Philosophy of science

Working at the juncture between philosophy and research in the sciences, from physics to neuroscience

Philosophy of science is a thriving and interdisciplinary field of research, bringing together philosophy and cutting-edge science.

Key areas covered by researchers at Edinburgh include: metaphysical issues in science (philosophy of time and time-travel; realism and antirealism; natural kinds; causation; laws of nature); history and philosophy of science (especially, the history and philosophy of natural sciences); philosophy of psychology; philosophy of neuroscience; philosophy of cognitive sciences, and foundations of probability.

The group has strong links with History at Edinburgh, with the Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation, the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, and with the Science and Religion Programme in the School of Divinity.

History at Edinburgh

Institute for the Study of Science Technology and Innovation

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

Science and Religion Programme

Research questions

These are some of the research questions that faculty members in Philosophy of Science are interested in:

  • What is time? Is time-travel possible?
  • Is truth the aim of science?
  • What is a law of nature?
  • Do natural kinds carve nature’s joints or are they human constructions?
  • What is causation?
  • Should we be relativist about science?
  • What is the nature of scientific explanation?
  • Is fictionalism about science viable?
  • What is the role of probability in scientific theories?
  • What justifies the Born rule in quantum physics?


Core faculty working in this area include:

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Research interests
Dr Alistair Isaac Philosophy of psychology and philosophy of cognitive science.
Dr Suilin Lavelle Philosophy of psychology, philosophy of neuroscience, as well as general philosophy of science especially scientific explanation.
Professor Michela Massimi Realism and antirealism in science, Kant and the laws of nature, natural kinds and causation, history and philosophy of the physical sciences.
Dr Alasdair Richmond Intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of science, time travel, the topology of time, and the anthropic principle, early modern philosophy.
Dr Wolfgang Schwarz Structure and interpretation of probability in science, the status of laws, and selected topics in philosophy of physics and cognitive science.
Dr Mark Sprevak Intersection of philosophy of mind and philosophy of cognitive science, computational theories of mind, fictionalism in science. 

Other faculty and post-docs with interests in this area include:

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Research interests
Professor Pauline Phemister History and philosophy of life sciences, especially the 18th century.
Professor Duncan Pritchard Scientific explanation and understanding, the epistemology of scientific knowledge.
Dr Nick Treanor The metaphysics of science, the relation between physics and the special sciences, physicalism.

Postgraduate study

MSc Philosophy (specialisation in philosophy of science available)

PhD and MSc by Research programmes

Meetings and events

Members of the group meet regularly to discuss modelling in scientific theory and practice as part of the models in science and cognition reading group.

Models in science and cognition reading group

Philosophy of Science: Contemporary Debates is a dedicated research seminar series exploring current topics with external speakers.

Contemporary debates in philosophy of science