Spring 2014 Colloquium Series
All talks are on Friday from 4:00 to 5:30 PM in Ballantine Hall 003, unless otherwise noted.
Calendar [click date for details]
|Jan 1||Maria Elice de Brzezinski Prestes||"Lazzaro Spallanzani and controversies in the teaching of biology"||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Jan 18||Alan Love||Microbes modeling ontogeny: Between representation and manipulation|
|Feb 1||Edouard Machery||Neuroimagery and significance testing|
|Feb 14||FRANK FEHRENBACH||Curved Lines: Leonardo da Vinci and the Techné of Draughtsmanship||5:30 PM - 6:30 PM|
|Feb 15||Robert Allen Shotwell||‘An Ape or a Dog at Hand’ Sixteenth-Century Approaches to Public Dissections and Andreas Vesalius’s Use of Animals in the Study of Human Anatomy||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Feb 22||Anjan Chakravartty||The Necessity and Inefficacy of Historical Cases for Scientific (Anti-)Realism|
|Mar 1||Geoffrey Hellman||TBA|
|Mar 8||Michelle Facos TALK CANCELLED||Art and Natural Science in Late 18th-Century Copenhagen||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Mar 29||Richard Burian||The Molecularization of Biology and the Regulative Ideal of the Integration of Science|
|Apr 5||Ron Giere, Professor Emeritus||Pragmatism and Contemporary Philosophy of Science||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Apr 12||Laura Foster||"Re-inventing Hoodia: Boundary Objects and Benefit Sharing in Southern Africa"||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
|Apr 26||Albert Newen||"Animal Cognition: Is there a feature that marks an anthropological borderline?"||1:30 PM - 3:00 PM|
Jan 1 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Maria Elice de Brzezinski Prestes
University of Sao Paulo
Title: "Lazzaro Spallanzani and controversies in the teaching of biology"
Abstract: We find in the Eighteenth Century a well-known controversy among scholars about whether "animalcules of infusions" were originated by equivocal generation (spontaneous), from organic matter, or univocal generation, from parents. John Tuberville Needham (1713-1781) and Lazzaro Spallanzani (1729-1799) were among the scholars that performed several experiments in order to clarify the issue. This presentation will discuss the experimental procedures of investigation in Needham and Spallanzani, relating them with the conceptual aspects relevant to the debate. Our goal is to analyze the evidence found to support their antagonistic positions and, particularly, check whether the evidence found by Spallanzani was sufficiently conclusive to Needham renounce his system. Taken as a genuine example of scientific controversy, in the sense given by McMullin (1987), this historical episode will be suggested for use in the teaching of biology, in order to promote explicit discussions about the nature of science.
Univesity of Minnesota
Title: Microbes modeling ontogeny: Between representation and manipulation
Abstract: Model organisms are central to contemporary biology and studies of embryogenesis in particular. Biologists utilize only a small number of species to experimentally elucidate the phenomena and mechanisms of development in great depth. Critics have questioned whether these experimental models are good representatives of their targets because of the inherent biases involved in their selection (e.g., rapid development and short generation time). A standard response is that the manipulative molecular techniques available for experimental analysis counterbalance, if not mitigate, this concern. But the most powerful investigative techniques and molecular methods are applicable to single-celled organisms (‘microbes’). Why not use unicellular rather than multicellular model organisms, which are the standard for contemporary developmental biology? To claim that microbes are not good representatives takes us back to the original criticism leveled against model organisms. Using empirical case studies of microbes modeling ontogeny, I break out of this circle of reasoning by showing: (a) that the criterion of representation is more complex than earlier discussions have emphasized; and, (b) that different dimensions of manipulability are not only comparable in importance to representation when deciding if a model organism is a good model, but also harbor the prospect of enhancing representation. The result is a better understanding of how developmental biologists conceptualize research using experimental models and suggestions for underappreciated avenues of inquiry using microbes. More generally, it demonstrates how the practical aspects of biology must be scrutinized in order to understand the associated scientific reasoning.
University of Pittsburgh
Title: Neuroimagery and significance testing
Abstract: Functional hypotheses in cognitive neuroscience are often tested by submitting statistical hypotheses to significance tests. Surprisingly, however, Colin Klein has recently argued that the appeal to significance tests prevents neuroimagery to provide evidence for or against functional hypothesis. In this talk, I will explain why Klein's criticism fails.
Feb 14 5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
Place: Oak Room
Title: Curved Lines: Leonardo da Vinci and the Techné of Draughtsmanship
Abstract: In a passage for his planned Treatise on Painting, Leonardo da Vinci claimed that the practice of painting is more dignified than theoretical knowledge. Throughout his career as a scientist and technologist, Leonardo developed the genre of drawing as an experimental field for theory. This paper will focus on the category of process, on graphic materials, ‘chaotic’ compositions, and the development of Leonardo’s graphic techniques, with a special emphasis on the relationship between the curved line and Leonardo’s hydrological and anatomical studies. Frank Fehrenbach is Professor of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. Renaissance Studies Co-Sponsored by History & Philosophy of Science
Feb 15 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM Hanson Lecture
Robert Allen Shotwell
Title: ‘An Ape or a Dog at Hand’ Sixteenth-Century Approaches to Public Dissections and Andreas Vesalius’s Use of Animals in the Study of Human Anatomy
Abstract: In this paper I examine the procedures involved in conducting public dissection demonstrations in the early sixteenth century. I suggest that those sorts of demonstrations followed a set order and focused on certain parts of the body at the expense of others, and, because they focused on human anatomy and were supplied with human bodies, did not involve animal dissection. I then turn to Vesalius’s method for conducting public dissections and note that he made extensive use of animals. Vesalius’s animal use was a direct result of the changes he made in the traditional method of conducting public dissections, changes that required him to employ animal bodies to augment the human corpse. By using animal and human bodies together, Vesalius was able to identify a number of the problems in Galen’s account of anatomy
Title: The Necessity and Inefficacy of Historical Cases for Scientific (Anti-)Realism
Abstract: Case studies of past and present science are often invoked as evidence for and against scientific realism. How weighty is this evidence? I consider the question in light of three arguments. The first concerns the possible robustness of disputes about realism and antirealism under historical reflections regarding scientific methodologies and practices. A second asserts the immunity of realist and antirealist stances to historical inductions on the fates of past scientific theories. A third targets the likely inability of case studies to adjudicate between different versions of scientific realism via discussions of the ontologies of theories in the metaphysics of science.
University of Minnesota
Mar 8 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Michelle Facos TALK CANCELLED
Title: Art and Natural Science in Late 18th-Century Copenhagen
Abstract: In the late 18th-century Denmark's art academy was housed in the same building, Charlottenburg Palace, as the natural history collections. This talk will focus on Danish Painter Jens Juel and the degree to which this co-existence informed his atypical fascination with natural, particularly atmospheric, phenomena. TALK HAS BEEN CANCELLED
Mar 29 Coffa Lecture
Virginia Polytech Institute
Title: The Molecularization of Biology and the Regulative Ideal of the Integration of Science
Abstract: Once upon a time, philosophers and many physical scientists thought that the ideal of unified science could – and should – be accomplished by some sort of theoretical integration. To achieve the aim of integration would be to articulate a set of fundamental (theoretical) laws from which one could derive or predict transitions from a given states of affair to subsequent states of affairs. The laws of particular sciences, perhaps originally arrived at independently, should (at least in principle) be derivable from the fundamental laws, perhaps with the aid of boundary conditions. In the last thirty years (or perhaps a bit more) the biological sciences have seen this ideal wane. I suggest two principal reasons for this. The first is the rethinking of evolutionary biology, a discipline that seems unlikely to achieve Darwin’s ambition of providing rigorous laws and that has been recognized to be deeply historical, filled with salient contingencies that alter the regularities with which it works. The second reason is the recognition of the complexities imposed by the molecular networks involved in the interactions among biological molecules and mechanisms. In this presentation I will focus on the character of the molecularization of the biological sciences (most centrally genetics) and the impact that molecularization has had on the way biologists and philosophers of biology think (and should think) about the unification of biological sciences. I will argue that the changes in scientists’ understanding of integration and of the unity of the sciences involved are of fundamental importance for history and philosophy of science, for the bear (among other things) on standards of adequacy of evidence and on the nature of some important scientific explanations.
Apr 5 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Ron Giere, Professor Emeritus
Center for Philosophy of Science Professor Emeritus,University of Minnesota, Adjunct Professor, Dep
Title: Pragmatism and Contemporary Philosophy of Science
Abstract: The Philosophy of Science in the first decade of the twenty-first century is characterized by a great diversity of topics with increasing emphasis on the theories and methods of the special sciences. There is no recognized general philosophical orientation playing the role played by Logical Empiricism during the third quarter of the twentieth century. I suggest that a version of Pragmatism can play that role. Postponing the question whether the philosophy of science needs a general philosophical orientation, I examine several Pragmatist related themes: naturalism, non-foundationism, language, distributed cognition, instrumentalism, a pragmatic empiricism/realism, and the relation between science and values. These themes provide at the least the beginnings of a Pragmatist philosophical framework for contemporary Philosophy of Science. As for the question whether the philosophy of science needs a general philosophical framework, I can offer no better than the very traditional answer that, like the sciences themselves, no philosophical investigation into the nature of science can proceed without some general conceptual framework. It is better this framework be explicit and so itself subject to critical examination.
Apr 12 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Title: "Re-inventing Hoodia: Boundary Objects and Benefit Sharing in Southern Africa"
Abstract: In 1996 researchers with the South African Center for Scientific and Industrial Research (“CSIR”) isolated and patented certain chemical compositions within the Hoodia gordonii plant responsible for suppressing appetite. Hoodia gordonii suddenly emerged as a patented invention poised to be a blockbuster anti-obesity drug. At the same time, the plant became a symbol of South Africa as nation of innovation. However, as global pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer, and eventually Unilever, rushed to develop Hoodia-based products for the growing “obesity epidemic” in the United States, Indigenous San peoples publically accused scientists of stealing their knowledge of the plant. Advancing a powerful global campaign, San peoples negotiated a benefit sharing agreement with CSIR giving them 6% of the potential revenue from future Hoodia sales. Hopes for Hoodia, however, ended in 2009 when Unilever terminated the project. Drawing upon and contributing to feminist post-colonial science studies, this talk considers Hoodia gordonii as a boundary object that brings the divergent interests and stakes of various social actors together. Furthermore, it unpacks the black box of patent law to ask how both science and law work together to determine who is (or is not) considered an inventor and producer of science. Opening up the seemingly objective and neutral valences of patent law reveals how neoliberalism and ideologies of liberal personhood are increasingly reinforced through novel contractual relationships and their property logics, rather than strictly through domination and exclusion.
Apr 26 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM
Institute for Philosophy II, Ruhr-University
Title: "Animal Cognition: Is there a feature that marks an anthropological borderline?"
Abstract: In the last two decades we have witnessed the emergence of radically new insights concerning the cognitive abilities of animals. Considering some new insights especially in birds, dogs and monkeys, I am discussing the recent candidates for an anthropological borderline between human and nonhuman animals. It is argued by induction on the basis of significant examples that for all features (as candidates for an anthropological borderline) we find astonishing roots in nonhuman animals. If we account for the top-level abilities of the most advanced nonhuman species (including systematic training of the animals) the suggested borderline tends to be uninterestingly high because it excludes human children up to a certain age who are still lacking these abilities. If we account for a gradual and species-specific development of cognition in evolution and ontogeny (even with significant small steps), the best we can do to compare species is to develop species-specific profiles concerning relevant cognitive abilities. Comparing species would then take place by comparing these profiles while we should give up the idea that any one of the cognitive features alone would allow us to mark an anthropological borderline. Preparatory work: Newen, A., Bartels, A.: Animal Minds and the Possession of Concepts. Philosophical Psychology 20 (2007), 283-308.