April 3 – 27, 2019

Michela Massimi

Professor of Philosophy of Science, University of Edinburgh

Michela Massimi is a Professor of Philosophy of Science in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Edinburgh, affiliated with the Higgs Centre for Theoretical Physics, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She did her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics (2002), under the supervision of Michael Redhead and Carl Hoefer. She was a Junior Research Fellow at Girton College at the University of Cambridge (2002–2005), and Visiting Professor in the HPS Department at the University of Pittsburgh (fall 2009) and the Department of Philosophy at the University of Florence (spring 2016). From October 2005 to June 2012, she taught in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at the University College London.

Her primary research interests are on philosophy of science, the history and philosophy of modern physics, and Kant’s philosophy of nature. Her work is highly interdisciplinary in approaching contemporary philosophical problems by looking both at their historical roots and contemporary scientific practice. In recent years, she has been focusing on two main research topics: (i) Kant’s philosophy of natural science; and, more recently, (ii) a new form of realism, perspectival realism, inspired in part by Kant, which aims to overcome a number of impasses in the current debate between scientific realism and anti-realism. For a short overview of where she stands on the issue of realism and perspectivism in science, see her Aeon article “Getting it Right.”

From 2011 to 2016, she was the Editor-in-Chief (together with Steven French) of The British Journal for Philosophy of Science. She is a founding member of Integrated HPS, and a member of the Palgrave Macmillan editorial board for the series “New Directions in Philosophy of Science.” From 2012 to 2015, she was Editorial Chair (jointly with Zvi Biener) of the PhilSci-Archive Board, and an Elected Member of the PSA Governing Board (2012–2015). In 2014, she was the Project Leader for a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) entitled “Philosophy and the Sciences.” In 2015, she was elected Vice-President of the European Philosophy of Science Association. In 2016, she was elected Corresponding Member of the Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences. She is the recipient of the Royal Society’s Wilkins-Bernal-Medawar Medal and Lecture 2017 for her interdisciplinary work and communication of philosophy of science, especially modern physics.

From 2012 to 2015, she was the PI on a Leverhulme Trust International Network grant on “Kant and the Laws of Nature: Lessons from the Physical and the Life Sciences of the Eighteenth Century.” The network has brought together eight institutions, nationally and internationally. She was also the PI (2014–2015) for an Interdisciplinary and International Research Group on “Philosophy of the Natural and Human Sciences: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives” funded by the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH, Edinburgh) and hosted by the Eidyn Research Centre. From January 2016 until December 2020, she is the Principal Investigator on a five-year European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant on “Perspectival Realism: Science, Knowledge, and Truth from a Human Vantage Point.

For her personal story of how she got into philosophy and her intellectual journey across the history of physics, Kant, realism and perspectivism, read her 3:AM Magazine interview. Her husband, Mark Sprevak, is a philosopher of mind at the University of Edinburgh, and they have a son, Edward, born in 2010.



Tuesday, April 16, 2019
4:00-5:00 pm
Wilder Hall, Room 111, Dartmouth College

Realism, Perspectivism and Reality

ICE Fellow Michela Massimi explores how realism in science might be compatible with perspectivism, i.e. the view that our scientific knowledge is historically and culturally situated. She considers the history of the electric charge around 1897-1906—with JJ Thomson’s Faraday-Maxwell perspective, Max Planck’s quantum perspective and Drude and Helmholtz’s electrochemical perspective—and explains how our realist commitment to the electric charge was borne out of the interplay among these three scientific perspectives.

Watch video of the lecture →