Friday, February 3, 2012

CfP: Workshop on Theoretical Virtues in Theory-Choice


University of Konstanz, 12th– 14th July 2012

Elena Castellani (Florence), Malcolm Forster (Madison), Stephan Hartmann
(Tilburg), Giora Hon (Haifa), James McAllister (Leiden), John Norton
(Pittsburgh), Samuel Schindler (Aarhus), Elliott Sober (Madison), Dana
Tulodziecki (Missouri), and Jereon van Dongen (Utrecht).

We invite submissions of abstracts (500 words) of papers of
approximately 30 minutes presentation time. The deadline for submissions
is March 15, 2012. Please upload your submissions at Preference will be
given to graduate students and/or female speakers. The decisions will be
announced by April 1, 2012.

Travel and accommodation costs will be (partially) defrayed by the

It is a well-known fact that theoretical virtues such as consistency,
unifying power, simplicity, coherence, fertility, and even elegance and
beauty play an important role in scientific theory-choice. Philosophers
are divided over how to interpret this. Early scientific realists held
that some theoretical virtues are epistemic virtues, but this view never
gained wide acceptance among philosophers. Instead, theoretical virtues
have long been treated as pragmatic virtues. Recent developments,
however, warrant renewed attention to theoretical virtues. In the model
selection literature, for instance, it has been argued that the
theoretical virtue of simplicity grounds the predictive power of models.
It is furthermore claimed that simplicity needs to be traded-off against
descriptive ‘fit’. That different theoretical virtues need to be
traded-off against each other is course also a claim made by T.S. Kuhn.
Kuhn furthermore held that the weight assigned to each virtue in
theory-choice very much depends on personal preferences, rendering
theory-choice a highly subjective matter. A recent application of
Arrow’s impossibility theorem to the problem of theory-choice has
invited even less optimistic conclusions than these. But is
theory-choice in science really as irrational as these considerations
seem to imply? Might the traditional realist view about theoretical
virtues being truth-conducive be resurrected in any way? Should our
theories of confirmation not reflect the import of theoretical virtues
in the practice of science? How can notoriously vague virtues such as
simplicity, coherence, and fertility be made more precise? These are
just some of the questions this workshop will try to elucidate.

The workshop is organized by Samuel Schindler (Aarhus), Giora Hon
(Haifa/Konstanz), and James McAllister (Leiden). The workshop has been
kindly sponsored by the Zukunftskolleg at the University of Konstanz.

The conference website can be found at:

Please send any queries to

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