On February 21st, 2013, the History and Philosophy of Science Post-Graduate Association of The University of Melbourne will be hosting a Research Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science.

A full program for the day is available here.

Time Begin Time End Title
9:00 9:10 Introductions
9:10 10:00 What is the History and Philosophy of Science?
Kristian Camilleri
10:00 10:20 Morning Tea
10:20 10:40 The Exception that Proves the Rule. The Mohists and Genetic Epistemology
Mark Winstanley
10:40 11:00 Prisoner’s Veins: Failures and Advances in the Treatment of Cholera
Angeline Brasier
11:00 11:20 From Scientific Specimen to Cultural Property: Postcolonial Legacies of 20th Century Biological Research in Indigenous Australians
Emma Kowal
11:20 11:40 What is the New Metaphysics of Science?
Cristian Soto
11:40 12:00 The Megalithic Monuments of Arles and Astronomy in the European Neolithic
Morgan Saletta
12:00 1:30 Lunch @ PAs
1:30 2:00 Science and Cultural Memory
Gerhard Wiesenfeldt
2:00 2:20 Science and Policy: ‘Science for the People’ vs. The Autonomy of Science
Susan Crase
2:20 2:40 Australia’s Vaccination Policies and the Scientific Medicinal Model of Health
Judy Wilyman
2:40 3:00 Racial Prejudice in the Medical Profession? The Case of Refugee Jewish Doctors in Australia 1930-1945
Fallon Mody
3:00 3:30 Afternoon Tea
3:30 3:50 Of Methodology and Metaphysics: The Contested Scene of Early Relativistic Cosmology
Jacob Pearce
3:50 4:10 A Sketch of the Evolution of the Dark Matter Entity
Katia Wilson
4:10 4:30 String Wars: The Scientific Establishment Strikes Back
Sophie Ritson and Marcus Carter
4:30 4:45 Closing Remarks
5:00 6:30 Drinks and Tapas in the Old Quad Building

HPS Theory Reading Group

All good wishes for 2011.  Having almost got through Serres’ The Parasite in 2010 this year we move on to Stengers.  Significant elements of her work will be published in English this year and after the several years of build up it will almost certainly become a site of lively discussion in science studies and beyond.  At a certain point it will be interesting to see where Serres and Stengers might connect.

•Cosmopolitics I and II. Isabelle Stengers. Translated by Robert Bononno. University of Minnesota Press

• Thinking with Whitehead: A Free and Wild Creation of Concepts Isabelle Stengers. Translated by Michael Chase.  Harvard University Press

“To think with Whitehead today,” Stengers writes, “means to sign on in advance to an adventure that will leave none of the terms we normally use as they were.”

We start with a Stengers paper in a recently published collection put together by geographers much taken with science studies concepts.  They wish to ‘rematerialise political theory’.

Isabelle Stengers (2010) “Including Non-Humans in Political Theory: Opening Pandora’s Box” in Political Matter:  Technoscience, Democracy, and Public Life, Braun and Whatmore (eds).  University of Minnesota Press.

Contact Helen Verran hrv@unimelb.edu.au for details and a copy of the reading.

Exciting news – HPSSA is organising a day of talks with John Law, sociologist, STSer and ANTist.

Helen Verran, associate professor in HPS, has been kind enough to offer her house in Healseville to meet in on October 23.

To prepare we are reading a chapter from Law’s 2004 ‘After Method’ and Simone Bignall’s 2010 chapter ‘Affective assemblages: Ethics beyond enjoyment’.

For more information contact Vicki – mvs@unimelb.edu.au

HPS Theory/Friday Group – We meet again and in a new place!

2-4pm Friday 30th July

Room 210, Old arts

Reading – Serres ‘The Parasite’, pp. 51-135

For a copy of the reading, please contact Vicki mvs@unimelb.edu.au 

The HPS Theory Reading Group, a.k.a. the Friday Group, meets on the last Friday of every month.  We discuss the theoretical texts that inform the writings of many prominent HPS scholars. These include Bruno Latour, founder of Actor Network Theory, John Law, Annemarie Mol and many others. These texts tend to have a more philosophical or densely theoretical bent than much HPS writing, and group discussions of them are useful for unraveling these initially unfamiliar styles of writing.  Past theorists discussed include Isabelle Stengers, Gilles Deleuze and Michel Serres.  All interested postgraduates and academics are welcome.

2pm ~ Common Room First Floor, Old Quad

Michel Serres, The Parasite (1980/2007)

In his ‘Translator’s Introduction’ Schehr proposes Michel Serres’ The Parasite as “a theory of human relations” which Serres began to develop in his 1977 book ‘La Naissance de la physique dans le texte de Lucrèce. Fleuves et turbulences (Minuit) (tr. Jack Hawkes The Birth of Physics, 2000). There Schehr sees Serres beginning to “examine the threshold of culture, its origin, inception, root and direction. It is an origin grounded in violence and polarization, in inclusion and exclusion”.

Our reading this month continues with Serres’ The Parasite. We will discuss section 2 ‘Technique, Work’ (pages 51-135)

The text is available in hard copy in my pigeon hole in the PASI Office. Please copy and return

Helen Verran

2pm ~ Common Room First Floor, Old Quad

This week we are returning to the work of Michel Serres. The reading is Part One of the Parasite and can be found at this link: http://hpssa.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/the_parasite_ch1.pdf.

You may want to look over the readings from Jan 22 which were also by Michel Serres.

The Friday Group is a post graduate reading group run monthly by the History and Philosophy of Science Program in the School of Philosophy, Anthropology and Social Inquiry. Participants are welcome from the school and across the university.

The Friday Reading Group ~ 26th February, 2010, 2pm

Note the chnge of location ~ Gibson Library, Ground Floor, Old Quad

“Gilles Deleuze (1925-1995) was Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris VII. He is a key figure in poststructuralism and one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th century.” Blurb on The Fold

Deleuze is important in contemporary science studies, although not always acknowledged as such. We will read an accessible text in which he considers what he has accomplished in his philosophy. And a short chapter of The Fold, ‘What is an event?’


Gilles Deleuze, ‘On Philosophy’, Negotiations 1972-1990, (trans Martin Joughin) Columbia University Press, 1995.

Gilles Deleuze, “What is an Event?” The Fold (trans Tom Conley) The Athlone Press, 1993.

Available by emailing Helen Verran hrv’at’unimelb.edu.au

Common Room First Floor, Old Quad

Michel Serres, The Natural Contract (1990/1995)

Michel Serres is one of France’s best-known public intellectuals. He has a regular radio spot, and publication of his books is an event. He received a doctorate with a thesis on Leibniz’s philosophy in 1968. He was appointed to a chair in the history of science at the Sorbonne, where he taught for many years. Serres is said to trawl “the natural sciences, genetic science, all new biotic, evolutionary, cosmological discoveries” as well as the history of science, philosophy, literature and religion and bring them to bear on philosophy, concocting “a coherent theory of where we are in human knowledge.” In 1990, Serres was appointed to the Académie française. The Académie consists of forty members, known as immortels (immortals). Serres is permanent visiting faculty member of Stanford University in California, teaching for a few weeks during the spring and fall quarters.


• Michel Serres, (1990/1995). The Natural Contract, ‘War, Peace’ and ‘Casting Off’. Trans. E. MacArthur and W. Paulson. Univ of Michigan Press.

** PLEASE EMAIL hrv’at’unimelb.edu.au for a copy **

see also

• Michel Serres (2006) “Revisiting The Natural Contract” http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=515

• Recent material at Stanford: http://news.stanford.edu/news/2009/may27/serres-052709.html

The Friday Group will be meeting on Friday Dec 18 at 2pm in the Common Room, Old Quad. Read below for details and links to articles.

This Friday we will be considering Isabelle Stengers’ contribution to a recent colloquium entitled “Comparative Relativism” and three responses to it. The website for the colloquium is here, and links to the papers can be found below.

Isabelle Stengers is a professor of philosophy at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium. Stengers is the author multiple books in French, including Cosmopolitiques vol. 1-7 (1996-7) and Penser avec Whitehead: Une libre et sauvage création de concepts (2002). English translations include Power and Invention (1997) and The Invention of Modern Science (2000). In 1993 she received the grand prize for philosophy from the Académie Francaise.

Reading Material

• Isabelle Stengers, “Comparison as a matter of concern”, 2009 PLEASE EMAIL for a copy hrv’at’unimelb.edu.au

• Bruno Latour, “What is given in experience. A review of Isabelle Stengers’ Penser avec Whitehead. Une libre et sauvage création de concept” Boundary 2, 2002 (What is given by experience – Latour)

• Helen Verran “Comparison as Participant: A Response to Stenger’s “Comparison as a Matter of Concern””, 2009 (PDF – Comparison as Participant – Verran)

• Brit Winthereik “Hopeful comparisons on the brink of the grave: A response to Stengers’ “Comparison as a Matter of Concern”” 2009 (PDF – Hopeful Comparison – Winthereik


“Metaphysics, Methods, Mortality and More …”

Read Abstracts Below

David Sweeney

Pre-Euclidian Geometry? What can we lean from Pre-Euclidian Geometry? Ideas from Pre-Euclidian Geometry will be used to create a drasticly simpler and more intuitive Geometry.

Back to Research Day

Steven Kambouris

A crank is typically thought of as a person working on unorthodox ideas, most often at the periphery of the scientific establishment. Such people are not taken seriously by mainstream scientists, and commonly face ridicule and exclusion. In this talk I attempt to clarify the definition of a “crank”, or “crackpot”, and distinguish different types. I show that neither mainstream science or HPS has systematically dealt with the phenomenon of cranks. I then discuss whether a philosophy or social model of science should include an account of cranks.

Back to Research Day

Natasha Szuhan

This paper will look at how all of the varied topography of Prahran (high hills and low wetlands) encouraged the settlement of very different classes of people (rich in the hills and poor in the bogs). As the area became more populated and the filth and waste began to accumulate, the lower areas into which filth was washed (i.e., the Dismal Swamp) became associated with illness and disease. How the residents, council and medical profession dealt with these issues is the topic of my thesis.

Back to Research Day

Michaela Spencer

The badger is an enduring icon in the British landscape. However, for over thirty years Britain’s badger population has been implicated as a reservoir for the pathogen Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB). This bacterial disease has always existed within Britain’s cattle stock, but in recent years the standard control measures in place to control its prevalence have increasingly appeared inadequate. The controversial possibility of a nation-wide badger cull exists as a policy option which is intermittently raised by government but has not yet come to fruition. So far it has proven impossible to bring into alignment the adequate scientific validation, viable policy processes and widespread public acceptance required to carry out this proposal. This paper explores one of the devices through which this controversy is being enacted – the experimental field trials which have been carried out to determine whether a widespread cull would increase or decrease the prevalence of bTB in Britain’s cattle herd. In these experiments an intersection between scientific knowledge making and evidence based policy options has been produced. However, the assumption of laboratory control enacted both in the experimental design, and the policy framework that it speaks to, has contradicted sharply with the messy, full and already variously inhabited landscape in which these trials have been conducted. Interestingly, this has generated an exceedingly durable paradox. Clear and stable evidence of a singular relationship between badgers and bTB is required to validate any government action on this issue, however whilst such evidence is continually being sought, it is impossible to achieve. Through the deferral to a politics of epistemic objects the conduct of a system of agriculture which is globally oriented and permissive of large-scale farming practices appears able to endure seemingly indefinitely.

Back to Research Day

Mark Ho

This paper will introduce Hegel’s political ontology and Marx’s early critique of it, and argue the young Marx fails to appreciate the subtler aspects of Hegel’s worldview.

Back to Research Day

Lizzie Silver

It’s hard to tell how well your treatment works if some participants in your clinical trial don’t adhere to it. Although we can measure adherence accurately, the best way to analyse that data remains controversial. Part of the problem goes back to the Coronary Drug Project’s extremely influential yet ambiguous 1980 paper. This paper has been interpreted as evidence against subgroup analyses, for subgroup analyses, and even for a powerful placebo effect. Understanding what really went on in the Coronary Drug Project can shed light on the whole history of patient non-adherence in clinical trials, and suggest ways to find out how well drugs work in people who take them.

Back to Research Day

Kerstin Knight

HPS recently hosted a visiting scholar (Yasuo Deguchi) who talked about existential questions of non-observable entities in science. Of particular interest for him was the fact that once such non-observable entities are incorporated heavily in a network of diverse ideas and applications, we seem to no longer be able to make sense of such networks (or our lives) without accepting a kind of activity realism of those non-observable entities. I think that such existential questions can be observed in other areas than science. One might for example think of dignity or autonomy or other ideas/concepts as non-observable entities and muse over their existential qualities. In my talk I’d like to take his ideas and see how they transpose in principle to my research about connecting a number of ethical concepts into a framework that is in operation in health.

Back to Research Day

James Field

Jan Assmann in a seminal essay argues that to share a collective identity it is necessary to share a cultural memory mediated through cultural texts whose properties shape the community in question. Assmann links the concept of identity with that of belonging, but overgeneralizes their relationship, making one coextensive with the other. I will argue that this does not match the experience of modern subjects for whom reflexivity and thus a necessary moment of alienation are internal to the formation of identity: namely that modern identity incorporates an openness to a world of tensions and conflicts. Nevertheless, I will argue that accepting the basic postulate that belonging is a precondition of identity returns the question of selfhood from a paradigm of linguistic cultural mediation to one of ontology in a productive way that has already been adumbrated by a contemporary anthropologists and sociologists.
Back to Research Day Program

Back to Research Day


This is the website for the History and Philosophy Student Association at the University of Melbourne. If you would like to contact us please email hpssa.unimelb 'at' gmail.com.

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.