Department of Humanities and Social Sciences

Indian Institute of Technology Ropar

HSS Seminar

Science as an Essentially Contested Concept: A  Philosopher's Perspective


Dr Arun Murthy

May 09, 2017 (Tuesday) at 11 AM

Venue:  Lecture Hall 2

Of late, certain collections of work are vying for the status of science and are claimed to be scientific (For convenience I will refer to those who hold such a view as defenders). However, there is also a disagreement to such a claim on the ground that no feature of science seems to be evident in them. This makes room for the scepticism: Are these collections really repositories of scientific thought? Such scepticism, defenders argue, is due to a very limited understanding of science in terms of the way it is practised today. In essence, they contest the very concept of science. This is the question that the talk will address: Is science an essentially contested concept? After briefly delineating the characteristics of philosophy from an analytical perspective, I discuss the nature of an ‘essentially contested concept’. Tracing the etymology of science I would like to show that ‘science’ does not seem to be an essentially contested concept though it has been made to appear as one. In the end drawing upon the concept-conception distinction, I would like to present the claim that far from being a contested concept, one at present does not even have different conceptions of science. We at least need to work out a different conception of science for the claimed scientific status for certain collections of work. 

Brief Bio-sketch of the speaker

My PhD is from National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore in the area of Philosophy of Science. Passion for philosophy prompted me to make a decision for a mid-career change after my stint in the corporate sector for nearly twenty years. Prior to that, I had completed my education in Engineering and Business Management. I am a faculty member in the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, (Mohali ), in the Humanities and Social Sciences department. My areas of interest are, besides Philosophy of Science, Political Philosophy, Indian Philosophy from analytic perspective, economic and social issues.