Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Alternative Approaches to Scientific Realism (16 - 17 April 2020)

Idea & Motivation

There has been a recent move in philosophy of science towards views that in some sense reject the strict dichotomy between realism and anti-realism, or otherwise situate themselves between these two extremes. These include varieties of structuralism, perspectivalism, and pluralism/relativism, and have been applied across various scientific domains, including physics, mathematics, biology, cognitive science, and computer science. It seems plausible that each of these views might share some motivations and have in mind a similar target, i.e. the idea that there is an attitude we could hold towards our scientific theories that is somehow ‘less’ demanding than full-blown realism, and yet somehow ‘more’ rigorous than full-blown anti-realism. This conference will bring together representatives of each of these viewpoints, in order to compare the respective progress made by each approach, and to develop a shared foundation for the future development of alternatives to traditional scientific realism and anti-realism.

Call for Abstracts

We welcome submission of 500 word abstracts from early career researchers on any topic related to the themes of the conference. Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

  • What is the common ground between structuralist, perspectivalist, pluralist, and relativist approaches to scientific theory and practice?
  • What are the major differences between these approaches?
  • How might insights from each approach be applied to problems faced by the others?
  • Should we take a different approach (qua realism) to scientific theorising in distinct fields or domains?
  • Could one (or more) of these approaches be collapsed into a single shared approach?
  • Are these approaches all 'stable', or do they risk collapsing into either full-blown realism or anti-realism?
  • Are these approaches merely provisional, until we reach a 'completed' science, or should we adopt an 'in-principle' structuralist, perspectivalist, or relativist approach towards science?

We will be able to cover all travel and accommodation expenses for accepted speakers from Europe, and to subsidise travel expenses from further afield (enabled by a generous grant from the DFG). Abstracts should be suitably blinded, and submitted to the easychair conference page. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2019. Questions should be directed to Joe Dewhurst (

Invited Speakers

Natalie Alana Ashton is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow on the AHRC-funded project "Norms for the New Public Sphere" at the University of Stirling. Her research concerns the political and social aspects of epistemology, specifically the effects of oppression and power on epistemic justification. Previously she was a Postdoctoral Fellow on the ERC-funded project "The Emergence of Relativism" at the University of Vienna, where she worked on a variety of topics including epistemic relativism and feminist standpoint theory.

Fiona Doherty is a temporary lecturer at the University of Stirling. Her research focuses on the history of analytic philosophy (especially philosophy of mathematics), and applications of that history to contemporary philosophical issues. Most recently she has been working on developing a form of mathematical structuralism inspired by the early work of David Hilbert, and applying this to a variety of issues including computational implementation and individuation.

Ana-Maria Cretu is a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Edinburgh, working on the Perspectival Realism project. Her work is principally within History and Philosophy of Science, with a particular emphasis on classifications, real patterns, and disagreements. She is also interested in the nature of knowledge yielded by instruments, the history of human computers, as well as the link between the two. Recently she has also started to engage more with issues of feminism(s) and epistemic injustice.

Martin Kusch is Professor of Philosophy of Science and Epistemology at the University of Vienna. Before moving to Vienna in 2009, he was Professor for History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Finnish Academy of Science, and a member of the Academia Europaea as well as the Institut International de Philosophie. He has published in the philosophy of the natural and social sciences, epistemology, philosophy of language and mind, philosophy of technology, the history of German and Austrian philosophy as well as the sociology of scientific knowledge. From 2014 until 2019 he was PI of an ERC Advanced Grant Project entitled "The Emergence of Relativism". His current work relates to this project, e.g. (as author) RELATIVISM IN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE (due out in 2020, CUP); THE FIRST RELATVIST: A STUDY OF GEORG SIMMEL (in prep.); (as editor), THE ROUTLEDGE HANDBOOK ON RELATIVISM (due out in 2020); (as co-editor), THE EMERGENCE OF RELATIVISM (Routledge 2019), SOCIAL EPISTEMOLOGY AND EPISTEMIC RELATIVISM (Routledge, 2020).

James Ladyman is Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bristol. His work has primarily been in general philosophy of science and philosophy of physics. He has worked extensively on scientific realism, constructive empiricism and structural realism. He also works on scientific representation, physicalism, the relationship between the special sciences and physics, naturalised metaphysics, the philosophy of information and computation, and the philosophy of mathematics. He works with Stuart Presnell on the foundations and philosophy of Homotopy Type Theory and its application to physics, with Karoline Wiesner on complexity science, and with Nello Cristianini on AI and Big Data. He is also interested in the impact agenda and science policy. He is co-editor of Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics.

Michela Massimi is Professor of Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, affiliated with the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Astronomical Society, and elected Member of the Academia Europaea. Her primary research interests are on philosophy of science, the history and philosophy of modern physics, and Kant's philosophy of nature. She is currently working on an ERC-funded project on perspectival realism.

James Read is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and a Tutorial Fellow at Pembroke College, Oxford. His research is focussed in the philosophy of physics: in particular, in the foundations of spacetime theories and the interpretation of symmetries. On the latter topic, he has defended a realist attitude towards symmetry-related models of physical theories, against various 'perspectival' and 'structural' alternatives.


For information about practical matters and registration, please contact the co-organisers, Joe Dewhurst ( and Neil Dewar (