The research areas of individual HPS-affiliated faculty can be found in their faculty profiles, but we also wanted to highlight some of the areas that our faculty share (and, in many cases, on which they collaborate). Below are listed four such areas, as well as the faculty members who work within those areas.
Philosophy of the Special Sciences
While many of us work in various traditional areas within the philosophy of science, we also have research areas and expertise in the so-called philosophy of the special sciences. Traditionally, the special sciences have either been defined against generalized scientific methodology or else against philosophy of physics, but we understand them in the former regard. Through most of the 20th century, the philosophy of the special sciences (perhaps excepting the philosophy of physics) was a largely neglected field of inquiry however, during the last twenty years of that century and certainly into the current one, there has been an explosion of interest in it; now many of its sub-disciplines rival traditional philosophy of science for practitioners, research output, etc. Among our faculty, we have interests in the following: philosophy of biology; philosophy of the cognitive sciences; philosophy of logic; philosophy of mathematics; philosophy of physics; and philosophy of probability. Courses are offered in some of these areas at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, and many of our faculty are contributing essays to a forthcoming anthology entitled Philosophy of the Special Sciences. (Allhoff, Dilworth, McGrew, Smith, White)
History and Philosophy of Science
One of the distinctive aspects of WMU HPS is our strong interest in the history of science both as a field of research in its own right and as a rich source of material for methodological reflection and a touchstone for the sometimes abstract theorizing that characterizes much contemporary philosophy of science. Without assuming either that historically prominent scientists were methodologically naive or that their sometimes intuitive steps are always beyond the reach of formalization, we think that an honest explication of the work and even of the errors of the best scientific minds can shed considerable light on the enterprise of science, the nature of cognition, and the scope and limits of knowledge. The faculty at the center have strong research and teaching interests in the history of physical and biological science and the history of mathematics from Democritus and Aristotle through the end of the twentieth century. (Allhoff, Alspector-Kelly, McGrew, Rudge)
Scientific Revolution Resources Project
The Scientific Revolution Resources Project is a visionary project to put public domain primary sources from the history and philosophy of science online in authoritative editions for the use of students, teachers, and scholars. A sweep of the resources available on the internet at the present time reveals an uncoordinated patchwork of texts, some fairly faithful, others woefully incomplete or riddled with errors, spread across literally thousands of sites. The SRRP will provide a central, stable location for reliable texts, edited where necessary by scholars knowledgeable in the relevant areas. Although the primary emphasis is on the period of the scientific revolution from Copernicus through Newton, the site will also include other materials from the history of science that are relevant to an understanding of the scientific revolution. (McGrew & graduate students)
Science and Value
Ethics in science has long been a familiar, and still relevant, concern for philosophers as well as the broader community--from issues related to the human genome, cloning, genetically-modified foods to biomedical ethics and beyond. Research ethics in science has come back to the forefront, given increasing pressure to more quickly publish and increasingly-dangerous investigations, such as recreating a 1918 pandemic virus that had killed 20-40 million people. Further, as technology continues to accelerate and be driven by science to a larger extent, Science & Value will play an critical role in guiding science, business and regulatory policies worldwide. Among our faculty, we are interested in ethical issues related to science and medicine, as well as emerging technologies that include biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, space exploration and more. (Allhoff, Lin, Weckert)
History of Technology
In some ways, the History of Technology is a highly specialized
discipline. In other ways, however, it speaks to the fundamental
questions of human history that often are the forest overlooked for the trees amongst “traditional” historians. Historians of technology often combine specialized knowledge of a specific technology, such as wood aviation or thermoplastic production and processing, with a specific historical context, such aviation policy in the United States in the 1930s and 40s, or socialist planned economies in the Eastern Bloc of the late 1950s and 1960s. However, what they are really driving at is the issue of historical agency, an issue most fundamental to all historians: do we shape history, or are we at the mercy of forces or laws beyond our control? Technology itself is the highly questionable concept that we can master nature, and by implication, our own human nature, society, and history. But history is full of examples of technologies, and their larger historical projects—dynamite, rocketry—that have led to unintended consequences. One of the things that historians of technology focus on specifically is the relationship between technology and politics. For example, do certain technologies necessitate certain correlated political structures? As one historian of technology (Langdon Winner) has asked, does a country that uses nuclear power plants require a highly militarized, centralized state? If a country switched to only solar power, would a strengthening of local political control and a weakening of central authority follow? What then would ensue? Histories of technology can instruct and guide us in these fundamental questions.
(Dobney, Lin, Rubin)