Potential MA topics in Philosophy of Science
Areas of expertise
The Chair of Philosophy of Science has developed expertise to supervise MA projects in the following areas:
- General theoretical issues of philosophy and methodology of science, especially practice-based accounts of science
- Philosophy of specific scientific disciplines such as chemistry, physics, biology and humanities and social sciences
- Historical, social, cultural analysis of the development of scientific ideas, philosophical analysis of the organization of scientific research
We offer the following three specialization courses:
- General philosophy of science
- Social epistemology of science
- Philosophy of specific scientific disciplines (physics, chemistry, biology, social sciences and humanities)
Each specialization course is tailor-made in cooperation between the student and the supervisor/mentor and it involves the following:
- A dedicated MA course (lectures and/or seminars) (3-6 EACT)
- Reading group seminar focusing on a canonical practical philosophy book/author (3 EACT)
- Reading list examination. The reading list is tailor-made for each MA student depending on his/her previous educational background, research interests and the MA thesis. (9-12 EACT) The student will choose some readings from a list that the supervisor has composed (the volume depending on how many credit points are needed). Examination can take the form of written or oral exam, written paper etc.
If the student does not have a BA in philosophy, then other relevant courses might be added: Selection of other courses offered in philosophy or from other faculties (depending on the focus of the MA thesis, these might be courses from other chairs of philosophy or from other disciplines like psychology, political science etc).
For the dedicated MA courses for year 2014/15 we have planned two courses.
- Central concepts of the methodology of science (measurement, laws of nature, explanation, modeling, etc).
- Values in scientific research.
Below is a short overview of the research projects that the Chair of Philosophy of Science is involved with – these topics are opportunities to offer students hands-on research experience and supervision:
Disagreements. We study the nature of scientific concepts through the processes of historical change. Also, in the same project, we investigate the concept of well-organised science, the ideas about how disagreements can be fruitful for scientific progress. We have proposed an empirical project for the study of disciplinary stereotypes and prejudices which prevent researchers from collaboration in interdisciplinary research.
Materiality. We participate in the COST project 'New Materialism: Networking European Scholarship on How Matter Comes to Matter' which joins over twenty European research teams working on the role of the material conditions for knowledge production.
Practical realism. We develop ideas of the account of science Professor Rein Vihalemm has suggested as an alternative to traditional metaphysical realism, social constructivism and internal realism. Practical realism provides a philosopher the opportunity to take historical and cultural contexts of knowledge production seriously in the philosophical analysis. A series of case studies is being carried out in history of science and contemporary scientific practice.
Biological essentialism. Edit Talpsepp is investigating biological classifications, the concept of biological kind, essentialism and its implications.
Endla Lõhkivi: potential topics of supervision
Conceptual change in the (history) of science
Scientific theories have been replaced by new and supposedly better ones through the history of contemporary science. With every such a change new theoretical concepts have been introduced. How should one understand the conceptual change, how does it occur, on what ground, etc?
Andersen, H., Barker, P., Chen, X. (2006). The Cognitive Structures of Scientific Revolutions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Bird, A. (2002) Kuhn’s wrong turning Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 33, 443–463.
Interdisciplinarity in philosophy of science perspective
Philosophy of science has until recently dealt only with disciplinary scientific research and the epistemic issues emerging from the collaborating disciplines have not been investigated thoroughly. For instance the issue of epistemic dependence of the representatives of different disciplines necessary in interdisciplinary research groups: how are trust and reliability achieved and sustained in the research practice?
Andersen, H. (2016) „Collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and the epistemology of contemporary science“ Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 56 (2016) 1-10.
Social nature of scientific knowledge
It has become a common sense that scientific research and knowledge produced in the sciences are essentially social, as research is a collective work and knowledge produced is collectively evaluated and acknowledged in the course of social procedures. What makes these procedures essentially social? Can’t they be reduced and explained via interacting individuals’ intentions?
Kusch, M. (2010), „Social Epistemology“, in Sven Bernecker und Duncan Pritchard (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Epistemology, London: Routledge, 873-884.
Kusch, M. (2002) Knowledge by agreement, Oxford University Press.
When research outcomes in science are evaluated not on the basis of epistemic criteria, but rather it’s power relations and social position in the organization that determine the result, it is called epistemic injustice. It may lead to the exclusion of certain socially marginal groups from science and thus their perspectives and input will be lost. In actual research situations, epistemic injustice appears via a chain of minor evaluations and exclusions. How to identify those and how to avoid epistemic injustice?
Wylie, A. (2011). What knowers know well: women, work and the academy. In H. E. Grasswick (Ed.). Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: Power in Knowledge (157-179). Heidelberg, London, New York: Dordrecht.
How matter comes to matter?
In contemporary epistemology of science, material circumstances, practices and equipment have been recognized as playing an important role in knowledge production. Why and how?
D. Baird 2004 Thing Knowledge, University of California Press.
K. Barad 2003 „Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter“ In Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 28, no. 3.
A. Wylie 2002 Thinking from Things Essays in the Philosophy of Archaeology University of California Press.
B. Latour 1983 Give me a Laboratory and I will Raise the World. In Science Observed: Perspectives in the Social Study of Science. Knorr-Cetina & Mulkay, eds. London: Sage Publications, 141 – 70.
B. Latour 1993 We have never been modern, Harvard University Press.
B. Latour 2014 Me pole kunagi olnud modernsed, Tallinna Ülikooli kirjastus.