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What Can the Philosophy of Science Do for the Philosophy of Art (and Vice Versa)?
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Steven French
Dean Rickles
George Darby
Otávio Bueno

Over the past thirty years or so the notion of representation has moved to center stage in the philosophy of science. Various accounts have been given of this notion, with examples and counter-examples drawn from both science and art. Thus, for example, certain formal accounts of the relationship between a given representation and the system represented have been taken to be ruled out on the basis of the claim that such accounts fail for certain cases of representation in art, leading to the obvious objection that the relevance of such cases for representation in science is simply not clear. More generally, the extent of that relevance has not been systematically analyzed or discussed and the question whether a ‘one size fits all’ notion of representation can be maintained has not been addressed.

But of course, there is vastly more to the philosophies of science and art than is captured in discussions around representation! Consider the ontological questions ‘what is a theory?’ and ‘what is an artwork?’ The former has also begun to achieve a certain prominence in the philosophy of science following the widespread adoption of the so-called ‘model-theoretic’ or ‘semantic’ approach which analyzes or represents (that word again!) theories in terms of families of scientific models. Some have argued that this approach identifies theories with such models, leading to well-known concerns, whereas others have resisted this move, leaving the question still to be answered. On the philosophy of art side, the related question is of course the focus of considerable discussion and here again considerations from that discussion--in this case at the meta-level of philosophical reflection, rather than at the ‘object’ level of artistic examples--can be exported to the philosophy of science. Again, however, the issue of relevance arises: to what extent is a scientific theory like a piece of music? Or a work of literature?

It was in order to initiate a discussion of these questions of relevance between the two fields that the workshop ‘What Can the Philosophy of Science Do for the Philosophy of Art (and vice versa)?’ was held in the School of Philosophy, Religion and History of Science, University of Leeds, in October 2012. The idea was to bring together interested people in an informal context to discuss the above questions in the context of four presentations drawing on examples, moves and considerations from painting, music, literature and art in general. Our intention is that the workshop will be the first of several, involving other speakers of course, and held in other locations, but all focusing on the interactions and inter-relationships between these two important fields. To further the project, this Newsletter prints two presentations from the conference; the next issue will contain the other two.

2013 © Steven French, Dean Rickles, George Darby, Otávio Bueno

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