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 the Interactions between Mathematical Methods and Metaphysics in Isaac Newton’s Writings: the Case of Mathematical Forces
Areas of Specialization: History and Philosophy of Science; Early Modern Philosophy; Philosophy of Space and Time; History of Philosophy.
Areas of Competence: Philosophy of Mathematical Practice; Logic; Critical Thinking; Feminist Philosophy of Science; Science and Technology Studies; Pragmatism.
Dissertation abstract: My dissertation focuses on the conceptualization of force in the project of Newton’s Principia and its role in subsequent debates in Europe. The main questions driving my research are: “What is Newton’s concept of mathematical force?”, “What is the genesis of this concept, its role in the Principia, and its later trajectory in eighteenth-century philosophical and scientific debates?”
I first proceed by uncovering the richness and complexity of the conceptual innovations that underwrite the inferential structure of the Principia, which is the work that introduces Newton’s notion of force on the background of absolute space and time. I show how new conceptual tools were developed as a response to live and unsolved problems at the heart of European natural philosophy in the late seventeenth century and that the well-known scientific achievements of the Principia are also indirect, but subtly issued, contributions to fundamental problems in philosophy.
Second, Newton’s concept of force, elaborated in the Principia, was criticized and developed in the debates that followed the dissemination of this project in Europe. Two important examples are (1) the debate over the formulation of Newton’s second law of motion (which employs his concept of force) and the corollaries to the laws of motion, and (2) the vis viva debate, which was a fervent dispute over force and its measures, and which engaged all the major natural philosophers of the time. Drawing on the work of Leonhard Euler and Émilie Du Châtelet in particular, I then argue that we can arrive at a proper philosophical understanding of later debates and their significance through attention to the conceptual innovations that I identify in the inferential structure of the scientific development of the Principia and allied mathematical texts.
Advisor: Katherine Brading