Notre Dame History and Philosophy of Science
Job Market Candidates
Research: Laura specializes in the history of science in the early modern Spanish and English Atlantic. Her interests include science and religion, astrology and alchemy, human-animal interactions, and the history of medicine and pharmaceuticals. She has taught the history of science, Latin American history, the history of sexuality, and the history of food.
Areas of Specialization: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Biology, Philosophy of Probability
Research Interests: My research lies at the intersection between philosophy of science, philosophy of explanation, and metaphysics. Despite the breadth of these topics, I am pressed with one main question: how are we to make sense of regularity in a contingent, exceedingly complex world? When nature seems like a blooming, buzzing confusion, what accounts for the remarkable sameness of biological processes like protein synthesis, synaptic transmission, and natural selection? Laws of nature, natural necessity, mechanisms, and probability play major roles in our scientific explanations of observable regularities. I am fascinated by trying to understand these roles.
Pablo Ruiz de Olano Altuna
Research: My main interest concerns the philosophy of physics. Most of my work in this area has focused on the role of group theory in high energy physics and its applications to structural realism. I'm also interested in the history of the philosophy of science, in particular in the philosophy of science of the early 20th century Spanish physicist Blas Cabrera, and in the role of values in science.
Dissertation title: “Epistemic Values in Theoretical Physics: Symmetries, Conservation Laws, and the Strong Nuclear Interaction”
Brief abstract: My dissertation investigates the role that epistemic values such as empirical adequacy, fruitfulness, and explanatory power play in developing and evaluating scientific theories. I do this by analyzing a case-study from the early history of particle physics, which concerns two different attempts to use symmetries and conservation laws in order to develop a successful theory for the strong nuclear force. The case-study shows how particle physicists attempted different strategies, which were based on different accounts of the relation between symmetries and conservation laws. As I show, particle physicists used a small number of epistemic values in order to make decisions about what lines of research were worth pursuing. My conclusion is that epistemic values may afford a certain degree of flexibility in their application to specific cases and still remain effective in settling debates among scientists.
Advisor: Katherine Brading
Committee members: Anjan Chakravartty, Don Howard, Nic Teh
Dissertation title: On Isaac Newton's Concept of Mathematical Force
Areas of Specialization: History and Philosophy of Science; Early Modern Philosophy; Philosophy of Space and Time.
Areas of Competence: Philosophy of Mathematical Practice; Logic; Critical Thinking; Feminist Philosophy of Science; Science and Technology Studies; Pragmatism.
Dissertation abstract: Her project shows how the emergence of a single concept – that of mathematical
force – required carving out the conceptual framework of laws, hypotheses, space and time in a novel,
unprecedented way. The dissertation aims to integrate the history and philosophy of natural philosophy
and brings them to bear on contemporary conversations in the philosophy of science related to
methodology, scientific concepts, models, and idealizations.
At the USC Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Monica prepares for publication several papers drawn
from her dissertation project and will begin a new project focused on the explanatory power of auxiliary
principles in dynamics during the late seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. More broadly, this new
project analyzes the change in the methodology of natural philosophy that transformed it into the more
recognizable ‘mathematical physics.’ The contribution of other humanities is crucial for capturing what
central philosophical questions concerning our natural inquiry lost or gained in this shift.
Advisor: Katherine Brading