Philosophy and Environment, Science, and Policy-Making
Concordia University, Montreal
Deadline: January 15, 2015
Keynote Speakers: Lorraine Code (York); Trish Glazebrook (North Texas); Karen Houle (Guelph)
“Science is one way, and indeed one decisive way, in which all that is presents itself to us”
— Science and Reflection, Martin Heidegger
“Scientists have thought that any consideration of ethical or social values, particularly in the assessment of evidence, would undermine scientific integrity and authority. Yet one cannot adequately
assess the sufficiency of evidence without such values, especially in cases where science has such a
profound impact on society.”
— Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal, Heather E. Douglas
In the so-called “Science Wars” of the 1980s and 90s, battles between two extreme positions
climaxed. Extreme objectivists argued that science is value-free, and that this explains why science is
one of the most reliable (even though imperfect) ways to gain reliable empirical access to complex
features of the natural world. On the other side extreme subjectivists argued that science is instead
value-laden, and that this ensures that science is no more reliable than many other types of inquiry.
Since the 1990s, scholarship in the philosophy of science has shown that both of these extreme views
are mistaken. Extreme objectivism is wrong to imply that science could be purely value-free; science is
a human activity after all, and humans are essentially valuing actors. Extreme subjectivism is wrong to
think science isn’t one of the most reliable ways to gain access to complex features of the natural
world; for example, no picture of climate science is perfectly accurate, but there is little doubt that
the pictures offered by our best science are more accurate than others.
Progressing beyond the extreme mistaken views raises many new pressing questions, and any new
and better view should answer them. Being value-laden, do the successes of some sciences owe
surprisingly to their capacities to integrate our various epistemic, ethical, and other values? In what
ways do we not yet even understand how our values influence science, e.g., through the complex
ways in which we perceive and shape the very environments we study? Would science fare better
within democracies if it more thoroughly took the values of all citizens into account? The case of
responses to climate science helps illustrate these questions, and why they are urgent given our
status as ethical beings in relation to science, policy, and the environment. Climate change denial and
marginalization of climate science are common, because values in this area diverge sharply. What role
should we afford science in environmental policy decisions? What role does or should science have in
investigating and understanding the environment?
The Concordia Graduate Philosophy Students’ Association invites papers from thinkers across the
broad spectrum of philosophical thought and other related disciplines that engage with intersections
of at least two of our three conference themes: environment, science, and policy (an engagement
with policy can be an upshot of the paper’s analysis; e.g., what sort of policy recommendations might
a specific investigation be warranted to make?). We welcome papers and abstracts exploring issues
that are related to, but not exclusive to the following:
• Ontological questions about the environment, and their significance (e.g., what makes/is an
environment?; co-emergence of organisms and environments; the metaphysical, ontological status of the environment; meaning in/and the environment; autopoiesis; Umwelt).
• Musings on epistemological or methodological issues concerning science and the environment.
• How various perspectives determine or inform the shape of policy discourse with respect to the
environment (virtue ethics perspectives of environment; utilitarian perspectives; etc.).
• A philosophical analysis of a particular scientific and/or environmental policy decision. Or an analysis of policy in general as a response to environmental, scientific concerns.
• How do different types of scientific inquiry come to be valued differently based on the social and
cultural contexts, or environments, they belong to?
• Is philosophy complicit in the destruction of the environment?
• What is the moral or ethical status of the environment? Does it have intrinsic or instrumental value?
• What is a minimal requirement of care for the environment?
• Feminist views of science and the environment.
• Indigenous views of science and the environment.
• Lived environments, the particularity of places, and embodied experiences as distinct or connected to objective, third-person, abstract notions of ecology or the environment.
• Enactive mind, embodied cognition, extended mind, and other approaches questioning the boundaries between body and surroundings.
• Science and technology and how they influence and shape our environments (e.g., genetic technologies, geoengineering, etc.), or what such technologies, as options, reveal about our relation to our environment.
• Science and technology and how they influence and shape our perceptions of the environment (through, for example, Enframing).
• Science and politics: e.g., climate change denials; the situation of Canadian government scientists and their ability to discuss their research; etc.
The conference is scheduled at Concordia University, in Montréal, Québec, for April 17-18, 2015. Either papers or abstracts are welcome for submission, though priority will be given to papers.
Abstracts should be 300-500 words. Papers should be suitable for a twenty minute presentation
(maximum 3,000 words), followed by ten minutes for discussion. We highly encourage submissions
from both the analytic and continental traditions, as well as from other disciplines or alternate critical frameworks. Submissions in English and French are both welcome.
Please send submissions to email@example.com, in .doc or .docx format. Each submission
should be prepared for blind review. Please include your name, the title of your presentation, and
your institutional affiliation in your email. Submissions are due January 15, 2015.