Open Roundtable & Public Debate

Our Open Roundtable is intended as an open-&-public panel, Keynote Speakers & Participants, to promote dialogue on topical issues related to professional practice/Historical & historiographical themes and impacts of science and/or historical practice. Speakers (including commentator) speak for short periods (typically five minutes), leaving ample time for exchanges with the audience. 


Day 2. Wednesday, 12th September

  • 17h00-18h30. Exploring Changes in How the Histories and Philosophies of the Exact Sciences have been Written: Interpreting the Dynamics of Change in these Sciences and Interrelations Amongst Them—Past Problems, Future Cures - Part Two Keynote Speakers at Roundtable on the Subject, forthcoming


  • A large body of research has now been produced about the history and philosophy of the sciences during both the early modern and modern periods. Historians and philosophers of science—sometime with high levels of training in the exact sciences and sometimes with technical expertise—have deployed a wide variety of very interesting approaches and interpretive frameworks. The subjects dealt with have been as various as the historiographical and philosophical approaches using internal and external categories of investigation. These have included the study of particular disciplines; the history of foundations; epistemological aspects; the construction and negotiation of theories; the details of experimental practices; the structure and consequences of networks, organizations and research sites; and on through to relations with the histories of technologies and wider cultures.
  • The point has been reached at which historians and philosophers of the exact sciences can benefit from critically assessing feedback from the history of their own historical, epistemological and philosophical research. In other words, the community of historians and philosophers of the exact sciences could now participate in a learning process, grounded in their own collective experience. But, how to do this? In addition, where is an adequate audience among international book-publishers and journals? How can we compare and assess historiographical and philosophical approaches and perhaps choose or design one type in preference to others? Such questions would exist in any area of historical, epistemological and philosophical research, but they become very pointed when thinking about the practice of the history and philosophy of exact sciences.
  • It is granted that rigour and fruitfulness characterise the theoretical and experimental dimensions of the exact sciences, as well as their organization and modes of quality control. Is anything similar to this possible in historical inquiry; in particular how constrained are historical propositions and theses by what counts as their internal evidential bases? The production of historical narratives and explanations are generally thought to be quite different epistemic animals than the results of the exact sciences. Many points can be made in favour of such a claim. Moreover, these attitudes are grounded in widespread scepticism about the possibility, scope and reliability of historical and philosophical findings. Even attenuated versions of such scepticism limit historiographical results to narrative discourses, or more or less plausible interpretations inextricable from the style and subjective framework of their authors. However, despite all this, it still seems relevant to seriously question if we now know enough about the actual dynamics of research in the exact sciences; and as a result of historical and philosophical investigations, can we begin to think in terms of the similarities and analogies between such research and the activities? Furthermore, what about the output of historians and philosophers, especially historians of science? Certainly those involved in the micro-politics of scientific work have suggested as much: in fact, scientific work does not conform to the traditional grandiose images of method, and much less do the human nature, judgemental critics, rhetoric and the disciplinary interactions which seem woven into the production of scientific results. This raises the possibility that reflection on what has been discovered about the dynamics of science through work in the history of the exact sciences may be translated to further improve the practice of that historiography. There is, of course, a problem in that the kinds of historical and philosophical work that have humanized the dynamics of the sciences are, for many scholars, a source of scepticism concerning the possibilities of human knowledge and inquiry. Even so, it seems quite feasible that common ground can be found to redeem the rationality, fruitfulness and progress of both the exact sciences and at least certain forms of historiography, especially of these sciences. Therefore, such attempts, in so far as they have been organized and well known, have been located in strongly competing historico-philosophical research programs, for example those of Mach, Koyré, Kuhn and even Popper-Lakatos, etc. These have all stressed the importance of the use of historical/epistemological categories for inquiry about, and interpretation of, the history and philosophy of the exact sciences. This Roundtable therefore provocatively asks/discuss what does the history of these attempts, and the history and philosophy of the wider historiography of the sciences, suggest about surpassing the clash of these programs and the merely piecemeal accretion of individual studies of the exact sciences? How can this be done? Keywords: Paradigms, History and Historical Epistemology of Sciences, Philosophy of Sciences, Relationships, Foundations, Emergences Contingencies, External and internal categories of investigations, Relativism, Progress, Rationality.
  • [Adapted from ''Raffaele Pisano (France) and John Schuster (Australia)" at Open Roundtable Part One organised at Lille Summer School 2015 (and 2017, 2019) in Science, History and Philosophy of Science, Lille University, France]
    • Presenter, forthcoming
    • Chairperson, forthcoming
    • Moderator, forthcoming
    • n Keynote Speakers, forthcoming
    • Commentator, forthcoming
    • Public 
  Presenter Prologue
  • The presenter shares the main topic of the Roundtable by highlighting key provocative questions and themes to be discussed as well as relevant policy issues pertinent to the advancement of Roundtable subject.
  • In particular, for this Open Roundtable, no standalone talks are expected. The invited Keynote Speakers for this Open Roundtable should not prepare a presentation. They will initially speak for some minutes and then, under the guidance of the Moderator, the debate between the Roundtable Keynote Speakers and public develops.


Chairperson & Moderator

  • The Chairperson will assign time following these guidelines: Opening, Transitions and Closing for each of the n Invited Keynote speakers – m minutes each.
  • The Moderator will introduce the Invited Keynote Speakers (based on the short academic biography and abstract they submitted), provide contextual briefing guiding comments and questions to focus on the interventions.
  • The Moderator will invite interventions from the audience.
  • Short Remarks from Audience & Response – 10 minutes.
  • Discussion & Open Debate – 90 minutes.
  • The Chairperson ensures that these time limits are respected.
  • The Chairperson should have timekeeper/Remarks
  • The Moderator should ensure that these time limits are respected.
  • The Moderator should ensure that the key issues from the sessions are captured by the audience.
  • The Moderator reflects on the content of the research talks and the presentations.
  • The Moderator initiates a debate/discussion by highlighting policy questions arising from analysis.
    • Total - 90 minutes


Commentator Epilogue

  • The work of the Commentator is crucial for recording ideas, hypotheses and perspectives in a comprehensive manner:
    • Capture the key elements of the discussions,
    • Introductory statement,
    • Comments on the paper’s content and its contributions/limitations,
    • Emerging operational issues and opportunities,
    • Policy issues emerging from the discussion,
    • Suggestions to improve the paper.



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