New doctoral student: Wen Shichao

Bio

Wen Shichao is a native of China’s Hubei Province, where the rural landscapes and scientific influence shaped his early years. He graduated from Yangtze University in Hubei Province, China in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology. During his undergraduate years, he had the opportunity to collaborate with a mentor on rice hybridization and genetic modification-related projects.

From June 2019 to July 2020, he worked in the biopharmaceutical industry in Shenzhen, China, specializing in CHO cell cultivation, following his graduation. This experience provided him with invaluable biotechnology knowledge and cell culture skills.

He pursued a master’s degree in philosophy of science from September 2020 to June 2023 at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, due to a profound interest in science and philosophy. During this period of his education, he received a comprehensive education in the philosophy and history of science. 

Wen Shichao has an extensive foundation in biology, the philosophy of biology, and the history of biology. He is excited about the future prospects in the dynamic and ever-changing disciplines of biology, philosophy, and their intersections.

Wen’s project

Wen Shichao’s thesis project is about the debate between typological and population thinking, which concerns both statistics and evolutionary theories.

Ernst Mayr (1904-2005), a famous historian and philosopher of biology in the last century, considers that replacing typological thinking with population thinking was the greatest achievement of Darwin. Actually, this distinction is formulated by Mayr in 1959 in an effort to defend the natural historical sciences (that study the living things and their natural environments) and the Modern Synthesis, which is a consolidation of the Darwinian theory of evolution and the Mendelian laws of inheritance from 1920s to 1950s. 

First, according to Mayr’s definition, typologists emphasize similarities (average) and ignore individual differences (variation); second, the mean represents an ideal type, which is a Platonic abstract entity; for the populationist, however, the type (average) is a statistical abstraction, and only the variation (individual organisms and their differences) is real. The distribution of a biological population is almost a bell curve and shows a degree of similarity and difference among individuals. Accordingly, typological and population thinking are two distinct statistical approaches to the Normal Distribution. 

Simultaneously, they correspond to two distinct evolutionary theories, respectively. The orthodoxy of the Modern Synthesis is population thinking because natural selection acts on individual differences. In the past four decades, however, evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) has revitalized typology and orthogenesis (that evolution is caused by internal biological factors, not only by selection) through homologous developmental processes by focusing on similar causal structures that constrain the course of evolution in organisms. In other words, the same developmental types across species show the same evolutionary dispositions. 

Consequently, the typological/population debate is relevant to both statistics and evolution. Which is more important for interpreting the normal curve, the mean or the variance? Which is more fundamental to the study of evolution: similarities or differences between individuals? 

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Post-Darwinian Societies Seminar, 2023–2024

Thomas Malthus, Charles Darwin, and Karl Marx

In collaboration between CEFISES (Charles Pence) and the Chaire Hoover d’éthique économique et sociale (Gregory Ponthière), we’re continuing last year’s series of talks on the theme of Post-Darwinian Societies.

The goal of the Post-Darwinian Societies Seminar is to bring together researchers from various disciplines – including, but not limited to, philosophy, social sciences, economics, history and biology – who all work on evolutionary dynamics and selection effects. Dialogues between different scientific disciplines can contribute to the identification of new epistemological challenges for evolutionary theories, as well as to the emergence of new normative perspectives for the ethical foundation of the Welfare State.

Each seminar is online and will take place for the most part on Thursday afternoons, 16h30–17h45, via Teams.

The schedule (subject to change and evolution) for 2023–2024:

Attendance is free but registration is mandatory at dina.geron@uclouvain.be

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Visiting Researchers Program: Robert Frühstückl

We take a look back at another visiting researcher, Robert Frühstückl, who came in Winter 2023 for a period of 3 months.

Bio

Robert studied philosophy and history at the University of Vienna, Austria, and is now a doctoral candidate in the research training group on ‘Integrating ethics and epistemology of science’ at the University of Bielefeld, Germany.

Robert’s project

“During my stay at CEFISES, I’ve been working on the concept of biodiversity, specifically, on how we can make sense of the multidimensionality of the concept, encompassing not only taxonomic but also phylogenetic and functional diversity. I was also glad to learn more about the problem of using the species category as a measurement unit for biodiversity and the use of digital text analysis tools for the philosophy of science. It is a great working environment for doing history and philosophy of biology and ecology!”

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New doctoral student: Dieu-Merci Manwana Sindani

Bio

Dieu-Merci Manwana Sindani grew up in an environment of intense philosophical practice in his country, the Democratic Republic of Congo. At the end of his undergraduate studies in Philosophy, he graduated from both the Université Saint Augustin in Kinshasa and the Pontificia Università Urbaniana in Rome. In the same vein, he completed his postgraduate studies in Philosophy at the Université Catholique du Congo. The diversity of activities in which he has engaged throughout his career –participation in and contributions to scientific symposia, conferences, television broadcasts, debates, writing articles, reviews or collective works, training and teaching– which have all nurtured his philosophical culture and imprinted an interdisciplinary character on him.

Since October 2021, he has been completing a DEA (Diplôme d’Etudes Approfondies) in Philosophy at the Université Catholique du Congo, funded by the Institut de Missiologie Missio Aachen.

Since March 2023, he has been doing research under the supervision of Professor Marc Peeters of the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences, Department of Philosophy, Ethics and Religious and Secular Sciences.

Currently studying for his PhD at the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Dieu-Merci Manwana Sindani is working under the supervision of Professor Alexandre Guay, and his research is being carried out jointly by the Faculty of Philosophy, Arts and Literature (FIAL) and the Institut Supérieur de Philosophie (ISP).

Dieu-Merci’s PhD project

Dieu-Merci Manwana Sindani’s thesis project examines the virtue epistemology as a theory of knowledge and learning.

As a theory of knowledge, the virtue epistemology is presented here as a study based on the idea that the acquisition and/or production of knowledge has something to do with the exercise of one or more virtues, in particular originality of thought, intellectual curiosity, scientific honesty, open-mindedness, perseverance, rigour, prudence, etc. In this framework, knowledge is not merely a matter of the exercise of one or more virtues.

In this context, knowledge is not a set of justified and verified propositions emanating from a knowing subject, but rather the appropriate virtue. To know is thus to exercise a virtue.

There is therefore a close relationship between the quality of knowledge and the qualities of the subject who acquires or produces it.

On the other hand, as a theory of learning, the epistemology of virtues is approached by the researcher as a continuous and iterative process, which involves not only the acquisition of knowledge and skills, but also the development of essential virtues known as epistemic or intellectual or cognitive.

With this in mind, the thesis examines how these virtues can be taught and encouraged in educational contexts. In doing so, it also explores the relevance of virtue epistemology to contemporary issues in learning, such as pedagogical approaches to the use of technology and issues related to teaching in a multicultural society. In more depth, the thesis examines how epistemic virtues can help to address these issues by promoting educational practices that foster critical reflection and intercultural communication.

This is an interdisciplinary study, combining not only epistemology, but also anthropology, metaphysics and (intellectual) ethics. Moreover, it has important implications in many fields, including science, politics, education, religion and social life.

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Visiting Researchers Program, spring 2023: Wiktor Rorot

A look back at the visiting researchers that have come to Louvain-la-Neuve this past spring. We start with Wiktor Rorot (University of Warsaw / Polish Academy of Sciences).

Bio

Wiktor Rorot is a PhD student in the Interdisciplinary Doctoral School at the University of Warsaw and at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. He is working across philosophy and cognitive science under the supervision of prof. Joanna Rączaszek-Leonardi and prof. Marcin Miłkowski. He focuses on philosophy of biology and philosophy of cognitive science, applying digital methods to study the use of theoretical constructs and the scientific practice of those disciplines.

Wiktor’s visit

“I visited CEFISES and Louvain-la-Neuve for two weeks in the beginning of May 2023. I came as part of my project on the use of the concept of “communication” in biological and cognitive research, funded by the Polish National Science Center, to consult the methodology of a digital corpus study with prof. Charles Pence. The Center is a great place to conduct research in history and philosophy of science, and the members of CEFISES made me feel welcome immediately. Even though I visited only briefly, the time spent at UCLouvain has helped me significantly advance my project, and professor Pence’s experience with the methodology of digital philosophy of science has allowed me to focus the methodological core of my project and provided me with practical tools to move it forward. There’s a lot going on in LLN, and I can’t wait to visit again!”

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CfP: Integrating the History and Philosophy of Biodiversity

Narratives of Diversity, Extinction, Conflict and Value

CEFISES faculty Dr Charles Pence and PhD student Max Bautista Perpinyà are organizing a conference entitled Integrating the History and Philosophy of Biodiversity. Narratives of Diversity, Extinction, Conflict and Value, to take place in Brussels on October 20 and 21*, 2023.

The conference aims to bring together scholars from several traditions – at the very least, from philosophy of science, history of science, and environmental history – to propose different ways to think about ‘biodiversity’ and explore how they might interact. From philosophical studies on the empirical underdetermination of biodiversity to histories of environmental conflicts, including also historiographic and normative studies, this conference is purposedly multidisciplinary. We invite interested researchers to consult the full scope and motivations of the conference at https://pencelab.be/events/biodiversity-2023/.

Deadline CfA

1 April, 2023, 23:59 CET.

Dates and location

The conference will take place over two days, October 20 and 21*, 2023, at the Museum of Natural Sciences in Brussels, Belgium. At the moment, given the public health situation in Belgium, we anticipate having a fully in-person meeting, though we will make changes to this policy as needed (and would also be happy to consider exceptions to this policy).

Asterisk: * For those who are able to stay for the morning of October 22, we have planned an excursion to a local museum – likely to the biodiversity collections at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, just outside Brussels. More details are forthcoming, but if you are able to stick around as you plan your travel, please consider it!

Keynotes

David Sepkoski (University of Illinois)

Alkistis Elliott-Graves (Bielefeld University)

Organisers

Charles Pence (Université catholique de Louvain)

Max Bautista Perpinyà (Université catholique de Louvain)

For more information, please see https://pencelab.be/events/biodiversity-2023/.

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Extra CEFISES Seminar: Zach Weber (Logic & Philosophy)

On Friday 16/12, we have the honor to have Zach Weber from New-Zealand over for a talk at the CEFISES logic&philosophy seminar on paraconsistent logic. Everybody interested (students, researchers, non-academic philosophers, …) is more than welcome! The talk will be accessible for a broad philosophically interested audience.

Speaker: Zach Weber (University of Otago, New Zealand)

Title: “Paraconsistency: past, present, future.”

Date and Time: 11:00-13:00 (ATTENTION: not at the usual time of the cefises seminar, at 14:00 there will also be the planned CEFISES seminar.

Venue: Bâtiment Socrate, Place Cardinal Mercier, Louvain-la-Neuve, room SOCR24.

Hybrid: you can also join on Zoom (https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81245987323)

Abstract:
There are many approaches to paraconsistency, ranging from the very moderate to the more radical. In this talk I will explore and extend the more radical end of the spectrum, where there are truth-value gluts. The aim is to evaluate the philosophical and technical tenability of such an approach. I will show that there are very significant technical challenges to face on this sort of radical approach, but that there is good philosophical support for facing these challenges.

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CfA: From Science to Metaphysics?

The CfA for the fourth OLOFOS Workshop (From Science to Metaphysics? On the use of scientific knowledge and practices in order to propose an ontology of nature) is open until December 21st, 2022.

From Science to Metaphysics? On the use of scientific knowledge and practices in order to propose an ontology of nature is the theme of the 4th workshop of the OLOFOS group. It will take place on May 11-12 2023 in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) at the Institut supérieur de philosophie (ISP) of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). Note that any approach to this theme is potentially acceptable. However, contributions about the justification of using science in a metaphysical project will have the preference of the selection committee.

Invited speakers
Anjan CHAKRAVARTTY, University of Miami
Michela MASSIMI, University of Edinburg

Organising committee
GUAY, Alexandre, Université catholique de Louvain
CHALAS, Kévin, Université catholique de Louvain
SARTENAER, Olivier, Université de Namur

Scientific Committee
Chakravartty, Anjan, University of Miami
Guay, Alexandre, UCLouvain
Leclercq, Bruno, Université de Liège
Massimi, Michela, University of Edinburgh
Pence, Charles, chargé de cours, UCLouvain
Sartenaer, Olivier, Université de Namur
Verdée, Peter, UCLouvain

Call for Abstracts (Deadline December 12th, 2022): https://sciencemeta.sciencesconf.org/data/pages/AppelOLOFOS2023eng_1.pdf

More information: https://sciencemeta.sciencesconf.org/

Event Page: https://cefises.be/en/event/olofos-workshop-iv-from-science-to-metaphysics/

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CfA: Mechanisms and Ontic Causation in Life Sciences

The CfA for the second MeCauLife Group Workshop (Mechanisms and Ontic Causation in Life Sciences) is open until February 1st, 2023.

Mechanisms and Ontic Causation in Life Sciences is the theme of the 2nd workshop of the MeCauLife group. It will take place on June 15-16 2023 in Louvain-la-Neuve (Belgium) at the Institut supérieur de philosophie (ISP) of the Université catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). Note that any approach to this theme is potentially acceptable.

Invited speakers
Marie I. KAISER, Bielefeld University
Daniel LIU, ICI Berlin
Marcel WEBER, Université de Genève

Consortium speakers
Ruey-Lin CHEN, National Chung Cheng University
Richard HOU, National Chung Cheng University
Jonathon HRICKO, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University
Linton WANG, National Chung Cheng University
Karen YAN, National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University

Organising Committe
Max BAUTISTA PERPINYÀ, UCLouvain
Alexandre GUAY, UCLouvain
Cherles PENCE, UCLouvain

Scientific Committe
Ruey-Lin CHEN, National Chung Cheng University
Alexandre GUAY, UCLouvain
Marie I. KAISER, Bielefeld University
Daniel LIU, ICI Berlin
Charles PENCE, UCLouvain
Marcel WEBER, Université de Genève

Call for Abstracts (Deadline February 1st, 2023): https://mecaulife.sciencesconf.org/data/pages/AppelCausation2023eng.pdf

More information: https://mecaulife.sciencesconf.org/

Event Page: https://cefises.be/en/event/mecaulife-group-workshop-ii-mechanisms-and-ontic-causation-in-life-sciences/

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