School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences Philosophy


Philosophy of Science @ Edinburgh


Philosophy of Science imagePhilosophy of Science is a thriving field of research at the key juncture between philosophy and cutting-edge research in the sciences at large (from the physical sciences to the neurosciences). The University of Edinburgh has recently established a new research cluster in Philosophy of Science, which is uniquely placed to pursue interdisciplinary research in the field, in synergy with other research clusters such as Mind & Cognition, Epistemology, and Early Modern Philosophy

Key areas and topics covered by faculty members in Philosophy of Science include: metaphysical issues in science (philosophy of time and time-travel; realism and antirealism; natural kinds; causation; laws of nature); history and philosophy of science (especially, the history and philosophy of natural sciences); philosophy of psychology; philosophy of neuroscience; philosophy of cognitive sciences, and foundations of probability. The research cluster has also links with History at Edinburgh, with the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and with the Science and Religion Programme in the School of Divinity.

Research questions

These are some of the research questions that faculty members in Philosophy of Science are interested in:

  • What is time? Is time-travel possible?
  • Is truth the aim of science?
  • What is a law of nature?
  • Do natural kinds carve nature’s joints or are they human constructions?
  • What is causation?
  • Should we be relativist about science?
  • What is the nature of scientific explanation?
  • Is fictionalism about science viable?
  • What is the role of probability in scientific theories?
  • What justifies the Born rule in quantum physics?

Philosophy and the Sciences MOOC (Massive Online Open Course). Learn about the historical and philosophical foundations of contemporary science. Explore cutting-edge debates in the philosophy of the physical sciences and philosophy of the cognitive sciences. The Philosophy and the Sciences MOOC second iteration launched 21 September 2015.

The Eidyn Research Centre hosts the ERC Consolidator Grant on Perspectival Realism. Science, Knowledge, and Truth from a Human Vantage Point (2016-2020), PI: Michela Massimi. For events, fieldwork, public outreach and related activities please visit the Perspectival Realism website.


Faculty members working in Philosophy of Science:

  • Dr Alistair Isaac joins Philosophy @ Edinburgh in September 2013. Dr Isaac gained his PhD at Stanford University (2010) and was postdoctoral fellow in the Philosophy Department at the University of Pennsylvania, working with Gary Hatfield on a NSF project "Measurement and Isomorphism in the Psychology of Perception". Dr Isaac specializes in Philosophy of Psychology and Philosophy of Cognitive Science.
  • Dr Suilin Lavelle joins Philosophy @ Edinburgh in June 2013, having previously been a Teaching Fellow in Philosophy at Edinburgh (2011-2013). Dr Lavelle’s PhD was from Sheffield, and her primary research area is philosophy of psychology and the philosophy of neuroscience, as well as general philosophy of science (scientific explanation, in particular).
  • Prof Michela Massimi joined Philosophy @ Edinburgh in September 2012, having previously taught for seven years in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at UCL. Prof Massimi works on realism and antirealism in science, laws of nature, natural kinds and causation. She has extensively written on the history and philosophy of the physical sciences. Her publications include Pauli’s Exclusion Principle (CUP, 2005) and Kant and Philosophy of Science Today (CUP, 2008). She is the Co-Editor in Chief of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and the PI on a Leverhulme international network grant on "Kant and the Laws of Nature" (2012-2015) which is hosted by the Eidyn Research Centre. Prof Massimi is also the Project Leader of the IASH-funded Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences. Prof Massimi is also the PI on a large European Research Council Consolidator Grant entitled Perspectival Realism (2016-2020).
  • Dr Alasdair Richmond has been teaching Philosophy of Science in Edinburgh since 2003. His area of research is at the intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of science, and he has extensively published on time travel, the topology of time, and the anthropic principle, as well as on early modern philosophy.
  • Dr Mark Sprevak joined Philosophy @ Edinburgh in 2011, having previously been the recipient of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship and of a Junior Research Fellowship at King’s College, University of Cambridge. Dr Sprevak’s work is at the intersection of philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science. He is currently working on a Routledge textbook on computational theories of mind, and on fictionalism in science. Mark is the Co-Pi on an AHRC-funded project on the "History of Distributed Cognition".
  • Wolfgang Schwarz joined Philosophy @ Edinburgh in January 2015, after several post-doc positions at the Australasian National University. He works - among other things - on the structure and interpretation of probability in science, the status of laws, and selected topics in philosophy of physics and cognitive science.

Other members of staff interested in Philosophy of Science include: Prof Andy Clark (philosophy of mind and embodied cognition); Prof Jesper Kallestrup (metaphysics of science, emergence and reductionism); Dr Pauline Pheminster (history and philosophy of life sciences, especially the 18th century); Prof Duncan Pritchard (scientific explanation and understanding, the epistemology of scientific knowledge); and Dr Nick Treanor (the metaphysics of science, the relation between physics and the special sciences, physicalism). The following postdoctoral fellows also work in the area of philosophy of science: Adam Carter, Jamie Collin, and Orestis Palermos

Philosophy of Science Research Seminars

"Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Debates" is a new dedicated research seminar series with external speakers coming on a fortnight basis (in both semester 1 and 2).

The research seminar series is part of our new MSc specialization in Philosophy of Science.

Reading Groups

The goal of the Models in Science and Cognition Reading Group (MiSC) is to attract theorists of modelling along with those who practise it, for a joint appraisal of models within science and cognition.

Recent and upcoming events

2015 - 2016

  • ERC-sponsored International conference on Perspectival modelling: pluralism and integration. The goal of this first international conference - part of the ERC Consolidator Grant Perspectival Realism (PI: Prof Massimi) - is to explore methodological problems and prospects of perspectival modelling across the sciences. What challenges does the integration of data coming from incompatible models pose? And what are the prospects of a pluralistic approach to perspectival modelling? (July 2nd and 3rd 2016)
  • Integrated History and Philosophy of Science conference (&HPS6). This is the 6th conference of a very successful series of international conferences under the general heading of Integrated History and Philosophy of Science that for the first time is held in the UK. The conference will feature three full days of contributed papers and invited talks that integrate the historical and philosophical analysis of science (i.e., the physical sciences, life sciences, cognitive sciences, and social sciences). This conference will also serve as the 11th annual workshop of the UK Integrated HPS Network. (July 3rd-5th 2016)

2014 - 2015

  • Spring Workshop of the Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group on "Ignorance and Under-representation", with Janet Kourany (History and Philosophy of Science, Notre Dame) as part of the IASH project "Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences" (10 March 2015)
  • "Simulations, models and data at LHC" - one day workshop at the cross-junction of philosophy of physics and particle physics, also part of the IASH project "Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences". Organiser: Michela Massimi. Confirmed speakers: Jon Butterworth (Physics, UCL), Koray Karaca (Science and Technology Studies, Wuppertal), Michael Krämers (Physics, Aachen), Margaret Morrison (Philosophy, Toronto). Venue: IASH seminar room. (12 May 2015)
  • "Perspectives on Nativism" - a two-day workshop exploring issues surrounding innate knowledge, also part of the IASH project "Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences". Organisers: Suilin Lavelle and Kenny Smith. Confirmed speakers: Balthasar Bickel (Linguistics, Zurich Center for Linguistics); Caroline Rowland (Psychology, University of Liverpool); Annie Gagliardi (Informatics, University of Edinburgh). (21 - 22 May 2015)
  • "Kant on the laws of the life sciences, and the lawfulness of nature". Final conference of the Kant and the Laws of Nature network (more details on this will come up on the website of the project in the next month or so). Confirmed speakers: Karl Ameriks (Notre Dame), Angela Breitenbach (Cambridge), Michael Friedman (Stanford), Hannah Ginsborg (Berkeley), Paul Guyer (Penn), Peter McLaughlin (Heidelberg), Lisa Shabel (Ohio), Eric Watkins (UCSD), Catherine Wilson (York, CUNY), Rachel Zuckert (Northwestern). (25 - 26 June 2015)

2013 - 2014

Visiting PhD students and visiting faculty

We welcome visiting PhD students working in the broad area of philosophy of science and at the intersection of philosophy of science and other areas. As part of the IASH grant, we are currently running a faculty and visiting PhD students exchange programme with both the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, at the University of Pittsburgh and the History and Philosophy of Science Graduate Programme at the University of Notre Dame. In 2014/5 we welcomed Trey Boone (HPS PhD student, Pittsburgh) from Pittsburgh visiting us in March 2015; Janet Kourany (HPS Faculty, Notre Dame) visiting us from 9th to 13th March 2015; and Edouard Machery (HPS Faculty, Pittsburgh) visiting us from the 23rd to the 27h March 2015. For 2015/6 we welcome Prof Sandra Mitchell (HPS Faculty, Pittsburgh) visiting us from 20 May to 10 June 2016, and welcome back Edouard Machery (HPS Faculty, Pittsburgh), in March 2016. If you are interested in spending a period of time with us, please contact Prof Michela Massimi, who will be delighted to help.

Postgraduate and visiting research students

Philosophy of Science@Edinburgh is the latest addition to our Philosophy research clusters. We welcome new applications both for our MSc specialization in Philosophy of Science and for our PhD program.

Current and recent students, with research interests in Philosophy of Science:

  • Max Andrews
  • Daniel Calder
  • Matteo Colombo (PhD)
  • Cameron Boult (PhD)
  • James Collin (PhD)
  • Ana-Maria Cretu
  • Joseph Dewhurst (PhD)
  • Keith Heard (PhD)
  • Elizabeth Irvine
  • Laura Jimenez
  • Sander Klasse (from Divinity)
  • Anna Ortín Nadal
  • Orestis Palermos (PhD)
  • Tony Pasqualoni (PhD)
  • Eugene Philalithis
  • Andrea Polonioli (PhD)
  • Nicholas Rebol (PhD)
  • Francesca Rossi (PhD)
  • Selina Sadat (PhD)
  • Kyle Scott (PhD)
  • Richard Stöckle-Schobel (PhD)
  • Alex Whalen (PhD)