Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

IV POND Conference: Science and Objectivity

Barcelona September 26-27



Venue: Faculty of Philosophy, University of Barcelona

Montalegre str 6, 4th floor

Room: Sala Gran







September 26th




Chair: José Díez


9,30-10,45: Emrah Aktunç (Instanbul): "Productive Theory-Ladenness and Experimental Knowledge in Cognitive Neuroscience".

Commentator: Tomas Marvan (Prague)


10,45-12,00: Vanessa Seifert (Athens / Bristol): "The role of idealisations in describing an isolated molecule".

Commentator: Demetris Portides (Nicosia)


12,00-12,15: Break


Chair: Raphael Kuntsler


12,15-13,30: Alfonso García (Barcelona): "Objective distance to truth".

Commentator: Joshua Norton (Irvine)


13,30-15,30: Lunch


Chair: Alexander Krauss


15,30-16,45: Borut Trpin (Ljubljana/Munich): "Objectivity in the face of scientific disagreement".

Commentator: Lilia Gurova (Sofia)


16,45-17,00: Break


Chair: Elena Castellani


17,00-18,15: João Luís Cordovil (Lisbon): "Ontic Structural Realism and Emergence"

Commentator: Stavros Ioannidis (Athens)



18,30: POND meeting 1





September 27th




Chair: Carl Hoefer


9,30-10,45: Giovanni Buonocore (Florence): "Relational Quantum Mechanics & Structural Realism".

Commentator: Antonio Vassallo (Barcelona)


10,45-12,00: Martin Zach (Prague): “Theoretical models as abstract objects?”.
Commentator: Olga Pombo (Lisbon)


12,00-12,15: Break


Chair: Albert Solé


12,15-13,30: Julie Jebeile (Louvain): "Values and objectivity in the IPCC".

Commentator: Fracesca Merlin (Paris)


13,30-15,30: Lunch


Chair: Laura Felline


15,30-16,45:Boaz Miller (Safed): "Reassessing the Value Neutrality of Technology"

Commentator: Romina Zuppone (Barcelona)


16,45-17,00: Break


Chair: Javier Suárez


17,00-18,15: Vassilis Livanios (Nicosia): "Powers, Unmanifestability and Dispositional Monism".

Commentator: Lisa Vogt (Barcelona)




18,30: POND Meeting 2




Organizers: José Díez ( & Carl Hoefer (


Free attendance, please contact organizers.








Emrah Aktunç (Instanbul): "Productive Theory-Ladenness and Experimental Knowledge in Cognitive Neuroscience".

Several developments in different fields for diverse scientific goals had to take place to eventually give rise to functional neuroimaging as one of the central research paradigms of cognitive neuroscience. Functional MRI, the most commonly used neuroimaging technique, stands on solid foundations established by the physics of magnetic resonance and the physiology of hemodynamics and is complimented by computational and statistical techniques. I argue, and support using concrete examples, that these foundations give rise to a productive theory-ladenness, which enables researchers to identify and control for the types of methodological and inferential errors. Consequently, this makes it possible for researchers to represent and investigate cognitive phenomena in terms of hemodynamic data and for experimental knowledge to grow independently of large scale theories of cognition, the implications of which I will discuss in the context of cognitive ontologies.




Vanessa Seifert (Athens / Bristol): “The role of idealisations in describing an isolated molecule”.

When chemistry and quantum mechanics each describe an isolated molecule, they assume that the molecule is stable and has structure. Identifying these assumptions as an idealisation is a novel contribution to the discussion of idealisations in chemistry and in quantum mechanics, and raises interesting philosophical issues, including those concerning the relation between chemistry and quantum mechanics. This paper presents how idealisations are understood and discussed in philosophy. It explains why regarding an isolated molecule as being stable and having structure is an idealisation. When it comes to describing an isolated molecule, both chemistry and quantum mechanics make this idealisation. Lastly, it presents how this idealisation contributes to the investigation of various philosophical issues.




Alfonso García (Barcelona): “Objective distance to truth”.

Truthlikeness is a property of a theory or a proposition that represents its closeness to the truth. Quantitative deterministic laws (QDL) typically have a real function representation in some state-space. According to Niiniluoto, truthlikeness for QDL can be defined by the Minkowski metric. We will present some counterexamples to the definition and argue that it fails because it considers truthlikeness for QDL to be just a function accuracy, but an accurate law can be wrong about the actual “causal structure” of the world. We will expose a modification of Niiniluoto’s that defines truthlikeness for QDL according to two parameters: accuracy and nomicity. The first parameter is correctly measured by the Minkowski metric. The second parameter can be measure by the difference of the derivatives. We will show how the definition can be used to rationally estimate truthlikeness for QDL given some evidence. Finally, we will apply our proposal to a real case study regarding the thermodynamics of gases, estimating the degrees of truthlikeness of ten historical gas laws for nitrogen. 




Borut Trpin (Ljubljana/Munich): “Objectivity in the face of scientific disagreement”.

Scientists often find themselves in disagreement about some hypothesis or a study due to methodological or theoretical differences or because new evidence is uncovered that supports a conflicting claim. We address how scientific disagreements should ideally be resolved and how scientific disagreements affect the status of objectivity of the claims under investigation. To do so we refer to the debates from the epistemology of disagreement and apply the insights to a discussion of scientific objectivity. After analysing some concrete cases of disagreements in scientific practice (from medicine, toxicology, biology, economics and psychology), we then formulate what scientific disagreements are evidence of with respect to the assumed scientific objectivity. We also show that our analysis supports the conception of scientific objectivity as regulatory or methodological stringency.




João Luís Cordovil (Lisbon): “Ontic Structural Realism and Emergence”

Ontic Structural Realism (OSR) has been one of the central topics in contemporary philosophy of science. However, very little attention has been given to the relationship between OSR and another major topic in contemporary metaphysics: Ontological Emergence. The reason seems intuitive to understand: OSR’s main versions explicitly favour physicalism in a reductionist sense, and for that reason they rule outright from the start the possibility of Ontological Emergence. 

But is OSR necessarily incompatible with Ontological Emergence? 

Our hypothesis is that it is not only possible, but it is even fruitful to articulate OSR with Ontological Emergence.  Our plan in this paper will be: we will begin by showing how the main OSR’s versions dismiss emergentism and discuss the reasons why they do it so. Then we will follow by reformulating OSR’s motivations and core tenets. This will show that the question of emergence/reductionism lies outside the scope of OSR. That is, OSR does not have to be reductionist. Moreover, we will argue that the form of reductionism endorsed by OSR’s main versions is even problematic. Finally, we will argue that emergentism is not only compatible with OSR’s main motivations and hypothesis, but an Emergentist OSR would be a more productive form of OSR.




Giovanni Buonocore (Florence): “Relational Quantum Mechanics & Structural Realism”.

The present paper aims to provide an insight into the epistemological and metaphysical implications of a structuralist interpretation of Relational Quantum Mechanics (RQM), a peculiar version of quantum physics that perhaps has not yet received the attention it deserves from the philosophical community. I will try to show that a particular formulation of Structural Realism represents the best framework against which understand RQM, and, in turn, that such interpretation provides some suggestions in favour of the adoption of a structuralist viewpoint in Quantum Mechanics thus understood. The choice is motivated by the same revisionary metaphysics they both seem to offer, with respect to the notion of entity and relation




Martin Zach (Prague): “Theoretical models as abstract objects?”.

According to a popular view, theoretical models, including various mathematical and conceptual models, are to be construed as abstract objects with respect to their ontological status. However, abstract objects are a matter of great disputes, and, as one of the major objections goes, conceiving theoretical models in terms of abstract objects leads to a contradiction. This paper introduces a distinction between metaphysical and constructivist readings of the abstract object view of models, and it presents reasons for favoring the latter. It also notes that the critics of the abstract object view have solely focused on the former reading, thus missing on an opportunity to pursue more fruitful lines of research. Finally, it is argued that the constructivist reading nicely fits a naturalistic and deflationary framework on which theoretical models are ultimately conceived as mental models of a sort.



Julie Jebeile (Louvain): “Values and objectivity in the IPCC”.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments aim to provide policy-makers with an objective source of information about the causes and the projections of climate change, as well as the options in terms of adaptation and mitigation. But what is meant by “objective” in this context? In practice, in an effort to address internal and external criticisms, the IPCC regularly revises its methodological procedures; some of them seem to meet the requirements of objectivity understood in a specific light. In the paper, my aim is to offer an appropriate philosophical account of objectivity, reconcilable with the fact that the IPCC is not value-free. I argue that Sandra Harding’s strong objectivity is particularly well suited, and I examine the extent to which the current IPCC procedures match this account.




Boaz Miller (Safed): “Reassessing the Value Neutrality of Technology”.

According to the Value Neutrality Thesis, technology is morally and politically neutral, neither good nor bad. A knife may be put to bad use to murder an innocent person, or to good use to peel an apple for a starving person, but the knife itself is a mere instrument, not a proper subject for moral or political evaluation. While contemporary philosophers of technology widely reject the Value Neutrality Thesis, it remains unclear whether claims about values in technology are just a figure of speech, or non-trivial empirical claims with genuine factual content and real-world implications. This paper provides the missing argument. I argue that by virtue of their material properties, technological artifacts are part of the normative order, rather than external to it. I illustrate how values can be empirically identified in technology. I argue that because of the longevity of technological artifacts, the values embedded in them have long-term implications, which may surpass their designers and builders. I further argue that taking sides in this debate has real-world implications in the form of moral constraints on the development of technology.




Vassilis Livanios (Nicosia): “Powers, Unmanifestability and Dispositional Monism”.

The aim of this talk is to show that dispositional monism cannot be considered a true metaphysical account of the nature of properties. To this end, after examining two kinds of manifestation-relation, I argue that we can appeal to one of them in order to give a theoretically fruitful account of the non-manifestation of powers. I also present two premises related to the unmanifestability of powers which are crucial for my argumentation and reveal their relation to Engelhard’s (2010) ‘dualist intuition’ for an ontological distinction between powers and manifestations. Finally, I develop an argument against the consistency of unmanifestability with dispositional monism and respond to possible objections. Given that unmanifestability is (or should be) unanimously recognised as a characteristic mark of powers, I conclude that dispositional monism is not true and, as a result, some categorical features should exist in the actual world.