The Centre for Philosophy of Science of the University of Lisbon is organizing an international colloquium on “Open Epistemologies. Mach, Bachelard, Feyerabend”. The colloquium will take place in Lisbon on the 20th and 21st September 2019. The official languages of the conference are English and French.

The problem of scientific method, important for scientists at least since the Renaissance, became crucial during the Enlightenment, generating debates that have extended to the present. An issue that remains relevant today is what happens when a pluralist methodology is adopted – what kind of science gets done, and/or not done? Ernst Mach (1838-1916), Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) and Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994) argue that there are different ways to construct knowledge, considering that there is a need to disrupt old scientific methods. Can we assume that they are proposing “open epistemologies”?

Many philosophers have discussed scientific concepts and theories, but several scientist-philosophers also have questioned the scientific knowledge that they were constructing during their scientific life. Some of them have even elaborated epistemologies that undeniably reflect their experience of making science. This is not, of course, a reason to take their ideas for granted, but we believe that it is important to take them seriously and to discuss them. In addition to Mach, Bachelard and Feyerabend, throughout the 19th and 20th centuries it is possible to find scientists well known for their epistemological thinking, such as Henri Poincaré (1854-1912), Emile Meyerson (1859-1933), Ludwig Fleck (1896-1961), Michael Polanyi (1891-1976).

The science of the twentieth century has, in turn, put new epistemological problems in physics, biology and several other areas of knowledge from which emerges a deep philosophical reflection of scientists like Albert Einstein (1879-1955), Niels Bohr (1885-1962), Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976), Joseph Woodger (1894-1981) or Ernst Mayr (1904-2005). Some of their ideas as well as those of other scientists have echoed in the philosophy of science and have generated controversies until today.

This colloquium intends to create the conditions of lively discussions about the epistemologies of scientists around the works of several scientists-philosophers from Ernst Mach to the present. The colloquium is directed to a wide audience with interests in the epistemology as conceived by scientists-philosophers of different scientific area.

We are especially interested in subjects related to:

Ernst Mach (1838-1916), Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) and Paul Feyerabend (1924-1994): These scientists-philosophers, argued that there are different ways to construct knowledge and hold that there is a need to disrupt old scientific methods. Can they be considered as proposing “open epistemologies”?

Experiment-theory in the epistemology of the scientists: Scientists-philosophers have, among the philosophers of science, a privileged position for the evaluation of the relations between theory and experiment. In fact, scientists are almost always closer to research in laboratories than philosophers. Has this proximity influenced the epistemology of the scientists-philosophers? In what way? leading them, for example, to undo some myths and prejudices about the relationship between theory and experiment? Or rather, does it lead them to create false ideas about the issue?

Epistemologies of the scientists and the “turn to practice” in philosophy and sociology of science: The turn to practice, which may be related to some trends of philosophical thought in the 1960s, has been applied to several areas of knowledge, from mathematics to the natural sciences and social sciences.  How has this movement influenced the epistemology of scientists-philosophers as Michael Polanyi, Andrew Pickering, Isabelle Stengers, Peter Galison, Roald Hoffmann, Bruno Latour and others?

Other topics related to the subject of the colloquium.

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Please submit an abstract via email to (400 words maximum, including the references) and a biographical note (150 words maximum). Indicate to which subject you submit the paper.

Abstracts can be in English or French.


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Deadline 30th April 2019.