2008–2009 Annual Report
The Center for Philosophy and History of Science followed its traditional mission of offering a forum for graduate and postgraduate scholarly exchange concerning all aspects of the philosophy and history of science. Individual reports from the Center’s faculty, listed below, demonstrate the breadth of research that the Center supports.
The Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science Hosting its 49th annual session, the Colloquium continues to play an important role in bringing together members of the Boston University community and scholars from around the world to foster exchange about the nature of science and its place in culture. The fall 2008 series included symposia devoted to Freud, Descartes, Alexander Graham Bell, natural laws and reduction, philosophy of infinity, and set theory. To celebrate the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and the sesquicentennial of the publication of the Origin of Species, the 2009 spring semester Colloquium was devoted to topics relevant to Darwin’s work and influence: Evolution before Darwin, The Impact of Darwinism on the Human Sciences, The Reception of Darwinism: Trans-cultural Differences, Darwinism’s Impact in the United States, and Charles Darwin in Biography: The Lives behind the Origin of Species.
Exchange Program with The Cohn Institute for History of Science and Ideas, Tel Aviv University The Center continued an exchange program between faculty and graduate students from Tel Aviv University and Boston University. This year two graduate students, Daniel Kremer and Yitzhak Yosef, continued their doctoral research in philosophy of physics.
Postdoctoral Fellowship The Center sponsored one postdoctoral fellow this year: Lydie Fialova, who taught courses in medical ethics in the Department of Philosophy and completed various articles for publication.
Alfred I. Tauber
Prof. Tauber’s study of the rise and fall of positivism, Science and the Quest for Meaning (Baylor University Press, 2009), offers a humanistic account of science framed by contemporary debates about objectivity, realism, and scientific truth claims. Written for a non-specialist audience, Tauber examines the Science Wars of the 1990s, which reflected debates about these issues and offers an appraisal of constructivist critiques of science. Tauber completed a second book, Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher, which will be published by Princeton University Press in 2010. This study examines the philosophical structure of Freudian psychoanalysis. Neither a clinical study, nor a defense or attack on Freud’s theory, Tauber offers an analysis of the philosophical sources that influenced Freud, consciously or not. The narrative links the theory to certain philosophical nodal points and shows the philosophical debts Freud owed to his predecessors/contemporaries in the rich intellectual matrix of fin-de-siècle Germanic philosophy. Tauber regards Freud as a failed scientist, a reluctant philosopher, and a key architect of contemporary ethics, whose humanistic vision continues to exert powerful influences on Western cultures.
Dr. Tauber also continued scientific collaborations at Tel Aviv University on the regulation and organization of complex bacterial systems and studies of the structure of the immune system. In a second professorial visiting appointment, he consulted on medical curriculum reform at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical Center.
Recent publications include 1) Tauber, A.I. (ed.) . “Philosophy of Medicine,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 51:317-463, 2008; 2) Tauber, A. I. “A tale of two immunologies,” in The Complexity of the Immune System, C. Franceschi, D. Braga, G. Corbellini, and G. Castellani (eds.). Bologna, IT: Bononia University Press. In press; 3) Tauber, A. I., “Freud’s dreams of reason: The Kantian structure of psychoanalysis,” History of the Human Sciences. In press; 4) Tauber, A.I. “Freud’s philosophical path: From a science of the mind to a philosophy of human being,” The Scandinavian Psychoanalytic Review. In press; 5) Tauber, A.I., “Medicine and the call for a moral epistemology, Part II: Constructing a synthesis of values,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 51:450-63, 2008; 6) Tauber, A.I., Introduction in “Philosophy of Medicine,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 51:317-19, 2008; 7) Book review of Knowledge of Life, Georges Canguilhem. Edited by P. Marrati and T. Meyers. Translated by S. Geroulanos and D. Ginsburg. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008. ISIS, In press; 8) Tauber, A.I. Book review of Crafting Immunity. Working Histories of Clinical Immunology, edited by Kenton Kroker, Jennifer Keelan, and Pauline M. H. Mazumdar. Aldershot, Hampshire and Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2008. Annals of Science. In press.
During the past year, Dr. Tauber delivered the following lectures: 1) “Brentano, Kant, and Freud: Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher,” Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science, September 15, 2008; 2) “Do We Need a Philosophy of Medicine?” Medicine, Culture, and Society lecture series, Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center May 27, 2009; 3) “Freud, the Reluctant Philosopher,” Shalem Center, Jerusalem, May 19, 2009; 4) "Re-calling Medicine's Ethics" Commencement speech, Medical School for International Health, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, May 21, 2009; 4) "Epigenetics: Enlisting in the New Biology," at Transformations of Lamarckism: 200 Years to Philosophie Zoologique, June 10, 2009; 5) Workshop: "American Individualism," The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, May 3-5, 2009.
In the 2008-2009 academic year, Professor P. Bokulich continued work on his book The Actual, the Possible, and the Physical on the relationship between physics and higher-level special sciences. This monograph explains the sense in which physics establishes the fundamental modal structure of our world, and how this fact a) constrains the special sciences, b) undercuts arguments for dualist philosophies of mind, and c) provides an account of the relationship between different forms of necessity. Professor Bokulich presented a talk titled “Extending complementarity to quantum field theory: 1931-1963,” at the Second International Conference on the History of Quantum Physics in Utrecht, the Netherlands, and “Reduction vs. the Occurrent/Nomic Distinction,” at the Boston Colloquium for Philosophy of Science, date?; he also moderated two Colloquium sessions, in addition to supervising and hosting other Colloquium sessions in his role as Associate Director. He has been active on the Provost's Panel for Charles Darwin 2009, which has coordinated the year-long New England celebration of Darwin's thought and impact. Professor Bokulich has received a Junior Fellowship sponsored by the Boston University Humanities Foundation, which will give him a release from teaching Fall 2009.
This past year Professor Alisa Bokulich was on sabbatical and maternity leave. She published an article titled “How Scientific Models Explain” that defends the view that models can play a genuine explanatory role in science despite having idealized and fictionalized elements. The article, published in a recent issue of Synthese, introduces a novel theoretical framework for determining how scientific models can explain and for distinguishing explanatory from non-explanatory models.
She also continued her research in the history of modern physics, focusing this past year on the work of Niels Bohr, one of the founders of quantum theory. Bokulich cogently argues that Bohr’s widely cited correspondence principle has been almost universally misunderstood. Through a closer examination of Bohr’s texts, she shows that Bohr understood this principle not as a claim about the agreement of classical and quantum theories in the classical limit, but rather as a type of selection rule determining which quantum transitions in an atom are possible.
Professor Bokulich also gave talks at the Second International Conference on the History of Quantum Physics held in the Netherlands and at the International Society for the History of Science (HOPOS) held in Vancouver Canada.
This academic year, Prof. Stachel continued to work with Kaca Bradonjić, a graduate student in the Physics Department on the topic of conformal and projective structures in general relativity. He supervised her Directed Research Physics courses on this topic both semesters, and at the conclusion of the academic year she passed her Preliminary Oral Examination. She has now started work on a Doctoral Thesis under his supervision. Prof. Stachel published two articles this year: "Bohr and the Photon," in Wayne C. Myrvold and Joy Christian, eds., Quantum Reality, Relativistic Causality, and Closing the Epistemic Circle (Springer 2009), pp. 69-83; and "Prolegomena to Any Future Quantum Gravity," in Daniele Oriti, ed., Approaches to Quantum Gravity/ Toward a New Understanding of Space, Time and Matter (Cambridge University Press 2009), pp. 44-67. He also served as a reviewer for Foundations of Physics, reviewing a paper on "The Newtonian Hole Argument."
Lydie Fialova taught medical ethics courses in both semesters - introductory lecture course (PH 251) with Professor Tauber in the fall, and an advanced seminar (PH 452) in the spring. This seminar was devoted to the experience of suffering and its transformation in medicine, and to the origins of ethics in the perspective of Emmanuel Lévinas. She continued writing her PhD thesis in Anthropology based on a fieldwork in psychiatric hospitals (Edinburgh/Prague), and supervised dissertations of two students at the Charles University in Prague. During this year, three publications appeared (“Medicine and the Nature of Hope,” Wissenschaft, Gesellschaft und Politik in Tschechien und Deutschland. Veröffentlichungen zur Kultur und Geschichte im östlichen Europa , eds. Michal Andel, Detlev Brandes, Jiri Pesek Hoffnung. Band 32. Klartext Verlag 2009 ; “Music of Gideon Klein in the Context of his life in Terezín,” Die Stärke der Schwäche. Schriften des Collegium Pontes, eds. Matthihas Theodor Vogt, Jan Sokol, Beata Ociepka, Beata Mikolajczyk. Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Peter Lang, 2009. 151-164; “On Dying in Hospitals,” Respekt 10/2009, 64-66 ) and she has been working on several other papers to be published or presented at international conferences (European Conference on Philosophy of Medicine and Healthcare in Tübingen, Nordic Medical Anthropology Conference in Gothenburg). She regularly attended a course in Jewish Medical Ethics (Professor Grodin), Harvard Ethics Consortium, grand rounds in BMC, and various other seminars and conferences in Philosophy and Anthropology.
Research Fellows and Associates
Amir D. Aczel published The Jesuit and the Skull (Riverhead Books, 2007). The book details the discovery of Peking Man in 1929 in China, surveys anthropological discoveries, and tells the story of Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit priest who was a key member of the team that discovered Peking Man. Aczel gave 22 radio interviews nationwide about the book. Aczel's statistics textbook, Complete Business Statistics, was published in its seventh edition in early 2008. Dr. Aczel was interviewed in March 2008 in New York for a History Channel documentary about Einstein, titled "Einstein and the Two Eclipses." The film will be released in fall 2008. Aczel is now finishing his book "The Cave," a scientific study of prehistoric European cave art.
Dr. Gorelik has completed his project on comparative history of the U.S. and the Soviet H-bomb with the article "The Paternity of the H-Bombs: Soviet-American Perspectives," Physics in Perspective, 2009, Vol 11: N2. He completed his project on social biography of the renown Soviet theoretical physicist Lev Landau (1908-1968), published his Russian book Советская жизнь Льва Ландау [The Soviet Life of Lev Landau], Moscow: Vagrius, 2008, prepared the volume Советская жизнь Льва Ландау глазами очевидцев [The Soviet Life of Lev Landau in Eyewitness Accounts], Moscow: Vagrius, in press, and is working on English version of the biography. While visiting Moscow he gave two talks: “The Soviet Life of Lev Landau and the thermonuclear triangle: L.Landau+Ya.Zeldovich+A.Sakharov,”Lebedev Physical Institute Moscow, June 17, 2008, and “Science between religion and atheism,” Institute for History of Science and Technology, Moscow, June 26, 2008. He has prepared a revised 3rd edition of his biography of Andrei Sakharov. Dr. Gorelik's homepage at BU site http://people.bu.edu/gorelik/ presents his publications and other activities.
In 2007/2008 academic year Helena Gourko initiated translation of my book, Modal Methodology of David Zilberman, initially published in Russian (Econompress Publishing House, Minsk, 2007, 455 pp.) into English for further publication. In May of 2009, she was invited by St.-Petersburgh's Division of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Institute of Mathematics) to make a series of presentations, "Name and Matheme", "Interpretative Modalization of David Zilberman," and "Modal Ontology and Modal Transitions", based on her recently published books ("Divine Onomatology: Naming God in Imyaslavie, Symbolism, and Deconstruction", Minsk: Econompress, 2006, and "Modal Methodology of David Zilberman"). These presentations took place in St.-Petersburgh, Russia, May 19-21.
This past year Dr. Greeley has continued her research into the neurodynamics of the emotional controls of attention in the cognitive generative learning process, the process that generates a strategy to find a solution to an open-ended problem. Towards this end, she has adapted a nonlinear dynamics technique as a methodological tool to graphically probe social science systems. New developments in computer software technology will enable publication of this work, "Probability Attractors, A Visual Analysis Methodology Adapted for Qualitative Systems Research." Dr. Greeley is also working on an article with Walter J. Freeman, "The Neurodynamics of Intentional Learning, A Primer," which will enable his work in contemporary dynamical systems neuroscience to be accessible to the fields of philosophy, psychology and education. The first part of this work, “The Intentional Stimulus,” was given at Illinois State University in November. These works, together with her doctoral research at Harvard and a recent educational ethnographic study, are expected to be the foundation of a book, Intentional Learning, Up Close, Personal and Societal.
During this academic year, Dr. Iftime continued her collaboration with Dr. Stachel on gravitational physics problems and maintained the Center for Einstein Studies’ website, http://www.bu.edu/dev/ces/index.html. She gave two talks: "Co-homology classes in gravitational physics," at Spinoza Institute, Universiteit Utrecht (May 29, 2008) and “Gravitational Observables” at MIT Emergence Gravity Conference, Cambridge, MA (August 25, 2008). She continued her independent research in mathematics and probability which resulted in a number of articles including "Observables and co-homology classes for gravitational field", accepted for publication in the Comm. Appl. Geom. Journal (2008), and "A statistical approach to gravity", preprinted on the General Relativity and Quantum Gravity archive (submitted for publication, 2009). In her current research, she constructed a new statistical variational approach to gravitational phenomena for computing the metric fluctuations which are assumed to be of quantum origin. She has started to work on a philosophical logic book, Zen and Mathematics, which presents a new theoretical approach to understanding hypothetical thought. Her paper "The Hole Argument. Physical Events and the Superspace" was published in Syst. Integrables et Théorie des Champs Quant., ed J. Kouneiher et all, Hermann's, pp. 241-254 (2008).
Dr. McIntyre’s book Dark Ages: The Case for a Science of Human Behavior (MIT Press, 2006) came out in paperback this year and received the Silver Award for Philosophy in ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year Competition. His next book (on how to make philosophy matter more in science, public policy, and current affairs) is now complete and searching for a publisher. This year Dr. McIntyre also completed a review of Eric Scerri’s Collected Papers on Philosophy of Chemistry (London: Imperial College Press, 2008), that will be published by Foundations of Chemistry. He is currently at work on a philosophical novel that is an “ethical thriller,” which explores the underlying issue of what is moral and what is not and the disastrous consequences that can sometimes result from following any single moral theory too closely. Dr. McIntyre continues to teach at Simmons College.