Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS WORKSHOP: Discovery in the social sciences: Towards an empirically-informed philosophy of social science

University of Leuven, Belgium, March 22-23, 2011
Submission deadline for abstracts: 31 December, 2010.
Notification of acceptance: January 15, 2011.
Keynote speakers
Alison Wylie (University of Washington)
Jack Vromen (Erasmus University Rotterdam)

Call for papers:
The aim of this workshop is to bring together scholars who are working in the philosophy of the social sciences, especially those interested in scientific practice. The theme is discovery in the social sciences.
We invite submissions of extended abstracts (about 1000 words), and we are especially eager to hear from young researchers, including graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, tenure-track professors and other recent PhDs, working in the philosophy of the social sciences or related fields. We are interested in both case studies that examine specific instances of discovery in social sciences, and in more theoretical or methodological papers that are informed by scientific practice. We take 'discovery' in a broad sense, meaning discovery of empirical phenomena, theories and laws. 'Social sciences' refers to a broad range of disciplines, including (but not limited to) economics, anthropology, history, archaeology, psychology (including neuroscience), linguistics, and sociology.

Possible topics (not an exhaustive list) include:
- What is specific to discoveries in the social sciences?
- What is the epistemic role of artefacts in discovery, for example in neuroscientific research?
- Can we discern patterns in discovery in the social sciences?
- The discovery of laws in social sciences.
- Case-studies of discovery in specific social sciences.
- Creativity in social scientific practice.

Please send your abstract, preferably as pdf or rtf to Helen De Cruz, using the following e-mail address philosophy.social.sciences @ gmail.com (remove spaces) by December 31 2010. Please also indicate your position (e.g., graduate student, postdoc, assistant professor, etc).
Scientific committee: Helen De Cruz (University of Leuven), Eric Schliesser (Ghent University), Farah Focquaert (Ghent University), Raymond Corbey (University of Leiden and Tilburg University).
This workshop is supported by funding from the University of Leuven and Ghent University.


  1. Interesting topic. What are some uncontroversial cases of "discovery" in the social sciences? Did Marx "discover" class struggle? Did Weber discover the iron cage? Did Granovetter discover embeddedness? Maybe someone discovered the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment.

    Off-the-cuff, my sense is that the contexts of discovery and justification are much less separated in the social sciences than in the natural sciences, where things like penicillin, vitamin C, and HR 8799d are straightforwardly "discovered".

  2. In behavioral psychology framing effects seem well-established empirically.
    It also seems well established fact that price controls create shortages.

    We would welcome paper proposals on how discovery and justification intersect in social sciences (I wouldn't be surprised if they are more intertwined in natural sciences than you seem to think).

  3. Good examples. I'll think about it some more. I think it was that first question about what is "specific" to discovery in social science that got me puzzling about whether there even is such a thing. I'd still say that there is something more "we-didn't-know-it-existed-until-somebody-discovered-it" about objects in the natural sciences. But I agree that it's always tricky to separate out the discovery from its justification.

  4. BTW, I think my working definition of "social science" leaves neuroscience on the "natural" side (along with medicine). Is that my quirk or yours?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.