CFP: Scientism and Consciousness



A Conference at Keele University, UK, 27-28th June 2017

Keynote Speakers:

  • Philip Goff
  • John Cottingham
  • James Tartaglia
  • Keith Frankish
  • Christopher Norris

The term ‘scientism’ has traditionally been used by philosophers to denote an uncritical, excessively deferential attitude towards the (usually natural) sciences, along with an indifference or even hostility towards philosophy and, frequently, the humanities and social sciences. As such, it is most often used by philosophers with misgivings towards what they perceive as the encroachment of the methods and assumptions common to natural science into traditionally philosophical territory.

However, over the past decade, some philosophers have begun to identify their own positions as scientistic, in spite of its negative connotations – See, e.g. Rosenberg (2011) and Ladyman & Ross (2010).  In so branding themselves, they seek to reclaim intellectual enquiry from what they regard as unconstrained speculations about the nature of reality. They point to science’s striking success at answering the questions it poses, and its (relative) resistance to the influence of fads and psychological bias which, they argue, afflict other areas of thought.

The aim to provide a satisfactory explanation of consciousness has become a key battleground in debates over the limits of scientific enquiry. Experience, a subject matter that could not be closer to home, seems to provide a solid basis for doing a priori metaphysics and ethics, the kind of work philosophers have typically specialized in. If science promises to put those old philosophers out of a job, it will no doubt also change how we understand ourselves.

As such, we want to ask: What are the stakes for philosophy and culture with regards to naturalising the mind? How has our self-understanding already been affected by this project? What would a resurgence of traditional philosophy look like, with respect to the problem of consciousness? We grant that ‘scientism’ is just impolite naturalism, but feel this term’s resurgence as a badge of honour highlights the importance of the debate about consciousness, for philosophy and society at large, and the polarisation it often leads to.

Postgraduate Students who would like to present a paper at this conference are invited to submit abstracts of no more than 500 words to Adam Balmer ( or George Carpenter ( by the close of April 30. Ten applicants will be selected, they will be provided with accommodation and the conference dinner, and their papers will be published in a “Scientism and Consciousness” volume after the conference has been concluded.

We will provide updates regarding the conference on the Keele Philosophy Blog: