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::: center home >> people >> postdoctoral fellows >> vickers

Peter Vickers
University of Leeds, UK
Academic Year 2010-11
Project: Doing Without ‘Theory’: Towards a More Transparent Philosophy of Science

Peter Vickers was awarded his PhD from the University of Leeds, UK, in 2009. His thesis focused on inconsistent scientific theories, and in particular how one is to identify such theories. This led him to a particular methodology of philosophy of science, where ‘theory’ is eliminated as a concept, and debates are reformulated accordingly.

This methodology will be his focus at Pittsburgh, as he experiments applying it to various different debates in the philosophy of science. He is also interested in comparing this strategy with other eliminativist moves which have already been suggested (including ‘belief’, ‘emotion’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘concept’ in psychology and cognitive science, ‘law’ in philosophy of science, and ‘art’ in aesthetics).

His other major research interest is the scientific realism debate, and in particular the role played by historical case studies in that debate.

Recent publications include ‘Was Newtonian Cosmology Really Inconsistent?’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics (2009), and ‘Miraculous Success? Inconsistency and Untruth in Kirchhoff’s Diffraction Theory’ (with Juha Saatsi) forthcoming in the BJPS. He is currently writing a book, forthcoming with Oxford University Press (2012), entitled Unbelievable Science: A Study of the Nature of Inconsistent Scientific Theories.

In his spare time Peter enjoys playing chess (especially outrageous sacrifices), playing the piano (especially jazz, blues, and Rachmaninoff), swimming, and hiking. And, most of all, going on holidays with his wife Laura (safaris in Tanzania are especially good).

I spent much of my year at the Center working on a monograph Understanding Inconsistent Science, forthcoming with Oxford University Press (2012). As well as an investigation of inconsistent scientific theories, the monograph also stands as a test-case for a philosophical methodology I have called ‘theory eliminativism’. Whilst at the Center I wrote a paper on this methodology entitled ‘Theory Eliminativism as a Methodological Tool’ which I will present at the 2011 conference of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science, and the 2011 conference of the European Philosophy of Science Association. In the past year I also finalised two other papers: ‘Historical Magic in Old Quantum Theory?’, forthcoming in the European Journal for Philosophy of Science, and ‘Are There No Things That Are Scientific Theories?’, forthcoming in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (co-authored with Steven French). Whilst at the Center I also spent time co-editing (with Otávio Bueno) a forthcoming special issue of Synthese, entitled ‘Is Science Inconsistent?’

I took up an appointment at the Department of Philosophy, Durham University, UK, in October 2011. In January 2012 I secured an AHRC grant for a project entitled ‘Evaluating Scientific Realism: A New Generation of Historical Case Studies’, which is running from February until September 2012. The project will investigate new historical case studies in the realism debate, and attempt to uncover further, currently unknown case studies. There are two major project events: (i) A workshop entitled ‘The Physics and Philosophy of Kirchhoff’s Theory of Diffraction’, held at Durham on 29th May 2012, and (ii) A two-day colloquium entitled ‘Scientific Realism in Light of the History of Science’, to be held at Durham on 7-8th September 2012. Full details of the project, and the events, can be found here: http://www.dur.ac.uk/evaluating.realism/.


My book Understanding Inconsistent Science came out with OUP in 2013, and reviews are starting to appear (e.g. NDPR - see here). And a special issue of Synthese has just been published (Online First, May 2014), entitled Is Science Inconsistent, which I co-edited with Otavio Bueno (see here).


I am continuing to work alongside Timothy D. Lyons on my AHRC project ‘Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science’. The website is up and running here. So far there have been two project events: The History of Chemistry and Scientific Realism, 6th - 7th December 2014, at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, USA, and The History of Thermodynamics and Scientific Realism, 12th May 2015, at Durham University, UK. The next project event is Testing Philosophical Theories Against the History of Science, 21st September 2015, University of Oulu, Finland. This is a collaboration with the Oulu Centre for Theoretical and Philosophical Studies of History. My book Understanding Inconsistent Science continues to generate interest, and there are now ten academic reviews for various journals. On October 24th 2014 I delivered a paper entitled ‘Can inconsistent science be trusted?’ at a workshop inspired by the book, organised by the Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science (CLPS) at Ghent University. See here for details.


I am continuing to work alongside Timothy D. Lyons on my AHRC project ‘Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science’. In February 2016 we enjoyed a three-day conference as part of this project, entitled ‘The History of Science and Contemporary Scientific Realism’, held at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, USA. Outputs of the project are starting to appear, including my paper ‘Understanding the selective realist defence against the PMI’, available Open Access here. The project aside, I have also recently published a co-authored paper with Henry Taylor entitled ‘Conceptual fragmentation and the rise of eliminativism’, available Open Access here.


I am continuing to work alongside Timothy D. Lyons on my AHRC project ‘Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science’. On 5th – 7th August 2017 we will host a major conference in Durham, UK, entitled ‘Quo Vadis Selective Scientific Realism’ (see here for full details). Further publications from the project are forthcoming, and I have been busy presenting the material in Mexico City (UNAM), and in Edinburgh and Nottingham in the UK.




Revised 08/15/2017 - Copyright 2010