Dr. Philipp Haueis (Universität Bielefeld): The Generalized Patchwork Approach to Scientific Concepts versus Semantic Holism

Datum / Uhrzeit:
12.05.20   /  19:30 - 21:00

Institut für Theoretische Philosophie



Polysemous concepts with multiple related meanings pervade natural languages, yet some philosophers argue that we should eliminate them to avoid confusion and pointless debates in scientific discourse. 

This paper defends the normative legitimacy of polysemous concepts in science. My approach analyses such concepts as patchworks with multiple scale-dependent, domain-specific and technique-involving uses. Patchwork concepts are normatively legitimate if the techniques used to apply them produce reliable results, the domains to which they are applied are homogenous, and the properties they refer to are significant to describe, classify or explain the behavior of entities in the concepts’ extension. I apply the generalized patchwork approach to the concept of “force” to inquire whether it complements or challenges semantic holism, according to which the meaning of (theoretical) concepts in science is determined by the role it plays in the sentences of a unified theory. 


Philipp Haueis received his PhD from the Berlin School of Mind and Brain and OvGU Magdeburg in 2018, with a thesis on concept formation and exploratory experiments in neuroscience.  Since Fall 2018, he is assistant professor (akademischer Rat auf Zeit) in philosophy of the life sciences at Bielefeld University. His research interests include the epistemology of neuroscientific experiments, concepts and concept formation in scientific practice and the role of methodology in science and the humanities. Recent publications include “Beyond Cognitive Myopia: A Patchwork Approach to the Concept of Neural Function (Synthese 2018), “Discovering Patterns: On the Norms of Mechanistic Inquiry (Erkenntnis 2019, with Lena Kästner) and “Evolving Concepts of “Hierarchy” in Systems Neuroscience (with Daniel Burnston forthcoming in New Challenges in the Philosophy of Neuroscience).

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