Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

This projects builds on the research strengths and existing interdisciplinary collaborations within Eidyn and the School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences, and relevant academic partners across Edinburgh's College of Science and Engineering.

The overarching aim is to foster the exploration of central philosophical issues (be they of contemporary or historical interest) in the natural sciences and the human sciences. The project has three core goals:

Goal 1. To enhance, via a three-year program of workshops and conferences, cross-College interdisciplinary collaborations in sensitive areas where philosophical investigation is all the more relevant to contemporary science: e.g,. Big Data in particle physics (Philosophy, Physics); synthetic biology and implications for science-policy (Engineering, STIS); computational approaches to the mind (Philosophy of Mind, Informatics); innateness in contemporary cognitive sciences (Philosophy, Linguistics). In year two of the project, Eidyn will be hosting the 6th Biennual International Integrated History and Philosophy of Science conference.

Goal 2. To explore historical perspectives (no less than contemporary ones) in the Philosophy of Natural and Human Sciences, by looking at the ramifications of relevant topics in the history of science, history of philosophy and of religion. For example, building upon work conducted as part of the Leverhulme-funded Eidyn research network project, Kant and the Laws of Nature, the project will look at how the concept of ‘law’ coming from jurisprudence informed debates about laws of God and laws of nature in the early modern period (Grotius, Hooker, Newton, Lock and Hobbes). 

Goal 3. To capitalise on existing individual collaborations and forge new strategic international partnerships in the fast-growing area of Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences. The project will develop a partnership with two top-ranking graduate programs in the US, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Pittsburgh, both of which have particular strengths in the history and philosophy of the natural and human sciences. These partnerships will involve both the exchange of doctoral students and the exchange of faculty members via IASH Distinguished Visiting Fellowships. 

This project is supported by an IASH 'International and Indisciplinary Research Groups' award of £30K per annum (with renewal funding for years two and three of the project subject to IASH approval), with additional support from Eidyn. The long-term sustainability of this initiative will be secured via further Eidyn-led grant applications.


Project team: 
  • Project Leader: Prof Michela Massimi
  • Project Research Assistant: Dr James Collins
  • Local Project Team: Dr Wahid Bhimji (Edinburgh Particle Physics Group/ATLAS/CERN); Dr Jane Calvert (Sociology of Science, STIS); Prof Andy Clark (Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences, PPLS); Dr Mark Harris (Science & Religion, Divinity); Prof Alistair Elfick (Synthetic Biological Engineering); Prof John Henry (History of Science, STIS); Dr Suilin Lavelle (Philosophy of Mind, PPLS); Prof Duncan Pritchard (Epistemology, PPLS); Dr Kenny Smith (Language Evolution and Computation Unit, PPLS); Dr Mark Sprevak (Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences, PPLS); Dr Peggy Series (School of Informatics); Dr Till Vierkant (Philosophy of Cognitive Sciences, PPLS).
  • International Network: History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame; History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh; Integrated History and Philosophy of Science International Network.
Project duration: 
4 years
Principal funding from an IASH 'International and Indisciplinary Research Groups' award, with additional funding from Eidyn (c. £100K)