Causal Powers in Science: Blending Historical and Conceptual Perspectives


Each year the Rotman Summer Institute brings graduate students together with exceptional faculty from around the world to focus on a topic of special interest where philosophy and science meet and interact.

This year’s Institute brings together philosophers of science and metaphysicians with historians of philosophy to discuss conceptual and historical issues concerning the nature and role of causal powers in science and the prospects of the debate between the neo-Aristotelian and neo-Humean approaches to causation and laws of nature. This is a unique event in blending historical and conceptual perspectives on a central philosophical issue and its relevance to the scientific image of the world. The goal for students is to come away from the course prepared to engage the philosophical and historical literature on causal powers and their place in science at a professional level. Students will attend lectures, participate in group discussions and present their own work. A special feature of the Institute will be specially designed ‘interactive’ sessions and round tables. Lecture topics include: powers and their place in mechanical philosophy; powers, causation and the problem of induction; causal structuralism and dispositional essentialism; causal powers and modern science.

The institute will take place between Sunday, June 22 and Saturday, July 5, in the Rotman Institute of Philosophy (first week) and a charming beach resort on the shores of Lake Huron (second week). On Friday, July 4 and Saturday, July 5 the Institute will conclude with a workshop.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Brian Ellis (La Trobe)
  • Daniel Garber (Princeton)
  • Howard Sankey (Melbourne)

Faculty for this year’s institute are:

  • Deborah Brown (Queensland)
  • Lisa Downing (Ohio State)
  • Benjamin Hill (Western)
  • Henrik Lagerlund (Western)
  • Jennifer McKitrick (Nebraska-Lincoln)
  • Calvin Normore (UCLA)
  • Stathis Psillos (Western)
  • Howard Sankey (Melbourne)

Tuition, including meals, accommodations and local transportation, but excluding travel, is $800. On Saturday June 28, there will be an optional day trip to Niagara Falls (estimated cost $150).

To apply for the Summer Institute, candidates should send the following materials to Carol Suter ():

  • A cover letter describing current research interests, explaining the relevance of the Summer Institute to these interests.
  • A current CV.
  • A letter of reference from the student’s supervisor, or a faculty member familiar with their research related to the Summer Institute.

Bursaries may be available to students; if you wish to be considered for this, please indicate in cover letter.

The deadline for applications is March 17, 2014.