to be a new argument for the thesis in question, though one that is closely related to arguments about which Hájek is particularly dismissive. Again, our argument proposes that the thesis is a corollary of more general considerations, well developed elsewhere – in particular, of the so-called ‘transparency' of first-person present-tensed reflection on certain of one's own mental states.


April 3rd

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building


Visiting Lecturer University of Sydney

Max Plank Institute for the History of Science Berlin

Contingencies of Innovation: At the Crossroads from Manual to Machine Data Processing in Nineteenth-Century Europe

My talk takes the ubiquity of data in our own time as an inspiration to investigate data’s myriad histories. In order to present fresh perspectives on the dynamics of innovation at the historic crossroads of manual and machine data processing, I will delve into a micro-history of paperwork for census compilation in nineteenth-century Prussia. The advent of punch cards and the electric tabulating machine, invented in 1889, is typically described as a key milestone in the development of modern data processing, bringing about a fundamental and inexorable transformation of information technology.


My talk takes a stance against hurried conclusions of this nature. Rather than embrace teleological grand narratives of technological determinism, I explore the contingencies and particulars of the local, uncovering precisely how the census bureau in Berlin mastered the manual compilation of census data, and why it refused to invest in the new machinery.  This perspective allows me to elucidate how well-tried older techniques and practices were integrated into an era defined by (ostensibly) new machinery. “Contingencies of Innovation” does not attempt to show that the past inexorably led to our current data moment, or, for that matter, bigger, better data. Rather, it serves to “make the familiar strange” by alerting us to how something as apparently self-evident as “data” has enveloped many surprising and unfamiliar contexts and practices. 


April 10th

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building

Michael Devitt
Distinguished Professor of Philosophy The Graduate Center The City University of New York.


The consensus in the philosophy of biology is that a taxon’s essence or nature is wholly historical. In “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism” (2008), I rejected this consensus in arguing that there is an intrinsic component to the essence. Still I accepted that there was also an historical component. But why believe that there is? This paper begins with an argument, drawing on the literature, that this component is required by historical/evolutionary explanations. But most of the paper is concerned with another question. What precisely is this historical component?  An answer must be complete in that it distinguishes one taxon from another; for example, zebras from horses. An answer must be plausible in that posits an essence that can bear the explanatory burden. Despite asking around, I have been surprisingly unable to find a worked out complete and plausible answer in the literature. I go on to propose one: the relevant history of a taxon is of organisms of a certain intrinsic kind evolving into organisms of a certain other intrinsic kind, until we reach the taxon in question. The consensus is right that there is an historical component to the essence of a taxon but that component requires that there also be an intrinsic component.

April 24th

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building

Albert Atkin

Macquarie University

May 8th

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building


Greg Dawes
Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy
University of Otago

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building


CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building




 CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building