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2017 Wilkins–Bernal–Medawar Lecture: Why philosophy of science matters to science

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    Rights statement: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published in Notes and Records on 28.11.2018, available online: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsnr.2018.0054

    Accepted author manuscript, 408 KB, PDF document

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-367
JournalNotes and Records of the Royal Society
Issue number3
Early online date28 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019
EventRoyal Society Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar 2017 Medal Lecture - Royal Society, London
Duration: 21 May 2018 → …


In an era where science is increasingly specialised, what is the value of interdisciplinary research? I argue that research across disciplinary boundaries plays a pivotal role in scientific inquiry, and it has a threefold value: it is exploratory; it is unifying; and it offers critical engagement. Philosophy of
science is an interesting example of interdisciplinary research at the junction between the sciences and the humanities. What good can philosophy of science do for science? Despite anecdotal reports to the contrary, philosophy of science can in fact do important work for science. When it comes to critical engagement, I highlight what I call the social function of philosophy of science and I illustrate it with three examples taken from contemporary debates about evidence, progress, and truth in science. A socially responsible philosophy of science—which is not afraid to speak up for evidence, progress, and truth in science—best serves the needs of science in a tolerant, pluralist, and democratic society.

    Research areas

  • philosophy of science, interdisciplinary research, evidence, truth, progress in science, Kant, progress, Newton


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