Crossing the Divides: Exploring Boundaries & Overlaps between Sociology & Philosophy in Science & Bioethics

Brunel University, London, is organizing a workshop (May 13th – 14th 2013) exploring the potential productive overlaps between the disciplines of Philosophy and Sociology. With a focus on two disputed domains, relations between the Philosophy of Science and the Sociology of Science and interactions between Bioethics and Sociological approaches to Ethics, the workshop aims at developing conceptual tools to reflect the fruitful interactions between these disciplines.

Both philosophy and sociology have a core set of intellectual traditions, background assumptions and methods, and the aim of the workshop is to make these explicit and to question to what degree these do and should make a difference to ‘crossing the divides’. Indeed, holding these cross-disciplinary conversations is crucial if we want to avoid one discipline rediscovering the wheels of others. Hopefully, such conversations will enable participants to identify the strengths of each discipline so that particular scientific or ethical problems are investigated in a more co-ordinated and synergistic manner with the disciplinary contributions building on each others’ insights.

Contributions to this workshop might for example reflect on:
– Sociological and/or philosophical perspectives on interdisciplinarity applied to philosophy and sociology of science and bioethics.
– Reflections from the history of philosophy and/or sociology on the relationship between sociology and philosophy of science.
– Reflections on the demarcation between sociological and philosophical approaches to science and bioethics.
– Reflections from adjacent interdisciplinary collaborations / fields of study such as History and Philosophy of Science and possible lessons learned from these.
– Reports of current work within philosophy or sociology of science and bioethics which cross the boundaries between philosophy and sociology.

The Workshop is funded by the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Ethics Strategic Award supporting LABTEC (London and Brighton Translational Ethics Centre).

Enquiries to: Hauke Riesch at crossingthedivides@gmail.com

Please submit abstracts of no more than 500 words by 11th Jan 2013.

Human enhancement as a concern in clinical practice – Myth or Reality? An ethics workshop coming up soon in London.

The next meeting organised by the Intermural Student Bioethics Network (ISBN) at KCL with the Royal Society of Medicine Open Section will be focused on the ethics of human enhancement in clinical practice and will take place on March 15, 2012, in the Gordon Museum at on the Guy’s Hospital Campus of Kings College London.
The timetable is as follows:
1515: Registration and Coffee in the Asklepios Room, Ground floor, Gordon Museum
1530: Welcome by Chair – Dr Andrew Papanikitas, President Elect, RSM Open Section
1535-1600: Human enhancement – what is it? Why should we think about it? Dr Tom Douglas Uehiro Centre, Oxford University
1600 -1625: Cosmetic enhancement – in the eye of the beholder? Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, Group Medical Director, BUPA and Board Member, Independent Healthcare Advisory Service
1625- 1650 Human enhancement and childhood potential – Professor Sam Lingam, Consultant neurodevelomental paediatrician
1650-1715: Human enhancement -What’s the story? – Dr Pete Moore, Science Journalist and author
A panel discussion will follow. Afterwards all delegates are invited to continue the conversation over a glass of wine and nibbles in the the Asklepios Room.
The Gordon Museum entrance is on the mezzanine floor of The Hodgkin Building of the Guys Campus, nearest tube/train is London Bridge (St Thomas’ Street Exit).

University of London Sciences and The Arts Interdisciplinary Discussion Group

On Wednesday 2nd February, 2011, people gathered in the CHH seminar room for the first meeting of The University of London Interdisciplinary Sciences and the Arts Discussion Group. The room was bursting to the seams with postgraduate researchers from across the London universities, Oxford, Cambridge, Sussex and elsewhere, including The Science Museum.

I founded this group, along with my friend Helen Barron who is a neuroscientist at UCL, as we both felt surprised by the lack of communication that takes place on a personal level between the disciplines within a university context.

Driven on by anger at C P Snow’s absurd, but yet still all too familiar remarks in his 1959 lecture The Two Cultures we decided to found the group. Snow writes that ‘I believe the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups’ and that this also carries over into ‘practical life’, meaning that therefore, the attitudes of scientists and writers ‘are so different that, even on the level of emotion, they can’t find much common ground’. I would hope that this meeting, amongst numerous other things in our culture, went some way in proving Snow wrong.

Instead, I prefer the words of Mary Midgley who writes in her book Poetry and Science that ‘the idea of a war between two cultures is a futile one. Instead we all need to sit down together and exchange our visions’ (Mary Midgley, Science and Poetry, London and New York: Routledge, 2001, p. 57).

There is a growing critical interest in the relationship between the sciences and the arts and interdisciplinary research is on the rise. Yet despite this, it is rare for a group of scientists and humanities postgraduate researchers to come together to discuss the ways in which their disciplines relate, interact and can be fruitful for or antagonistic towards one another. Therefore, this group intends to be a space for precisely this to happen. And based on the extremely lively debate that took place at the first meeting, along with the well balanced and highly varied demographic of attendees, it looks set, we hope, to be able to live up to its brief.

In light of the current exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, we chose the topic of drugs as the first topic. Furthermore, it seemed an interesting point to consider chemical brain changes alongside accounts of subjectivity.

We discussed two neuroscientific papers on drugs, and Neil Saigal, a researcher from Cambridge looking the opiod receptor, impulsivity and cocaine abuse, introduced his work. We also discussed Aldous Huxley’s text recounting his experiences of mescalin The Doors of Perception, which was introduced by Nicholas Murray, Huxley’s biographer and the King’s College Royal Literary fund writer in residence.

The group will meet again shortly. If you would like to join or suggest future topics for discussion, would like to speak or simply attend, please do get in touch with us on helen.barron.10@ucl.ac.uk or susie.christensen@kcl.ac.uk