Newsletter < Philosophy of Science in Europe

Philosophy of Science in Europe

We ask academics to fill in a questionnaire about the current situation for philosophy in their country, and for philosophy of science in particular. In this issue: Spain and Italy.

Philosophy of Science in Spain

by José Diez

(1) How many professors of philosophy are there in your country (approx.) and how many are philosophers of science?

The main philosophy and philosophy of science departments are in Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia, but there are also other quite big philosophy of science departments or sections in San Sebastián, Santiago de Compostela, Sevilla, Granada, and Salamanca. There are currently about 90 full Professors in the fields of logic, history, and philosophy of science, and approximately 60 Assistant Professors and 30 full Researchers.

(2) How would you characterize philosophy of science in your country? For example, is it mainly general or specific (philosophy of physics, psychology, economics etc.)?

Philosophy of science in Spain was, for the last generations, and with few exceptions, mainly general philosophy of science. This situation has changed in the last ten years and very likely will continue to change in the next years. 

In the current generation, there already are quite many young professors working in special philosophy of science, and a great proportion of the next generation, that is, current young pre-docs and post-docs, is oriented towards special philosophy of science as well. 

The main fields of research in special philosophy of science, and the main geographic areas in each one, are philosophy of biology (Bask Country, Valencia, Barcelona, Madrid), philosophy of physics (Madrid, Barcelona, Granada), philosophy of economics (Madrid, Barcelona) and philosophical logic and philosophy of mathematics (Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela, Valencia, Sevilla). There also are other groups in philosophy of psychology in Psychology departments, philosophy if language in linguistic departments, logic and foundations of mathematics in mathematics departments, and history of science in Philosophy and Pharmacy departments. Some of the degrees at master level are transdisciplinary, combining logic, history and philosophy of science with linguistics, economics, psychology or history of philosophy.

(c) What are the possibilities and chances in your country for external funding in philosophy of science?

The main funding opportunities are the European, Spanish, and regional governments programs. Different regions have their own programs that fund research groups, and some regions have programs for hiring individual researchers in systems that go parallel to the standard university research system. The Spanish Ministry of Research and Innovation has a consolidates program that funds 3 to 5 year research projects, including a program for excellence groups, which mainly funds scientists and engineers but eventually some excellent research groups in humanities, including philosophy. The Spanish government also has individual researchers programs at pre-doc, post-doc and senior levels. EU programs are the same as in other EU countries. 

Private funding is very unusual in humanities, but particularly in philosophy, including philosophy of science, although some financial institutions with education agreements with universities have different programs to some of which philosophers of science may apply.  

(d) Is there in your country a society for philosophers of science, and, if so, what are its activities?

There are several philosophy societies in Spain, among which, the Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science Society in Spain is mainly focused on logic, history, and philosophy of science and brings together the majority of professors and researches in philosophy of science in Spain. Its main activity is the four-year international conference, and the Lulius Lectures given by an outstanding international philosopher. There also is the Spanish Society for Analytic Philosophy, to which many philosophers of science belong, that organizes triennial society conference but also co-organizes several other workshops and conferences. Some other regional philosophy societies also have philosophy of science sections and activities.

José Diez

I studied Philosophy at the University of Barcelona (BA 1984), where I did my PhD (1992) with a dissertation on Measurement Theories. I have been Professor at the University of Rovira i Virgili (Tarragona, 1986-2006) and at University of arcelona (since 2006); Visiting Scholar at U. München, NYU, LSE and U. Pittsburgh; and Visiting Professor at several universities in Mexico and Argentina. My main research area is philosophy of science, in particular measurement theories, structuralism, scientific explanation and representation, and semantics of scientific concepts; but I am also interested in epistemology, philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.  

Philosophy of Science in Italy

by Matteo Morganti

(a) How many professors of philosophy are there in your country (approx.) and how many are philosophers of science?

There are around 250 full professors of philosophy in Italy at the moment. The number of philosophers of science (to be precise, logicians and philosophers of science, as these two groups are part of the same scientific division in Italy) is slightly less than 40. To these figures, one may add those who recently got the 'Abilitazione', that is, those who have been judged qualified to become full professors and may actual do so in the next five years or so –– probably around a dozen so far.

(b) How would you characterize philosophy of science in your country? For example, is it mainly general or specific (philosophy of physics, psychology, economics etc.)?

Philosophy of science has a good tradition in Italy. Until three-four decades ago, Italian philosophers of science were mostly concerned with examining the conceptual aspects of science in close connection with its history. This is something that is common in the humanities here, due to the idealistic roots of contemporary Italian philosophy and culture. (A very significant influence in that period, however, was also the Marx-inspired neo-illuministic thought of Ludovico Geymonat, possibly the first important modern-day philosopher of science in Italy.) Logic has also been historically quite strong. More recently, however, also due to the fact that there are more international exchanges and a growing number of people who study abroad, the situation has become more diversified. While general philosophy of science - with and without a direct link with the history of science - remains central, more specific studies have begun. First, I would say, in the philosophy of biology and of artificial intelligence/cybernetics, then in the philosophical analysis of physics, of mathematics, psychology and the cognitive sciences broadly understood. Interest in the metaphysics of science is also growing. If anything, the philosophy of the social sciences is perhaps a bit less popular in Italy at the moment - but this may just be my perception.

(c) What are the possibilities and chances in your country for external funding in philosophy of science?

The Italian Ministry for University and Research allocates resources for research projects more or less on a regular basis. These resources are, however, constantly decreasing, so it is becoming progressively more difficult for researchers to get funds to carry out their work. Especially so in the humanities, as other third-party funding (e.g., private agencies, industry) is definitely more directed towards the natural sciences and, in general, those sort of studies that appear relevant for technology, application, production etc. This is not a peculiarity of Italy, I guess, since the ‘third mission’ idea and the Horizon 2020 guidelines are now becoming the rule throughout Europe. Other chances are quite limited: some regions (i.e. Sardinia) have special resources and calls for projects, open to local researchers; and some Universities, every now and then, organise their own small-scale calls (an evaluation is currently ongoing in my University, for example). But, again, this translates into a quite restricted amount of resources for philosophers. And of course there are the ERC-related calls. European funding is notoriously difficult to get, however, and Italian philosophers (as opposed to, say, physicists or mathematicians) still lack not only the habit but often also the supporting infrastructure needed to produce truly competing applications.

(d) Is there in your country a society for philosophers of science and if so, what are its activities?

The SILFS, the Italian Society for Logic and the Philosophy of Science, is quite an important one among Italian scientific societies. It was founded in 1951 and, since then, has been the means for philosophers of science to get together, organise conferences and workshops, advertise doctoral programmes and jobs, and also communicate with other philosophical societies in Italy and philosophy of science societies abroad.  Last but not least, as with all scientific societies in Italy, the SILFS has historically had a 'political' role, acting as a mediating entity between individual logicians and philosophers of science and representative/deliberative organisms at various levels –– most importantly, the government as the only official employer in the Italian university system. As far as scientific activities are concerned, the triennial conference of the SILFS is probably the most important event in the philosophy of science in Italy, as it attracts many people - including noteworthy researchers from abroad -, and is generally of a rather good quality. Recently, the society has become even more active, thanks to the excellent work of presidents such as Mauro Dorato, Giovanna Corsi and currently Roberto Giuntini (and of the various members of the SILFS governing board, of course). The SILFS has, for instance, recently become part of the Division of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science and Technology of the Union of History and Philosophy of Science, organized prizes for the best PhD theses and the best work in logic, promoted and sponsored several workshops and conferences including official SILFS conferences and postgraduate meetings, and contributed to the (difficult!) start of a process of research quality assessment in Italian universities, in particular by evaluating and classifying logic and philosophy of science journals. 

Matteo Morganti

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy, Communication and Performing Arts at the University of Rome 'Tre'. Before coming (back) to Rome, in 2010, I was a post-doc in Paris (IHPST) and then in Konstanz (Zukunftskolleg). And before that, I got my PhD from the London School of Economics. My area of teaching and research is the philosophy of science, and I am particularly interested in the interplay between analytic metaphysics and contemporary physics, especially quantum mechanics. In connection to this, I explore both specific topics such as identity and individuality, fundamentality, holism and structuralism, and more general methodological issues concerning naturalism and metaphysics. I also work on the issue of scientific realism and antirealism and, on a more occasional basis, other things, including the nature of time, the ontological status of practical reasons and free will.

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