Spring Colloquium Series - Melinda Fagan
WhenFriday, May 24, 2019, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Campus locationSavery Hall (SAV)
Campus roomSAV 264
Event typesLectures/Seminars
Event sponsorsDepartment of Philosophy
University of Washington

Location: Savery Hall 264

Title: “Explanatory particularism and unity of science”

Melinda Bonnie Fagan
Sterling McMurrin Associate Professor of Philosophy
University of Utah

This talk motivates and explores a particularist approach to scientific explanation, which goes beyond recent pluralist accounts. On this particularist approach, scientific explanations are specialized, high-value epistemic products that provide understanding for members of an expert community. A central question, then, is how these different specialized products relate to one another. I use ideas from philosophical studies of scientific modeling and social action theory to argue that unity of science is compatible with explanatory particularism. In place of traditional notions of unity, I propose that different scientific explanations can be connected in a manner analogous to the intercalation of agents’ attitudes in collective intention. I conclude with some implications of this account for recent discussions of mechanisms, understanding, and relations between science and society.

Melinda Bonnie Fagan is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah, where she holds the Sterling McMurrin Chair. Her research focuses on experimental practice in biology (particular stem cell and developmental biology), explanation, and philosophical conceptions of objectivity and evidence. Before joining the philosophy faculty in 2014, she was Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rice University (2007-2014) where she taught courses in philosophy of science, theory of knowledge and social epistemology. She obtained degrees in History and Philosophy of Science (Ph.D. 2007, Indiana University), Philosophy (M.A. 2002, University of Texas at Austin) and Biology (B.A. 1992, Williams College; Ph.D. 1998, Stanford University). Her research in biology focused on colonial organisms (plants and protochordates) and the evolution of histocompatibility. She is currently working on a view of explanation focused on concepts of collaboration and interaction.

Printed: Friday, July 3, 2020 at 3:23 AM PDT