First Principles in Science: Their Epistemic Status and Justification

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First Principles in Science: Their Epistemic Status and Justification
10-11 June, 2016

Idea and Motivation

What is the epistemic status of first principles in science and how do scientists justify them accordingly? These are the central questions that will be discussed at this workshop. So far, discussions about first principles and their justification in science have focused largely on the natural sciences. For example, philosophical debates around Poincaré’s conventionalism or the relativized a priori are usually grounded in concrete case studies from physics. Yet, first principles occupy an equally important, yet controversial, role in other natural and as well in the social sciences, where their status and epistemic role raise similar concerns, economics and psychology being only two cases in point. For example, it has been widely discussed that economic theories rest upon first principles of human behavior that have long been fiercely defended by economists and justified in various different ways. Yet, at the same time, they have been attacked and in some cases even replaced by behavioral economists. The workshop aims at renewing the existing discussions on the status and justification of first principles in sciences by expanding them to cases beyond physics into economics, psychology, biology and chemistry. This will help us to better understand the way in which first principles are used and justified in the natural and the social sciences alike, and thereby address more general questions concerning the way in which knowledge is produced in these disciplines.