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October 2017

G. Barker, Coming to Terms with the Organic: Emerging Perspectives for the Global Environmental Crisis (Event Postponed)

October 4, 2017 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Victoria College

This event has been postponed due to illness. Discussions of climate change reveal a deep disconnect in our thinking about environmental issues in the human-dominated world of the 21st century. The language and conceptual tools shared by many climate scientists and policy-makers remain attached to a reductive mechanistic perspective that eschews talk of values, while those shared by many activists and practical experts have strong strains of a value-laden organicist holism. Both views are dangerously inadequate to guide effective and… Continue Reading G. Barker, Coming to Terms with the Organic: Emerging Perspectives for the Global Environmental Crisis (Event Postponed)

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November 2017

S. Hossenfelder, Lost in Math – How Beauty Misleads Physics

November 15, 2017 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Victoria College

A good theory of nature should be "natural," according to theoretical physicists. In the foundations of physics, naturalness has obtained a mathematical definition and it has become one of the most important criteria for theory development. The criterion is working badly, but physicists continue to use it nevertheless. Why? In this talk, I will summarize the historical roots of naturalness and discuss its legacy.

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December 2017

S. Berryman, Satisfaction to Ingenious Minds’: Powers, Mathematics and Mechanics in ancient Greek Natural Philosophy

December 6, 2017 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Northrop Frye Hall, room 119, 73 Queen's Park Crescent East
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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Robert Boyle favoured mechanical explanations on account of their ability to persuade: I shall explore the earliest debates about the adequacy of mechanical analogies to account for the natural world, and why these were regarded as inadequate. Galen’s insistence on the need to appeal to certain kinds of powers within organisms helps understand what the perceived limitations of mechanical analogies were, and why the advocates of teleological natural philosophy doubted the explanatory range of mechanics.

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January 2018

A. Jones, Ptolemy’s Epistemological Arsenal

January 10 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Northrop Frye Hall, room 119, 73 Queen's Park Crescent East
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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In his *Harmonics*, Ptolemy (2nd century CE) outlines a strategy for obtaining and refining scientific knowledge through alternating appeals to sense perception and to reason, and he puts this strategy into practice in both the *Harmonics* (concerning the pitch systems of Greco-Roman music) and the *Almagest* (concerning the apparent movements and appearances of the heavenly bodies). The fundamental role of empirical evidence in Ptolemy's scientific epistemology, however, is qualified by three limitations: first, that all sense perceptions are inexact; second,… Continue Reading A. Jones, Ptolemy’s Epistemological Arsenal

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February 2018

A. Voskuhl, Engineering philosophy: machine culture and social and intellectual elites in the Second Industrial Revolution

February 7 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Northrop Frye Hall, room 119, 73 Queen's Park Crescent East
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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This talk is concerned with the machine culture of the Second Industrial Revolution and the contemporary emergence of the subfield of philosophy of technology. Philosophers newly established technology as an object of philosophical inquiry and started to grasp in metaphysical, aesthetic, and phenomenological terms the realities of the new machine age. Their discussions attracted the attention of philosophically and politically ambitious engineers, who were at the same time involved in a complex process of social emancipation: being a nascent profession,… Continue Reading A. Voskuhl, Engineering philosophy: machine culture and social and intellectual elites in the Second Industrial Revolution

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March 2018

M. Massimi, Two kinds of exploratory models

March 14 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Northrop Frye Hall, room 119, 73 Queen's Park Crescent East
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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Please join us for our March colloquium, presented by Michela Massimi. The abstract is as follows: I analyse the exploratory function of two main modelling practices: targetless fictional models and hypothetical perspectival models. In both cases, I argue, modelers invite us to imagine or conceive something about the target system, which is either known to be non-existent (fictional models) or just hypothetical (in perspectival models). I clarify the kind of imagining or conceiving involved in each modelling practice, and I show… Continue Reading M. Massimi, Two kinds of exploratory models

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April 2018

M. Lange, There sweep great general principles which all the laws seem to follow

April 4 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Northrop Frye Hall, room 119, 73 Queen's Park Crescent East
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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I will distinguish two ways in which these ""great general principles"" (such as the conservation laws) might hold: as constraints on the first-order laws of nature or as coincidences of them. I will characterize what difference it would make that the conservation laws are constraints rather than coincidences, drawing on some examples from the history of science. This account will give us a way to understand what a hierarchy of natural necessities would be.

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September 2018

Sarah Igo: Sex, Science, and Secrets in the Sixties

September 6 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Victoria College, Room 323, 73 Queen's Park Crescent
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1K7 Canada
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My talk, based on my recently published book, The Known Citizen, focuses on a moment when ideas in the United States about privacy and social research were evolving in tandem.  I examine shifting sensibilities about confidentiality and consent in the 1960s and 1970s through the case of Laud Humphreys, a sociologist who conducted a path-breaking ethnographic study of gay male sex in public restrooms.  Humphreys was initially applauded for the boldness of his research.  Soon enough, however, he would be… Continue Reading Sarah Igo: Sex, Science, and Secrets in the Sixties

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October 2018

Jacob Stegenga: Stereotypes, Generics, and Probabilities

October 10 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Victoria College, Room 115

Jacob Stegenga, Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge A stereotype is a belief that a group of people tends to have a particular feature. Stereotypes have the form of generic statements, like ‘dogs bark.’ Recent work on generics lends new life to understanding generics with the help of probability theory. Stereotypes are generics, and generics are probabilities, so stereotypes are probabilities. More specifically, generics (and thus stereotypes) can take one of several forms involving conditional probabilities, and these… Continue Reading Jacob Stegenga: Stereotypes, Generics, and Probabilities

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November 2018

Michael Strevens: Causal Difference-Making and Inference to the Best Explanation

November 14 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
Victoria College, Room 115

Explainers are difference-makers, and scientific explainers are (for the most part) causal difference-makers—so many of us believe. If there is such a thing as scientific inference to the best explanation, then, it is more often than not inference from phenomena to the causal difference-makers that explain them. That sounds sensible, as Peter Lipton remarked 25 years ago. I will refresh this venerable line of thought by investigating ways in which more recent work on the difference-making approach to causal explanation illuminates characteristic features of scientific confirmation, above… Continue Reading Michael Strevens: Causal Difference-Making and Inference to the Best Explanation

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