News & Events

Each year the History and Philosophy of Science Program strives to bring you new and exciting events, from various lectures, seminars, and information sessions. Past Seminars and Past Lectures information can be found on the left.


2018-2019 Events


September 14, 2018

4th Annual HPSC Lecture:

Dr. Margaret Carlyle (Institute on the Formation of Knowledge, University of Chicago)

Title: Delivering the Enlightenment: Technologies of Childbirth in 18th-century France

Abstract: It is a commonplace in Enlightenment studies that the rise of male surgical authority eroded female influence in the domain of childbirth over the course of the eighteenth century. According to this narrative, male physicians introduced instruments like forceps into the birthing chamber while relegating midwives to the margins of obstetrical knowledge and practice; the triumph of the male surgeon in the birthing chamber was another manifestation of the triumph of the male medical gaze in the new institutional space of the clinic. Does this Foucauldian narrative hold water when we look at the material culture of childbirth, or when we look at how obstetrical knowledge was produced and used? Drawing on both textual and three-dimensional archives, this talk argues that both male and female authorities transformed childbirth in this period. They did so through attempts to create new technologies that served practical and pedagogical functions in and beyond the birthing chamber. One such technology is the "phantom," a simulative device for imparting manual knowledge of birthing positions to students that reveals the shifting grounds of gender and instrumental authority. Through this example, I suggest that the professionalization of midwifery was as much a debate about gender as about conflicting visions of the utility of instruments in the birthing milieu, at a time of increased political and social pressure on the profession. I conclude by suggesting that the debate over best practices in childbirth is more fruitfully understood as a variant on the conceptual tension between the "natural" and the "artificial."

Friday, September 14th 2018, 3:30 – 5:00 pm, Leacock Building, Room 927, McGill University.


2017-2018 Events


December 1, 2017

Prof. Anouk Barberousse (Université Paris Sorbonne)
Title: Formalism, mathematical interpretation, and physical theories

Abstract: In this talk I shall argue in favor of considering formal settings (pieces of mathematical theories that are commonly used in physics or other empirical disciplines) as important units of analysis for understanding scientific achievements, along with theories, models, computer simulations, concepts, etc. I’ll present different examples of formal settings, from calculus to cellular automata. My main examples will be the representation of time in Discrete Mechanics.

Conférence co-organisée avec / Talk co-organized with McGill’s Philosophy Department

3:30 – 5:30 pm, Philosophy seminar room #927, 9th floor, Leacock Building, McGill University


September 8, 2017

The 3rd Annual HPSC Lecture will be presented in association with The Montreal Philosophy of Science Network:

Prof. Sorin Bangu (University of Bergen, Norway):
Title: Reductionism, Constructionism and Explanation. The Case of Superconductivity

Abstract: It is perhaps old news that understanding-generating explanations of phenomena in biology, geology, economics, etc. are not, and cannot be, formulated in terms of (or in some sense reduced to) the basic constituents of reality, i.e., electrons, quarks, and other fundamental particles. These explanations are thus 'higher-level'. While some argue that chemistry should also be on this list, it is surely controversial whether physics itself is (or could be) part of this group. This talk explores this possibility, namely that the explanation of superconductive properties of certain materials is an illustration of this kind of explanation.

Friday, September 8th 2017, 3:30 – 5:00 pm, Leacock Building, Room 927, McGill University. Light refreshments will be served at 3:00 pm at Leacock 908.

2016-2017 Events

February 2, 2017

Le Réseau montréalais de philosophie des sciences a le plaisir d’annoncer sa conférence inaugurale par/The Montreal Philosophy of Science Network is pleased to announce its inaugural speaker:

Martin Carrier, Université de Bielefeld

Agnotological Challenges: How to Capture the Production of Ignorance

Jeudi 2 février/Thursday, February 2nd 2017, 15:30 – 17:30 McGill University, Leacock Building, 9th floor, room 927

(En raison de travaux, il est recommandé d’accéder au campus via l’avenue McGill College / Due to construction please enter campus from McGill College Avenue)

Agnotology concerns the creation and preservation of confusion and ignorance. Certain positions are advocated in order to promote economic, political, or metaphysical interests with the result of creating mock controversies or maintaining unjustified agreement. I propose to identify agnotological ploys by the discrepancy between the conclu- sions suggested by the design of the study at hand and the conclusions actually drawn or intimated. Agnotological ploys are characterized by the unrecognized difference between those issues for which a study is sensitive and those issues that feature in its interpretation. This mechanism of “false advertising” serves to implement agnotological endeavors without having to invoke the motivations of the relevant agents. I discuss three agnotological cases, i.e., studies on bisphenol A, Bt-maize/Roundup, and Oslo’s airport Gardermoen. Agnotological challenges are best met by transparency and plurality. The former requires recognizing the partial character of a study and the latter encour- ages conducting a different study so as to achieve a more balanced picture. The identification of agnotological moves serves to curb the manifold of contrasting assumptions that characteristically goes along with pluralism. Identifying agnotological endeavors is a means for weeding out approaches that look fitting at first glance, but are blatantly inappropriate, in fact. Pinpointing agnotological endeavors helps transform a pluralist manifold into a manageable range of alternatives.

Le Réseau montréalais de philosophie des sciences stimule la réflexion et la recherche en philosophie des sciences. Il résulte d’une collaboration entre l’Université du Québec à Montréal, l’Université de Montréal, Concordia University, McGill University et le CIRST. Pour plus d’information et pour y participer, voir ou nous suivre sur https://

The Montreal Philosophy of Science Network stimulates thinking and research in philosophy of science through collaboration among Université du Québec à Montréal, Université de Montréal, Concordia University, McGill University and CIRST. For further information and to participate please visit or follow us on MontrealPhilSciNet/

September 16, 2016

Prof. Eran Tal (Philosophy) will give the second HPSC lecture on September 16, 2016, in Leacock 927 (3:30-5:00pm):

Title: Weighing the Kilogram: How History and Philosophy of Science Inform Each Other
This will be an opportunity for interested students to learn about work in History and Philosophy of Science and the HPSC Minor Concentration program.


2015-2016 Events

September 11, 2015

Prof. Brendan Gillon (Linguistics) will give the first HPSC lecture on September 11, 2015, in Leacock 927 (3:30-5:30pm):

Title: History and Philosophy of Science in some unusual places


Check also the HPSC Students Facebook page for announcements.

There are no other upcoming events at this time. Check back regularly for updates.