IUHPST Essay Prize in History and Philosophy of Science

The International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IUHPST) is pleased to announce the outcome of the competition for the first IUHPST Essay Prize in History and Philosophy of Science. This prize competition seeks to encourage fresh methodological thinking on the history and philosophy of science as an integrated discipline.

The winner of the 2017 prize is Professor Theodore Arabatzis of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. His essay was entitled “What’s in it for the historian of science? Reflections on the value of philosophy of science for history of science”.

In his prize essay, Theodore Arabatzis distinguishes the “historical philosophy of science” from the “philosophical history of science.” The latter, which is the focus of his discussion, has the potential “to reconstruct particular historical episodes or to address historiographical questions by engaging with philosophical issues about, e.g., experimentation or conceptual change.”

The committee concurs with Arabatzis that the historiographical potential of philosophical reflection on scientific practice has not yet been fully explored. In the essay, not only is the case made abstractly and contextualized (with reference to Lakatos and Kuhn), but it is also shown concretely for particular topics (epistemic values, experiment, discovery and conceptual change) with various examples from the history of physical science.

The essay addresses the prize question directly: what can the philosophy of science do for the history of science? Arabatzis begins from N. R. Hanson’s insight that historical analyses necessarily involve metascientific concepts. In detailed discussions of how four particular philosophical ideas have played out in the historiography of science, Arabatzis demonstrates how the analysis of metascientific concepts, whose outlines can be traced by philosophical reflection, contributes to historiographical methods.

With an impressive reach and a deep understanding of both the history and the philosophy of science, “What’s in it for the historian of science?” convincingly shows the illuminating role that can be played by the philosophical history of science. The essay links this demonstration to a critical analysis of both traditional and cutting-edge work in HPS. It signals the availability of analytic and exploratory resources for the history of science, underwritten by the philosophy of science.

Professor Arabatzis will receive his prize and present the contents of his essay at the 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology in Rio de Janeiro (23–29 July 2017).

This prize is administered by the Joint Commission, whose remit is to make links between the work of the two Divisions of the IUHPST: the DHST (Division of History of Science and Technology) and the DLMPST (Division of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science and Technology).

The panel of judges for the 2017 competition consisted of: Hasok Chang, University of Cambridge, UK (chair); Rachel Ankeny, University of Adelaide, Australia; Jean Gayon, Université Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne), France; Alan Love, University of Minnesota, USA; Lydia Patton, Virginia Tech, USA; Friedrich Steinle, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany. For further information about the IUHPST, see http://iuhps.net.

From HPS&ST Notes, April 2017