SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programm - Vortrag

Conventions in Science: conceptual, epistemic and ethical
(Workshop 1, English)

A This workshop addresses the nature and roles of conventions in science. As a form of collective inquiry, scientists are frequently bound by communal rules and standards - what we might call ?conventions? - that prescribe how to conduct research: from the choice of p-values in statistical hypothesis testing to the proper storage of lab samples and the visualization of data. Despite the ubiquity and centrality of conventions in science, we thus far lack a thorough understanding of them. What exactly are conventions in science? What epistemic function do they serve? What gives conventions their normative force? And, under what conditions, if any, may researchers properly violate conventions? This workshop aims to explore such questions from a range of philosophical perspectives. Keynote Speaker:

- Professor Quill R Kukla: Maps and the Epistemic Risks of Visual Representations

Graduate student speakers:

- Shivani Aggarwal (University of Cambridge): "Epistemic Protectionism and Conventions in the Pharmaceutical Sciences"

- Gerald Teng (Tufts University): "Transcendental realism and the new metaphysics of physical quantities"

- Miguel Ohnesorge (University of Cambridge): "The Limits of Conventional Justification: Inductive Risk and Industry Bias Beyond Conventionalism"

- Ilvie Prince (Leibniz Universität Hannover): "Contraception: a non-health-related medical task?"


Maps and the Epistemic Risks of Visual Representations
Prof. Quill R Kukla

I argue that maps, taken as epistemic tools, present a number of distinctive epistemic risks, and that no set of representational conventions or epistemic standards can eliminate these risks. There is no such thing as an objective or value-free map; rather, the production of any map is governed by a variety of value-driven choices. While the value-ladenness of scientific reasoning is familiar to philosophers of science from the literature on inductive risk, visual representations of data such as maps pose epistemic risks that are distinct from (but just as ineliminable as) inductive risks. Three of these are aesthetic risk, categorization risk, and simplification risk. With respect to each, maps that are accurate according to recognizable representational conventions not only fail to avoid these risks but may even present heightened risk. Unconventional maps that make their distinctive, value- laden perspective clear may offer special epistemic benefits.

Epistemic Protectionism and Conventions in the Pharmaceutical Sciences
Shivani Aggarwal

The science of pharmacology has a telos tied to public health: the discovery and development of medicinally-useful drugs. The epistemic inquiry of those engaged in pharmacology, be it an individual scientist working at a government-funded university laboratory or a team of researchers for a large corporation is constrained by communal rules and standards - "conventions" - in countless nations. For instance, it is frequently held that in order to demonstrate that a drug is safe and effective for a given therapeutic condition, scientists must collect evidence by means of randomized control trials (RCTs). National regulatory bodies such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States or the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) hold political authority to prevent the output of the pharmaceutical sciences from reaching doctors and patients unless the rules and standards set by convention are met. Indeed, historians such as Carpenter (2014) have noted the unique power of an agency such as the FDA to not only regulate the market, but to exercise conceptual influence over the "parameters" of experimentation and production.
I raise the question as to whether such conventions are in tension with progress in the pharmaceutical sciences. Answering this question necessitates an analysis of the function of conventions in this scientific domain. I argue that these conventions serve both an epistemic and a pragmatic function that generally justifies their maintenance through state power.
Regarding the epistemic dimension of conventions in the pharmaceutical sciences, Ahlstrom-Vij (2013) identifies the RCT constraint as one of his three central examples of 'epistemic paternalism' ? external constraints upon the inquiry of others done for the epistemic good of those being interfered with. I suggest that the setting and maintaining of conventions in the pharmaceutical sciences not only prevents common sources of bias from occurring in the scientific process, but also provides valuable epistemic good for the public which would not be generated otherwise. Then, drawing on John (2011)'s discussion of fixed versus floating epistemic standards from the context of scientific communication, I argue that these conventions have a criticial pragmatic function in that they enable downstream decision-makers such as doctors and patients to make informed decisions by serving as reliable signals of expertise. Non-experts make the assumption that experts are only endorsing drugs if they meet certain consistent thresholds ? violating convention can therefore disrupt trust in the medical system.
The implications of this suggest that attempts to liberalize institutions such as the FDA and remove requirements for allowing pharmaceuticals on the market should be approached with caution. This diverges from the views expressed by individuals such as Epstein (2005) and Salbu (1994) but is in alignment with Navarro and Teira (2021) who argue that despite often originating from a "patient advocacy" position, such reforms are often counterproductive to patient aims. Conventions should be rigorously maintained and rarely violated; further concerns about off-label prescription practices and compassionate use programs can be raised.

Transcendental realism and the new metaphysics of physical quantities
Gerald Teng

There is a recent surge of interest in the nature of physical quantities in analytic metaphysics (see Arntzenius and Dorr 2012; Dasgupta 2013; Eddon 2013; Peacocke 2015; Perry 2015; Kim 2016; Sider 2020; Baker 2020; Wolff 2020). These discussions are motivated by what I call transcendental realism about physical quantities? the stance that we can speak of physical quantities in-themselves a priori, as abstracted from "epistemic" talk about the role of physical quantities in scientific practice. However, transcendental realism about physical quantities is controversial. Historically, anti-realists such as Bridgman (1927) and van Fraassen (1980) have argued that physical quantities are nothing over and above heuristics in our theory-mediated measurement conventions and operations.
Anti-realism has a prima facie flaw. The transcendental realists are right to insist that there must be something "out there" that ensures the quantitativeness and the convergence of our measurements. Nevertheless, the transcendental realists fail to appreciate the anti-realist insight that we cannot intelligibly separate? even by stipulation? ?epistemic? from "metaphysical" talk about physical quantities. In this paper, I will devise an improved argument against transcendental realism about physical quantities, and I will show that all attempts to defend the stance fail. I then sketch a positive proposal for a "minimal" realist approach towards physical quantities.
The strategy is as follows. In §1 and §2, I explain transcendental realism about physical quantities. In §3, I argue that all analytic metaphysicians working on the subject presume transcendental realism. In §4 I gloss the contemporary debate between absolutism and structuralism about physical quantities. I will show that that the debate ends at an unproductive impasse. I then argue, in §5, that the limitations of both absolutism and structuralism may be traced back to the shared assumption of transcendental realism. Next, in §6, I consider and reject three ?meta-metaphysical? reasons to retain transcendental realism: that physical quantities in-themselves are necessary truthmakers for our true representations; that they are essential grounds for our metaphysical explanations; and that they are productive "naïve" models of the world in-itself. Lastly, in §7, I provide a brief sketch of a "minimal realist" approach towards research into physical quantities. I propose that the minimal realist ought to "bracket" all talk about the reality or unreality of physical quantities and instead talk about physical quantities as they are (re)presented to us in our experience and scientific conventions.
Minimal realism about physical quantities has two key advantages. Primarily, minimal realism accounts for all the "meta-metaphysical" evidence adduced in favor of both transcendental realism and anti-realism. Minimal realism also enables us to adduce a greater variety of (historical and sociological) evidence for or against our specific theories about physical quantities. Secondarily, minimal realism affords greater insight into the constitution and objectivity of our scientific measurements of physical quantities. I will argue that our scientific conventions and operations ought to be seen as constitutive of physical quantities, and that we ought to think of the objectivity of physical quantities as nothing over and above the convergence of our theory-mediated measurements.

The Limits of Conventional Justification: Inductive Risk and Industry Bias Beyond Conventinalism
Miguel Ohnesorge

This article develops a constructive criticism of methodological conventionalism. Methodological conventionalism asserts that standards of inductive risk ought to be justified in virtue of their ability to facilitate coordination in a research community. On that view, industry bias occurs when conventional methodological standards are violated to foster industry preferences. The underlying account of scientific conventionality, however, is insufficient for theoretical and practical reasons. Conventions may be justified in virtue of theor coordinative functions, but often qualitfy for posterior empirical criticism as research advances. Accordingly, industry bias does not only threaten existing conventions but may impede their empirically warranted improvement if they align with industry preferences. My empiricist account of standards of inductive risk avoids such a problem by asserting that conventional justification can be pragmatically warranted but has, in principle, only a provisional status. Methodological conventions, therefore, should not only be defended from preference-based infringements of their coordinative function but ought to be subjected to empirical criticism.

Contraception: a non-health-related medical task?
Ilvie Prince

It is not controversial that prescribing contraception is, in fact, an activity provided by the medical community. More controversial is the question of what makes this activity medical. Philosophers have been thinking about what is at the core of the medical activity and the role of a physician for a long time. This debate is no longer very lively, but it is also not settled. There is a wide range of positions, from singularist accounts that define he cure of disease as the primary goal to pluralist accounts that present a whole range of equally important goals. What seems to be settled for most philosophers of medicine is, that activities such as prescribing contraception are not an activity in line with the health-related main aim(s) of medicine. They present other mostly pragmatic reasons for locating this activity in the medical field.
This classification contrasts with scientific considerations when assessing the risks of contraceptive side effects. Contraceptive pills and long-acting reversible contraceptives are assessed under the conventional framework for pharmaceutical medical interventions. Thus, when balancing the acceptability of side effects, the risk associated with side effects are weighed against the efficacy, benefits, and necessity of the intervention. In particular, the necessity of intervention is often justified by the importance of avoiding a major health risk that is already present. The extent to which such a framework can capture the non-health-related dimensions of an intervention, or even conflicts with the non-health-relatedness of contraception, is open to question.
In my talk I will offer some thoughts on why I think it is fruitful to engage with the conception of birth control as a medical task for ethical and epistemological reasons. I also attempt to sketch a conceptualization of medical tasks on the borderlines of health and social needs. The latter are often masked as the former when operating under the scientific conventions of medicine which translates into epistemic gaps as well as encroaching behaviors in care. When going beyond the scope of what is conventionally understood as medicine, research and evaluation methods need to be adjusted. Otherwise, our scientific conventions might keep us blind to relevant facts.

Zeit: 16:00-19:30, 08. September 2022 (Donnerstag)
Ort: HS E.002

Ina Jängten
(Cambridge, UK)

Charlotte Zemmel
(Cambridge, UK)

Ahmad Elabbar
(Cambridge, UK)

Testability and Meaning deco