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Munich Sydney Tilburg Conference Series

This series of annual conferences is a joint undertaking between the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP), the Sydney Center for the Foundations of Science, and TiLPS.

ST-1: Reduction and the Special Sciences (Tilburg, 10-12 April 2008)

Science presents us with a variety of accounts of the world. While some of these accounts posit a deeper theoretical structure and fundamental entities, others do not. But which of these accounts is the right one? How should science conceptualize the world? And what is the relation between the various accounts? Opinions on these issues diverge wildly in philosophy of science. At one extreme are reductionists who argue that higher-level theories should, in principle, be incorporated in or eliminated by the basic level theory. Higher-level theories do not ultimately exhibit conceptual integrity or provide genuine explanations. At the other extreme are pluralists who take higher levels of description and explanation seriously and argue for their independence and indispensability. Our goal in this conference is to bring together representatives from as many viewpoints as possible in order to advance our understanding of this problem. We invite case studies from the natural, social and behavioural sciences as well as discussions of philosophical models of intertheoretic relations.

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ST-2: Evidence, Science and Public Policy (Sydney, 26-28 March 2009)

The relationship between science and public policy is complex. Good public policy on matters such as the environment, climate change, health, the economy, and justice must be informed by good science. But this science needs to be conducted in ways amenable to the needs of the policy makers and the results communicated in ways accessible to both the policy makers and the public at large. Public policy issues might even impinge on the science itself. For example, acceptable levels of error might be thought to be determined by the consequences of the decisions to be made using the scientific findings. This raises many interesting philosophical questions about the relationship between science, evidence and public policy. Should science remain independent of policy decisions and concern itself only with evidence? Is this possible? What is evidence-based medicine and does it live up to its advertising? What is evidence-based public policy and what does it offer above standard policy making? Our goal in this conference is to bring together philosophers of science, political philosophers, policy makers, and other researchers interested in the science-policy interface. We welcome papers on any of the above questions as well as papers on broader issues concerning evidence, especially in applied contexts (e.g. legal, medical, and environmental).  

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ST-3: The Future of Philosophy of Science (Tilburg, 14-16 April 2010)

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.
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ST-4: The Authority of Science (Sydney, 8-10 April 2011)

From climate change to the classification of illegal drugs the extent to which scientific opinion should prevail over other voices in determining public policy is hotly contested. What are the scope and limits of the authority of science? The founders of modern philosophy of science, including Sir Karl Popper and members of the Vienna Circle like Otto Neurath, saw it as part of their role to explain the authority of science. Scientific opinion deserves special authority for epistemological reasons – because of the nature of scientific method. A key motive for Popper’s ‘demarcation criterion’ distinguishing science from ‘pseudo-science’ was to restrict the authority of science to disciplines which used the scientific method as Popper understood it.

Since the 1970s the authority of science has been primarily a topic for history of science and sociology of science. These studies have taught us a great deal about how science gained its current, privileged position, and why that position has come under attack. But historical and sociological studies do not address the question of whether and when the authority of science is deserved. The aim of this conference is to direct the attention of philosophers of science and epistemologists back to this issue. What is it about the nature of science that confers epistemic authority on scientific opinion, and what are the scope and limits of that authority? Recent developments in philosophy of science offers new resources to address this question, and to address it in ways that have direct relevance to the practice of contemporary science and its application in public policy.

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ST-5: The Progress of Science (Tilburg, 25-27 April 2012)

This year is the 50th anniversary of Thomas S. Kuhn’s seminal book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which forcefully questioned the idea that science makes steady, rational progress towards truth. After half a century his challenge is everything but outdated. Look at the failure of economic science in the financial crisis, or the fierce debate about whether string theory is just a mathematical gimmick, unable to connect to empirical data. At the same time, however, the scientific enterprise appears to be more dynamic than ever, with an explosion of publications and new subdisciplines emerging by almost the hour. Philosophy of science has changed too. The abstract account of ‘method’ which Kuhn criticized have been replaced by efforts to model how science proceeds, exploring, for example the epistemic benefits and drawbacks of division of scientific labor. What is more, scientometric data and a wealth of case studies are readily available to empirically test theses about what progress in science means today.

In this conference, will revisit this classical question in the philosophy of science in the light of current developments and invite contributions on both historical and systematic aspects of the progress of science. We particularly encourage work on progress in the special sciences, the emergence of new disciplines, and empirically informed reassessments of classical positions.

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MuST-6: Models and Decisions (Munich 2013)

Mathematical and computational models are central to decision-making in a wide-variety of contexts in science and policy: They are used to assess the risk of large investments, to evaluate the merits of alternative medical therapies, and are often key in decisions on international policies – climate policy being one of the most prominent examples. In many of these cases, they assist in drawing conclusions from complex assumptions. While the value of these models is undisputed, their increasingly widespread use raises several philosophical questions: What makes scientific models so important? In which way do they describe, or even explain their target systems? What makes models so reliable? And: What are the imports, and the limits, of using models in policy making?

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MuST-7: Evolutional Thinking (Sydney, 20-22 March 2014)

Evolutionary thinking is hugely influential in various areas of science as well as in philosophy. Philosophers of biology study core concepts of evolution, such as fitness and selection. Ethicists use evolutionary models to shed light on social institutions and moral practices. Evolutionary mechanisms are frequently invoked in philosophical debates about cognition and the human mind. Finally, evolutionary game theory has found its way into philosophy of language, theories of rationality, political and social philosophy. This conference will bring together scientists and philosophers from diverse backgrounds to explore the extent of evolutionary thought in contemporary philosophy and to consider the potential for future developments.

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MuST-8: Objectivity in Science (Tilburg, 10-12 June 2015)

The authority of science is closely tied its objectivity. Objectivity is widely perceived as an antidote to harmful bias in scientific research, and to an undesirable blending of scientific and political values. But what makes a scientific claim or a scientific inference objective? Can the ideal of objectivity be attained it all? Should we even strive for it? After all, several recent philosophical analyses have challenged and criticized the ideals of objectivity and value-freedom in science.

This conference encourages philosophers and scientists to present their research on objectivity in science. We aim at a plurality of perspectives and invite work from general philosophy of science as well as contributions that focus on a specific science, the science and values debate, or the role of objectivity in scientific policy advice.

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MuST-9: Evidence, Inference, and Risk (Munich, 31 March-2 April 2016)

This 9th conference of the Munich-Sydney-Tilburg (MuST) conference series aims at gathering philosophers and scientists of the natural and social sciences in order to examine the theoretical and methodological issues involved in evidence evaluation, statistical inference and causal inference in relation to risk assessment and management in various disciplines, with a special attention to pharmacology.

In particular, following questions will be on focus: How should we collect, evaluate, and use evidence for the purpose of risk management and prevention? What methods should be adopted in causal inference for preventing harm? What kinds of scientific inferences are we allowed to draw from data-mining techniques? What are the relevant decision-theoretic dimensions involved in different kinds of risks, and what kinds of decision rules are more advisable in diverse contexts? What types of uncertainties can we identify when dealing with hazards?

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MuST-10: Causation and Complexity

Causation and Complexity is the tenth MuST conference, an international collaborative conference series with a distinctive focus on philosophical issues in the sciences that can be addressed using exact reasoning and which have some potential policy relevance. MuST conferences bring together philosophers and scientists to explore these topics.

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