• Philosophy of Science

    Philosophy of science is one of the department's main areas of research and teaching. At present, seven faculty members and eleven PhD students work in this field. Click on the arrows to explore the different research topics that our team works on!

    Photo by Marie Kaiser
  • Philosophy of molecular biology

    How do scientists explain biological phenomena such as protein folding? When can they reduce macrolevel properties to the molecular machinery underlying them? What is the relation between biological units (e.g. cells) as a whole and their parts (e.g. mitochondria)?

    Image in Public Domain
  • Philosophy of neuroscience

    How many areas does the brain have? An answer to this question turns not only on anatomical data, but also on our concept of a "brain area". This famous map of the human cortex by Korbinian Brodmann depicts 43 areas.

    Cytoarchitectonic map of the human brain, by
    Image in Public domain. Source: Brodmann, K. (1909) Vergleichende Lokalisationslehre der Grosshirnrinde in ihren Prinzipien dargestellt auf Grund des Zellenbaues.
  • Philosophy of behavioral ecology

    Recent work in behavioral ecology and evolutionary biology suggest that biological individuals like this long-tailed broadbill live in their own, individual niche. But what is the precise meaning of the concept of an "individualized ecological niche"? And what kinds of things are individualized niches in the world?

    Photo by Jason Thompson on Wikimedia Commons
  • Biological theories of function

    What mental representations do frogs and toads use to catch their food? How are these representations related to the evolution of their perceptual systems? And what does that tell us about the function of mental representations in humans?

    Image in Public Domain
  • Science and Society

    How should we use scientific insights to tackle broader social issues? For example: how should we use climate science to distribute the risks of global climate change in a just manner? How should we deal with uncertainty in climate models when devising climate policy decisions? Which means do we have for assessing this uncertainty and limiting its impact?

    Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash
  • Philosophy of health sciences

    What is good evidence for models in nutrition science? And how are models of nutrition intertwined with views about health in society at large?

    Image by Maine Historical Society
  • Philosophy of Economics

    The supply and demand curve is a typical mathematical tool used by economists to represent economic processes. How do such formal tools relate to the more informal parts of economic models? And once such models are implemented in real-world markets, how do we evaluate their successes and risks?

    Image in Public Domain
  • Feminist philosophy of science

    These 19th century drawings of a male and female skeleton are presented together with animals they were thought to resemble. How do notions of female and male gender interact with research on topics such as human anatomy?

    Credit: Wellcome Collection
  • Philosophy of physics

    This equation describes the so-called Veneziano amplitude and marks the moment where strong theory set off. How can we understand what this theory tells us about the world, given that strings can only be described in a purely mathematical language?

    Photo by Milla Lifke

Philosophy of Science at Bielefeld

Study philosophy of science at Bielefeld

Philosophy of science at Bielefeld University has two core areas. On the one hand, we share an interest in questions concerning the relations between science and society, science and values, and science in the context of application. On the other hand, we engage in the practices of the life sciences (e.g., biology, neuroscience, medicine, and psychology) and address various methodological, conceptual and metaphysical questions. In both core areas our research is characterized by a practice-oriented, interdisciplinary approach.

 

Colloquia and reading groups

© Universität Bielefeld

The Institute for Interdisciplinary studies of science (I²SoS) holds a weekly colloquium, in which papers are given by invited speakers and local researchers from across the philosophy, history, economics and sociology of science. The members of the Doctoral School meet several times during the semester for the GRK colloquium; there is the Brown Bag reading group in which we discuss our work in progress and a weekly Team meeting of the philosophers of the life sciences (PhilBio Meeting). In the reading group Classics and Gems, graduate students and anyone else interested discuss high-profile classics and lesser known gems from post-positivist philosophy of science (monthly meetings Tuesdays 2-4p, please contact Rose Trappes for details). Additionally, the department hosts talks of invited speakers and a research seminar (Philosophischer Club).

International exchange

Philosophy of science in Bielefeld has an international orientation. Our team regularly offers classes, colloquia and conferences in English and with participation of international scholars.

Students can participate in exchange programs with leading institutions, such as the University of Notre Dame, Georgia State University, University of Bologna, Paris-​Sorbonne University.

Bielefeld also participates in the EPSA program offering visiting fellowships for
junior philosophers working in Central and Eastern Europe
.

For graduate students can be part of the European Ph.D.-​Network in Theoretical Philosophy, which aims at promoting the scientific quality and the internationalization of doctoral education (members: universities of Bergen, Bielefeld, Bologna, Bucharest, Helsinki, and Uppsala).

 
 


Research

Science studies at Bielefeld

  • philosophy of science as a key research area within the Institute for interdisciplinary Studies of Science (I²SoS)
  • interdisciplinary cooperation with history of science, sociology of science and economics of science
  • strong connections to Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF) - Germany's oldest centre of advanced studies
  • one of the university's original key research areas (Universitätsschwerpunkt USP Wissenschaftsforschung), including the former Institute of Science and Technoloy Studies IWT (Institut für Wissenschafts- und Technikforschung)

The I²SoS hosts several research projects, amongst them the DFG-funded Doctoral School "Integrating Ethics and Epistemology of Scientific Research" , two DFG-funded research projects on research in the context of application, and on methodological questions of climate research, and an EU-funded project on responsible research and innovation. Philosophy of science is also part of two DFG-funded Collaboraltive Research Centres (CRCs), one on "A Novel synthesis of Individualization across Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution" the other one on "Practices of Comparing".

Past projects

ZiF Cooperation group "Breaking Confines: Interdisciplinary Model-Building for a Complex World" (2018-2020)

DFG research project "Climate Engineering In Between Reliability and Liability (CEIBRAL)", part of SPP 1689 (2013-2016); continued as "Climate Engineering Liability and Reliability: An Integrated Treatment (CELARIT)" (2016-2019)

"Responsible Research and Innovation", a project funded within the Nucleus consortium (New Understanding of Communication, Learning and Engagement in Universities and scientific institutions) within Horizon 2020 (2015-2019)

Dilthey Fellowship "Science and Values", funded by Volkswagen Stiftung (2009-2016)

ZiF Cooperation group "Mathematics as a Tool" (2012-2015)

ZiF Research group "Science in the Context of Application" (2006-2007)


People

  • Addresses the relationship between science and society
  • What distinguishes fundamental from application-oriented research in methodological respects? What makes research socially responsible or practically fruitful?
  • Can these features be captured by interrelations of different kinds of values (epistemic, economic, social etc.)?

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  • works in the philosophy of biology, especially ecology, general philosophy of science, and philosophy of climate science
  • research topics include epistemic issues in the study of complex systems, especially those pertaining to generalization and prediction, the use of meta-analysis in biology, scientific modelling and representation and communication of uncertainty

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  • PhD student working in general philosophy of science and philosophy of language
  • Thesis topic: Fact/Value entanglement in concepts of biodiversity

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  • assistant professor working at the intersection of philosophy of neuroscience, general philosophy of science and philosophy of language
  • research topics: structure and development of scientifc concepts, exploratory experiments, concepts across the life sciences (e.g. "function" and "hierarchy"), relation between science and society, climate change

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  • PhD student working on general philosophy of science
  • thesis topic: scientific understanding and its relation to other concepts like knowledge, explanation or models

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  • PhD student workin on philosophy of climate economics and on questions of climate ethics.
  • thesis topic: the philosophy and ethics of integrated assessment modelling, especially with regards to the conception of feasibility

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Dr. Fabian Hundertmark

  • Postdoctoral researcher working in metaphysics, philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychiatry
  • Topics of research include the naturalization of representational contents and biological functions as well as the metaphysics of dispositions in the mind sciences
  • Member of the project Complex Biological Dispositions

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  • works in the philosophy of biology, general philosophy of science, and metaphysics of science
  • research topics include the concept of reductive explanation in biology, mechanisms, part-whole relations, causal modeling, complex systems, biological individuality, the concept of an ecological niche, biological dispositions, and the methodology of philosophy of science

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  • PhD student working in philosophy of physics
  • thesis topic: philosophical aspects of contemporary theories in high energy physics, in particular on the methodology of string theory

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  • PhD student working in history and philosophy of science
  • thesis topic: incommensurability and theory dynamics, combining historical case studies, Kuhnian, pre- and post-Kuhnian approaches to philosophy of science, and scientific practice
  • PhD student working in general philosophy of science
  • theis topic: epistemological and ethical issues surrounding the functional role of the priority rule in producing scientific novelty and its apparent detrimental impact on scientific integrity and progress

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Dr. Rebecca Mertens

  • postdoctoral researcher in history and philosophy of science.
  • research focus: role of analogies, models, and forms of comparison in the history of molecular genetics
  • member of the collaborative research program "Practices of Comparison"

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  • PhD student working in history and philosophy of medicine, scientific pluralism, and philosophy of chemistry
  • thesis topic: identifying successful research heuristics
  • member of the DFG research project "Research in the Context of Practice: Strategies for Making Application-Oriented Science Epistemically Sound and Practically Beneficial"
  • PhD student working in philosophy of economics
  • thesis topic: the interplay between formal methods and informal narratives in model-based reasoning

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  • Postdoctoral researcher of the project Complex Biological Dispositions, which studies the dispositional nature of some phenomena in the life sciences
  • Research topics: philosophy of science, with special emphasis on the philosophy of the life sciences
  • postdoctoral researcher working in general philosophy of science, feminist philosophy, and philosophy of cognitive science
  • research topics: values in science, explication and operationalization of concepts in scientific research, robustness of models and methods, and the demographics of philosophy

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  • postdoctoral researcher working in the project Complex Biological Dispositions
  • research topics: metaphysics of biological dispositions, with a focus on the role of the environment in cases such as evolvability and phenotypic plasticity.

 

 

  • PhD student in philosophy of science, philosophy of expertise and philosophy of infectious disease epidemiology
  • thesis topic: expertise & the limits of public participation in the context of communicable disease outbreaks

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  • works in philosophy of biology
  • thesis topic: biological individuality, combining perspectives from analytic philosophy, continental philosophy and scientific practice

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  • works on values and science
  • thesis topic: articulating an axiological framework for understanding and characterizing policy-driven scientific research and science-based policymaking in light of history of science and environmental history
  • research assistant in the DFG project "Research in the Context of Practice: Strategies for Making Application-Oriented Science Epistemically Sound and Practically Beneficial"

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Visiting Scholars

Dr. Aleksander Ostapiuk (U. Wroclaw), November 2019

Prof. Milos Arsenijevic (University of Belgrade), October – December 2019

Dr. Milos Vuletic (University of Belgrade), October – December 2019

Prof. Justin Biddle (Georgia Institute of Technology), May – July 2015

Prof. Zaiqing Fang (Chinese Academy of Sciences), June – July 2016, October – December 2018