Wednesday, August 26, 2009

SANU Meeting August 31st 2009-08-26

This is the first of a planned series of meetings to explore common interests between philosophy of biology researchers at ANU and Sydney.

11.00-12.30 Show-and-Tell (5-10m each)
12.30-2.00 Lunch
2.00-2.30 Brett Calcott (ANU), "Levels of Selection and Individuality in Evolution: Conceptual Issues and the Role of Artificial Life Models" (15m talk, 15m discussion)
2.30-3.00 Jack Justus (Sydney), "A Case Study in Concept Determination: Ecological Diversity."
3.00-3.30 Coffee
3.30-4.15 Rachael Brown (ANU), "Reassessing the Modern Synthesis = Reassessing Behavioural Biology?"
4.15-4.30 Charles Wolfe (Sydney), “Montpellier Vitalism”
4.30-4.45 John Wilkins (Sydney), PrĂ©cis of “Species: A History of the Idea”

5.00-6.00 Reception and booklaunch for ‘Species: A History of the Idea”
6.30 Dinner

Anyone interested in attending the meeting should contact

Call for Papers:

The Future of Philosophy of Science

Sydney-Tilburg conference on

The Future of Philosophy of Science
Wednesday 14 - Friday 16 April 2010

Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Philosophy of science deals with the foundations and the methods of science. While the scope of philosophy of science is rather uncontroversial, there is considerable disagreement about its methodology. A look into the relevant journals reveals that there is a plurality of approaches. Some researchers use the traditional method of conceptual analysis, others engage in formal modeling, conduct case studies and – more recently – experiments, or consult the history of science in considerable detail. Despite the differences in these approaches, there also seem to be undeniable trends in our discipline, such as the increasing specialization, and the increasing co-operation with empirical scientists and policy makers. This conference will explore the future of philosophy of science. In particular, we are interested in how the different methods philosophers of science use relate to each other, whether they can fruitfully complement each other, and whether current trends allow predictions about the development of our field. We invite contributions that combine cutting-edge individual research with a general perspective on the methods and future of philosophy of science.

We invite submissions of both a short abstract (max. 100 words) and an extended abstract (1000-1500 words) through our automatic submission systemby 15 November 2009. Decisions will be made by 15 December 2009.

The conference language is English.

Selected papers will be published in a special issue of European Journal for the Philosophy of Science (subject to the usual refereeing process). The submission deadline is 1 July 2010. The maximal paper length is 7000 words.

Graduate Fellowships
A few travel bursaries for graduate students are available (up to 200 €). If you wish to be considered please submit a CV and a travel budget in addition to your extended abstract.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Philosophy @ 2009 Melbourne Writers Festival

Hosted by the Monash University School of Philosophy & Bioethics, as part of its Philosophy in Australasia project.

Saturday, August 22, 11:30am-12:30pm, ACMI cinema 2
John Armstrong (University of Melbourne), “Searching for Civilisation”
What is civilisation, really? It can mean a lot of different things: technlology, art, medicine, education, cooking, economic or political progress; and sometimes it has been a fig leaf for imperialism. I want to get beneath the surface: What are the more personal issues at stake here? Why should civilisation matter to me? I trace the idea to its core: the hope of integrating material needs and ‘higher longings’ (beauty, love, wisdom). But is this hope realistic? This is a great issue of both private life and public culture.

Sunday, August 23, 5:30-6:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Neil Levy (University of Melbourne, and Oxford Centre for Neuroethics), “Free Will and the Brain”
Articles in popular science frequently claim that scientists have shown that there is no such thing as free will. The findings upon which these claims are based are often interesting, as I will show, but they don’t threaten the existence of free will in any way. Nevertheless, I will argue that we can learn a great deal about human decision-making processes, and the ways in which they go awry, from the sciences of the mind. I will show how we can use cognitive science to understand the loss of self-control in pathological cases like addiction as well as in more ordinary cases.

Saturday, August 29, 2:30-3:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Michelle Boulous Walker (University of Queensland), “Reading Essayistically: Toward an ethics of reading and an open-ended philosophy”
An exploration of what an open-ended philosophy might be from the perspective of how we read. If reading is a performance that can be judged in ethical terms, then reading essayistically (or in the mode of the essay) suggests a model of open-ended rumination that takes its time and returns – time and time again – to the matter at hand. Such a reading thwarts our modern preoccupation with speed and haste, and opens us to the wondrous space of a slow engagement that welcomes thought. Just as the essay engages its topic in ways that meander luxuriously through time and space, so too does reading essayistically open philosophy – or thought – to an indeterminate space from which the ethics of a “receptive attitude” or “patient attention to the other” may emerge. As such, philosophy can be enticed to relax its anxiety to know and to know fully (in the manner of the neurotic), and come that bit closer to being an infinite and wondrous engagement with life.

Sunday, August 30, 3:30-4:30pm, ACMI cinema 1
Russell Grigg (Deakin University), “In the Name of the Father: understanding monotheism and fundamentalism”
Why have the reports of the death of God turned out to be greatly exaggerated? Why has the appeal of religion proved so tenacious? I will discuss some of the deep psychological reasons for the continuing hold that religion, specially monotheism, has over the human mind. I would like to offer some ideas about the psychological forces behind two recent phenomena: the rise of fundamentalism and the emergence of new forms of spiritualism.

For more details about the Festival, and to make bookings, please go to <> .

2010-11 Visiting Fellowship applications open


We are currently inviting applications for one-semester visiting fellowships at The University of Sydney, for either second semester (August to November) 2010 or first semester (February to May) 2011. This program is associated with The Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science (SCFS), a research centre sponsoring work into the logical, philosophical and historical foundations of science (further details below). We are hoping to receive applications from leading historians and philosophers of science (including the special sciences and biomedical sciences) at any post-PhD career stage. This is the fourth round of such fellowships and we anticipate being able to offer them each year.

It is expected that there will be up to four fellowships per year, and each fellowship will come with a travelling allowance of up to AUD 6,000. These fellowships will provide opportunities for academics on sabbatical from their home institution to spend a semester in a productive and collegial research environment (in a beautiful city), to work with members of the SCFS and with other visiting fellows. The stipend is to help offset some of the travelling and living-away-from-home expenses. The successful applicants will be expected to work on a specific research project that is of interest to members of the SCFS. One of the aims of the SCFS is to strengthen international links in history and philosophy of science, so expressions of interest from researchers outside Australia are particularly encouraged.

Applications should including a cover letter, a CV, and a brief outline of the proposed research project (including why you wish to pursue the research at the University of Sydney and which members of the SCFS team you anticipate collaborating with). Applications should be sent (preferably electronically) to:

Rod Taveira
Administrative Officer
Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry
A14, Main Quadrangle
University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW, 2006

by 30th September 2009.


The SCFS is an interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Sydney. We draw together researchers from philosophy, history, history and philosophy of science, science and medicine, with research concentrations in and around foundations of physics, decision theory, history and philosophy of biology, history of early modern science, and history of medicine. Senior members of the SCFS include, Warwick Anderson, Stephen Bartlett, Alison Bashford, David Braddon-Mitchell, Mark Colyvan, Clio Cresswell, Ofer Gal, Stephen Garton, Stephen Gaukroger, Paul Griffiths, Jenann Ismael, Ian Kerridge, Dominic Murphy, Hans Pols, Huw Price, Dean Rickles, Nick Smith, and Karola Stotz. We also have a number of mid-career and junior faculty, as well as several postdoctoral fellows and graduate students associated with the SCFS. Further details can be found on our website: <>

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Naturalism and Normativity Reading Group, Semester Two 2009

Convenors: David Macarthur, Paul Griffiths, Charles Wolfe

This reading group is designed to take advantage of the visit of Prof Lenny Moss, University of Exeter, to explore the connections between contemporary biology and the philosophical debate over the place of the normative in the natural world. Prof Moss holds PhDs in cell biology from UC Berkeley and philosophy from Northwestern University and his research examines contemporary biology from the perspective of post-Kantian philosophical anthropology (see: His visit is part of an ongoing collaboration between the researchers at the University of Exeter and a five-year ARC-funded project on postgenomic biology and human nature headed by Prof Griffiths and Dr Karola Stotz. Two visiting students from Exeter will also be participating in the seminar.

Amongst the other seminar convenors, Dr David Macarthur is editor of the recent Normativity and Nature: Toward a Liberal Naturalism (Columbia 2008) and has published extensively on these themes. Dr Charles Wolfe brings expertise on the history of biological thought about the role of purpose in nature, and is currently editing a special issue of History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences on the idea of the organism.

The seminar will meet Friday 1-3 except on two dates when it will meet Wednesday 11-1 to accommodate Prof. Moss’s other commitments while in Australia.

Contact Paul Griffiths

Times and (tentative) Texts

1. Friday July 31, 1.00-3.00
Science, Nature and Normativity - Renewing Critical Theory from a Naturalistic Point of View. Lenny Moss & Vida Pavesich (Manuscript) Discussion leaders: Moss and Pavesich

2. Friday Aug 7, 1.00-3.00
“Naturalizing the Human or Humanizing Nature: Outlines of a New Naturalism, David Macarthur. Discussion leader David Macarthur

3. Wednesday Aug 12, 11.00-1.00
Exchange between John McDowell and Herbert Dreyfus, Inquiry 50 (4) 2007: 338-377 and responses by each author.

4. Friday Aug 21, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Plessner, Cassirer, Goldstein: Discussion Leader Charles Wolfe

5. Friday Aug 28, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Georges Canguilhem Knowledge of Life

6. Friday Sept 4, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Evan Thompson Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind (Harvard, 2007) and Marc Kirschner John Gerhart The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma (Yale 2006)

7. Wednesday Sept 9, 11.00-1.00
Exchange between Michael Thompson and Jay Bernstein?

8. Friday Sept 25, 1.00-3.00
Extracts from Robert Brandom?

Paul Griffiths' Inaugural Lecture August 11th

The Sydney University Arts Association presents The Inaugural Lecture of Professor Paul E. Griffiths, Department of Philosophy and Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science

Reconstructing Human Nature: Tuesday 11th August 2009 at 6:00pm

Refreshments in the Woolley Common Room from 5:30pm. Lecture in the Woolley Theatre N395 Woolley Building. The Common Room is on the first floor of the Woolley Building. The Lecture Theatre is on the right hand side of the entrance lobby.


The idea of human nature is the locus of longstanding disputes about the relevance of the biological sciences to the humanities and social sciences. But the ideas of "human nature", "instinct", and "innateness" are not derived from the biological sciences. They originate in intuitive, pre-scientific thought about living things, sometimes known as "folkbiology". In this lecture Professor Griffiths will present a model of the folkbiological understanding of human nature, based on empirical research conducted with biologically naive subjects in Australia and North America. This folkbiological understanding of human nature is fundamentally inconsistent with current biology. This raises the pressing issue of what a biologically credible account of human nature would look like, and he will try to address this question.

A philosopher of science with a focus on biology and psychology, Paul was educated at Cambridge and the Australian National University. He taught at Otago University in New Zealand and was later Director of the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science at The University of Sydney, before taking up a Professorship in Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. He returned to Australia in 2004, first as an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow and then as University Professorial Research Fellow at the University of Sydney . He spends part of each year at the University of Exeter in the ESRC Centre for Genomics in Society. He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, an adjunct member of the Pittsburgh HPS faculty, and a member of the Australian Health Ethics Committee of NHMRC.

For further information regarding upcoming events, please see: Or contact:

Emeritus Professor Paul Crittenden T: 9799 7796 E:

Emeritus Professor Nerida Newbigin T: 9351 3594 E:

Dr Michael McDonnell T:9351 6733 E: