The Wise Scientist

So I’m organizing the annual graduate conference for HAPSAT, the student group at the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science where I study. I figured I’d throw the call for papers up here. I’m hoping to put together a day of talks that investigate the scientist as a wise (or unwise) person. The call for papers is still open, so if you’re reading this, you’re invited to contribute.

I’m excited to see that the irrepressible UofT Jungians, along with the Buddhist Psychology Student Union are also organizing a conference on wisdom (check it!), though their slice through the subject matter is slightly different. We’re looking at science through the lens of wisdom, whereas they’re looking at wisdom through the lens of science.


The Wise Scientist: Historical and Philosophical Reflections on the Place of Wisdom in Science

Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, University of Toronto, Graduate Conference

HAPSAT, the graduate course union of the IHPST invites scholars to submit paper proposals for our upcoming conference, which will be held on June 2nd, 2012 at the University of Toronto.

In the History and Philosophy of Science, it has become the consensus view that values play a constitutive role in scientific practice. However, relatively little attention has been paid to the consequences of this conclusion: that the values that scientists, as individuals, bring to bear on their work is of paramount importance. In short, the wisdom of scientists matters. This conference seeks to put this fact in its historical and philosophical context, exploring past and present attitudes towards the relationship between scientific practice and what could broadly be called wisdom. Wisdom is a multifaceted concept, including the ability to know what is important, the skillful appreciation of how things in general hang together, and the deep insight which can result from a lifetime of exploring nature’s depths. Examples of how wisdom, or a lack thereof, have played a role in science abound, including the illuminating critiques of feminisms, the constitutive role religious values have played in the history of natural science, and reflections on scientists as public advocates for environmental responsibility. We welcome topics including but not limited to:

  •  Case studies which highlight particularly wise (or spectacularly unwise) scientists
  •  The changing role of individuals in the scientific process, and how that affects the interplay of values and epistemic goals
  •  The role of scientists in society at large in shaping discourse and providing guidance
  •  Hypothesis formulation, that unformalized creative moment in the scientific method
  •  The need for an ongoing feminist critique of science in order to clear the cobwebs of ideology
  •  The effect eastern and western religions can have on the epistemic goals of science.

The Keynote speaker will be Dr. John Vervaeke, a professor of cognitive science at UofT. He will discuss the function of wisdom as enhanced relevance realization in scientific practice. Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words, and must be received by February 29, 2012. Submissions or questions about the conference should be send to, along with your name, e-mail and institutional affiliation.


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