Séminaire CBI : Christophe Malaterre UQAM

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15 décembre 2021 11:00 » 12:30 — online

talk of Christophe Malaterre, visiting CBI on a ’Chaire Joliot’. Christophe Malaterre is director of the department of philosophy of sciences at Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), working in particular on the question of the origins.

He will give a talk at 11 am this Wednesday 15th of Decembre 2021 on the topic below.
Given the current conditions, the talk will be given on zoom at :

Which color were dinosaur feathers ? The epistemic granularity problem in the historical sciences

Christophe Malaterre, Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Canada Research Chair in the Philosophy of the Life Sciences

In epistemic analyses of the historical sciences, overdetermination is often proposed as a principle that makes possible the justification of historical claims, typically through the identification of remaining traces or “smoking guns” of past events. Philosopher of science Carol Cleland argues that this is exactly what makes possible the justification of the meteoritic impact that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs at the Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) boundary some 65 million years ago (2002). On the other hand, information destroying processes are also presented as reasons for the existence of local underdetermination in the historical sciences. This observation led another philosopher of science, Derek Turner to argue that some historical claims will never be justifiable on the basis of traces of past events - in particular the color of dinosaur feathers - such traces having been totally erased or being inaccessible (2005, 2009). While both views capture some of the epistemic possibilities and limitations of the historical sciences, they appear do so at the cost of an oversimplification of what historical claims consist of. The reason, we argue, is that both views bracket the epistemic granularity of historical claims, that is to say, in short, their level of details. Yet, when examined more closely, this epistemic granularity reveals the actual playing-field within which historical claims are positioned. Considering such epistemic granularity contributes to a better understanding of how debates about specific historical claims move forward : they do so by shifting granularity up or down, for instance when new evidence is uncovered or when new historical inferences are made possible by novel background theories. Epistemic granularity makes explicit the broader scope of possibilities in historical claims and the justificatory dynamics that is at play.

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