Workshop: Empirical Philosophy of Science -- Qualitative Methods

Sandbjerg (Denmark), March 21-23, 2012

  • Conference venue: Sandbjerg Estate, Denmark
  • Keynote Speakers: Nancy Nersessian (Georgia Institute of Technology), Lisa Osbeck (University of West Georgia), Erika Mansnerus (London School of Economics), Hauke Riesch (Imperial College London)
  • Organizers: Hanne Andersen (Aarhus University), Susann Wagenknecht (Aarhus University)

The workshop seeked to explore the benefits and challenges of an empirical philosophy of science: What do philosophers gain from empirical work? How can empirical research help to develop philosophical concepts? How do we integrate philosophical frameworks and empirical research? What constraints do we accept when choosing an empirical approach? What constraints does a pronounced theoretical focus impose on empirical work?

Qualitative methods such as interviewing, fieldwork and qualitative text analysis gain increasingly appeal among philosophers of science. More and more scholars in philosophy resort to empirical work in order to study scientific practice. At the same time, the results produced through empirical work are very different from those gained through the kind of introspective conceptual analysis more typical of philosophy. Empirical work based on qualitative methods has a long and rich research tradition rooted in the social sciences. The use of qualitative methods in philosophy of science therefore also brings philosophers in close contact with philosophically inclined social scientists studying science.

This workshop provided participants with the opportunity to explore some of the methodological, conceptual and practical challenges of conducting qualitative empirical work in philosophy of science. The discussion focused on recently accomplished or ongoing research projects, and addressed questions concerning the quality of empirical work and its explanatory power and theoretical significance for philosophy of science. In order to ensure a comprehensive discussion we invited papers both from scholars in philosophy and the social sciences who study scientific practice with the help of empirical methods. Of particular interest have been submissions that introduce examples of empirical work in philosophy of science, discuss first-hand experiences with qualitative methods and/or provide reflections upon the scope of an empirical philosophy of science.

  • A compilation of accepted abstracts can be found here.
  • Proceedings are in preparation. They will appear in the SAPERE series, Springer, edited by Lorenzo Magnani.
  • A printer-friendly pdf version of our call for papers can be found here.
  • A short report of the discussions we had during the workshop can be found here.
photo taken by Mads Goddiksen