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Profile: Axel Gelfert (National University of Singapore)
  1. Axel Gelfert (forthcoming). Disattendability, Civil Inattention, and the Epistemology of Privacy. Philosophical Analysis.
    The concept of privacy is intimately related to epistemological concepts such as information and knowledge, yet for the longest time had received only scant attention from epistemologists. This has begun to change in recent years, and different philosophical accounts have been proposed. On the liberal model of privacy, what privacy aims at is the protection of individuals from interference in personal matters. On the (more narrowly epistemological) informational model, privacy is a matter of limiting access to (or maintaining control over) (...)
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  2. Axel Gelfert (forthcoming). How to Do Science with Models: A Philosophical Primer. Springer.
    Reliance on models is pervasive in science, and scientists often need to construct models in order to explain or predict anything of interest at all. The diversity of kinds of models one finds in science – ranging from toy models and scale models to theoretical and mathematical models – has attracted attention not only from scientists, but also from philosophers, sociologists and historians of science. This has given rise to a wide variety of case studies that look at the different (...)
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  3. Axel Gelfert (2014). A Critical Introduction to Testimony. Bloomsbury.
    The first book since Coady's 1992 'Testimony: A Philosophical Study' to offer a thorough survey and a philosophical introduction to testimony and its epistemological problems, while at the same time advancing a novel view that proposes independent justificatory pathways for the acceptance and rejection of testimony, respectively. // Table of Contents: // Introduction / 1. What is Testimony? / 2. The Testimonial Conundrum / 3. Testimony, Perception, Memory, and Inference / 4. Testimony and Evidence / 5. Reductionism and Anti-Reductionism / (...)
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  4. Axel Gelfert (2014). Applicability, Indispensability, and Underdetermination: Puzzling Over Wigner's 'Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics'. Science and Education 23 (5):997-1009.
    In his influential 1960 paper ‘The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences’, Eugene P. Wigner raises the question of why something that was developed without concern for empirical facts—mathematics—should turn out to be so powerful in explaining facts about the natural world. Recent philosophy of science has developed ‘Wigner’s puzzle’ in two different directions: First, in relation to the supposed indispensability of mathematical facts to particular scientific explanations and, secondly, in connection with the idea that aesthetic criteria track (...)
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  5. Axel Gelfert (2014). Observation, Inference, and Imagination: Elements of Edgar Allan Poe’s Philosophy of Science. Science and Education 23 (3):589-607.
    Edgar Allan Poe’s standing as a literary figure, who drew on (and sometimes dabbled in) the scientific debates of his time, makes him an intriguing character for any exploration of the historical interrelationship between science, literature and philosophy. His sprawling ‘prose-poem’ Eureka (1848), in particular, has sometimes been scrutinized for anticipations of later scientific developments. By contrast, the present paper argues that it should be understood as a contribution to the raging debates about scientific methodology at the time. This methodological (...)
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  6. Eric Kerr & Axel Gelfert (2014). The ‘Extendedness’ of Scientific Evidence. Philosophical Issues 24 (1):253-281.
    In recent years, the idea has been gaining ground that our traditional conceptions of knowledge and cognition are unduly limiting, in that they privilege what goes on inside the ‘skin and skull’ of an individual reasoner. Instead, it has been argued, knowledge and cognition need to be understood as embodied , situated , and extended . Whether these various interrelations and dependencies are ‘merely’ causal, or are in a more fundamental sense constitutive of knowledge and cognition, is as much a (...)
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  7. Axel Gelfert (2013). Coverage-Reliability, Epistemic Dependence, and the Problem of Rumor-Based Belief. Philosophia 41 (3):763-786.
    Rumors, for better or worse, are an important element of public discourse. The present paper focuses on rumors as an epistemic phenomenon rather than as a social or political problem. In particular, it investigates the relation between the mode of transmission and the reliability, if any, of rumors as a source of knowledge. It does so by comparing rumor with two forms of epistemic dependence that have recently received attention in the philosophical literature: our dependence on the testimony of others, (...)
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  8. Axel Gelfert (2013). Climate Scepticism, Epistemic Dissonance, and the Ethics of Uncertainty. Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche 3 (1):167-208.
    When it comes to the public debate about the challenge of global climate change, moral questions are inextricably intertwined with epistemological ones. This manifests itself in at least two distinct ways. First, for a fixed set of epistemic standards, it may be irresponsible to delay policy-making until everyone agrees that such standards have been met. This has been extensively discussed in the literature on the precautionary principle. Second, key actors in the public debate may – for strategic reasons, or out (...)
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  9. Axel Gelfert (2013). Hume on Curiosity. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4):711-732.
    Hume concludes Book II of his Treatise of Human Nature with a section on the passion of curiosity, ‘that love of truth, which was the first source of all our enquiries’. At first sight, this characterisation of curiosity – as the motivating factor in that specifically human activity that is the pursuit of knowledge – may seem unoriginal. However, when Hume speaks of the ‘source of all our enquiries’, he is referring both to the universal human pursuit of knowledge and (...)
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  10. Axel Gelfert (2013). Synthetic Biology Between Technoscience and Thing Knowledge. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):141-149.
    Synthetic biology presents a challenge to traditional accounts of biology: Whereas traditional biology emphasizes the evolvability, variability, and heterogeneity of living organisms, synthetic biology envisions a future of homogeneous, humanly engineered biological systems that may be combined in modular fashion. The present paper approaches this challenge from the perspective of the epistemology of technoscience. In particular, it is argued that synthetic-biological artifacts lend themselves to an analysis in terms of what has been called ‘thing knowledge’. As such, they should neither (...)
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  11. Axel Gelfert (2013). Strategies of Model-Building in Condensed Matter Physics: Trade-Offs as a Demarcation Criterion Between Physics and Biology? Synthese 190 (2):253-272.
    This paper contrasts and compares strategies of model-building in condensed matter physics and biology, with respect to their alleged unequal susceptibility to trade-offs between different theoretical desiderata. It challenges the view, often expressed in the philosophical literature on trade-offs in population biology, that the existence of systematic trade-offs is a feature that is specific to biological models, since unlike physics, biology studies evolved systems that exhibit considerable natural variability. By contrast, I argue that the development of ever more sophisticated experimental, (...)
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  12. Axel Gelfert (2013). Testimony, Trust & Authority by Benjamin McMyler, 2011 New York, NY, Oxford University Press Viii + 178 Pp, $65.00 (Hb). [REVIEW] Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (1):101-103.
  13. Gabriele Gramelsberger, Tarja Knuuttila & Axel Gelfert (2013). Philosophical Perspectives on Synthetic Biology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 44 (2):119-121.
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  14. Axel Gelfert (2012). Art History, the Problem of Style, and Arnold Hauser's Contribution to the History and Sociology of Knowledge. Studies in East European Thought 64 (1-2):121-142.
    Much of Arnold Hauser’s work on the social history of art and the philosophy of art history is informed by a concern for the cognitive dimension of art. The present paper offers a reconstruction of this aspect of Hauser’s project and identifies areas of overlap with the sociology of knowledge—where the latter is to be understood as both a separate discipline and a going intellectual concern. Following a discussion of Hauser’s personal and intellectual background, as well as of the shifting (...)
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  15. Axel Gelfert (2012). Relying on Others: An Essay in Epistemology, by Sanford C. Goldberg. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (3):616 - 617.
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Volume 90, Issue 3, Page 616-617, September 2012.
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  16. Axel Gelfert (2011). Expertise, Argumentation, and the End of Inquiry. Argumentation 25 (3):297-312.
    This paper argues that the problem of expertise calls for a rapprochement between social epistemology and argumentation theory. Social epistemology has tended to emphasise the role of expert testimony, neglecting the argumentative function of appeals to expert opinion by non-experts. The first half of the paper discusses parallels and contrasts between the two cases of direct expert testimony and appeals to expert opinion by our epistemic peers, respectively. Importantly, appeals to expert opinion need to be advertised as such, if they (...)
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  17. Axel Gelfert (2011). Genealogies of the Concept of Knowledge and Their Cognitive-Ecological Dimension. Episteme 8:67-82.
     
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  18. Axel Gelfert (2011). Mathematical Formalisms in Scientific Practice: From Denotation to Model-Based Representation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (2):272-286.
    The present paper argues that ‘mature mathematical formalisms’ play a central role in achieving representation via scientific models. A close discussion of two contemporary accounts of how mathematical models apply—the DDI account (according to which representation depends on the successful interplay of denotation, demonstration and interpretation) and the ‘matching model’ account—reveals shortcomings of each, which, it is argued, suggests that scientific representation may be ineliminably heterogeneous in character. In order to achieve a degree of unification that is compatible with successful (...)
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  19. Axel Gelfert (2011). Model-Based Representation in Scientific Practice: New Perspectives. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (2):251-252.
    Editorial introduction to special issue on 'Model-based representation in scientific practice'.
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  20. Axel Gelfert (2011). Nanotechnology as Ideology: Towards a Critical Theory of ‘Converging Technologies’. Science, Technology and Society 17 (1):143-164.
    The present paper contributes to a growing body of philosophical, sociological, and historical analyses of recent nanoscale science and technology. Through a close examination of the origins of contemporary nanotech efforts, their ambitions, and strategic uses, it also aims to provide the basis for a critical theory of emerging technologies more generally, in particular in relation to their alleged convergence in terms of goals and outcomes. The emergence, allure, and implications of nanotechnology, it is argued, can only be fully appreciated (...)
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  21. Axel Gelfert (2011). Scientific Models, Simulation, and the Experimenter's Regress. In Paul Humphreys & Cyrille Imbert (eds.), Models, Simulations, and Representations. Routledge.
    According to the "experimenter's regress", disputes about the validity of experimental results cannot be closed by objective facts because no conclusive criteria other than the outcome of the experiment itself exist for deciding whether the experimental apparatus was functioning properly or not. Given the frequent characterization of simulations as "computer experiments", one might worry that an analogous regress arises for computer simulations. The present paper analyzes the most likely scenarios where one might expect such a "simulationist's regress" to surface, and, (...)
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  22. Axel Gelfert (2011). Steps to an Ecology of Knowledge: Continuity and Change in the Genealogy of Knowledge. Episteme 8 (1):67-82.
    The present paper argues for a more complete integration between recent "genealogical" approaches to the problem of knowledge and evolutionary accounts of the development of human cognitive capacities and practices. A structural tension is pointed out between, on the one hand, the fact that the explicandum of genealogical stories is a specifically human trait and, on the other hand, the tacit acknowledgment, shared by all contributors to the debate, that human beings have evolved from non-human beings. Since humans differ from (...)
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  23. Axel Gelfert (2011). Who is an Epistemic Peer? Logos and Episteme 2 (4):507-514.
    Contemporary epistemology of peer disagreement has largely focused on our immediate normative response to prima facie instances of disagreement. Whereas some philosophers demand that we should withhold judgment (or moderate our credences) in such cases, others argue that, unless new evidence becomes available, disagreement at best gives us reason to demote our interlocutor from his peer status. But what makes someone an epistemic peer in the first place? This question has not received the attention it deserves. I begin by surveying (...)
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  24. Axel Gelfert (2010). Hume on Testimony Revisited. Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 13:60-75.
    Among contemporary epistemologists of testimony, David Hume is standardly regarded as a "global reductionist", where global reductionism requires the hearer to have sufficient first-hand knowledge of the facts in order to individually ascertain the reliability of the testimony in question. In the present paper, I argue that, by construing Hume's reductionism in too individualistic a fashion, the received view of Hume on testimony is inaccurate at best, and misleading at worst. Hume's overall position is more amenable to testimonial acceptance than (...)
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  25. Axel Gelfert (2010). Kant and the Enlightenment's Contribution to Social Epistemology. Episteme 7 (1):79-99.
    The present paper argues for the relevance of Immanuel Kant and the German Enlightenment to contemporary social epistemology. Rather than distancing themselves from the alleged ‘individualism’ of Enlightenment philosophers, social epistemologists would be well-advised to look at the substantive discussion of social-epistemological questions in the works of Kant and other Enlightenment figures. After a brief rebuttal of the received view of the Enlightenment as an intrinsically individualist enterprise, this paper charts the historical trajectory of philosophical discussions of testimony as a (...)
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  26. Axel Gelfert (2010). Reconsidering the Role of Inference to the Best Explanation in the Epistemology of Testimony. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 41 (4):386-396.
    In his work on the epistemology of testimony, Peter Lipton developed an account of testimonial inference that aimed at descriptive adequacy as well as justificatory sophistication. According to „testimonial inference to the best explanation‟ (TIBE), we accept what a speaker tells us because the truth of her claim figures in the best explanation of the fact that she made it. In the present paper, I argue for a modification of this picture. In particular, I argue that IBE plays a dual (...)
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  27. Axel Gelfert (2009). Axel Gelfert on Where the Ivory Tower Meets the Crystal Palace. The Philosophers' Magazine 46 (46):36-39.
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  28. Axel Gelfert (2009). Indefensible Middle Ground for Local Reductionism About Testimony. Ratio 22 (2):170-190.
    Local reductionism purports to defend a middle ground in the debate about the epistemic status of testimony-based beliefs. It does so by acknowledging the practical ineliminability of testimony as a source of knowledge, while insisting that such an acknowledgment need not entail a default-acceptance view, according to which there exists an irreducible warrant for accepting testimony. The present paper argues that local reductionism is unsuccessful in its attempt to steer a middle path between reductionism and anti-reductionism about testimonial justification. In (...)
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  29. Axel Gelfert (2009). Rigorous Results, Cross-Model Justification, and the Transfer of Empirical Warrant: The Case of Many-Body Models in Physics. Synthese 169 (3):497 - 519.
    This paper argues that a successful philosophical analysis of models and simulations must accommodate an account of mathematically rigorous results. Such rigorous results may be thought of as genuinely model-specific contributions, which can neither be deduced from fundamental theory nor inferred from empirical data. Rigorous results provide new indirect ways of assessing the success of models and simulations and are crucial to understanding the connections between different models. This is most obvious in cases where rigorous results map different models on (...)
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  30. Axel Gelfert (2006). Kant on Testimony. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (4):627 – 652.
    Immanuel Kant is often regarded as an exponent of the ‘individualist’ tradition in epistemology, according to which testimony is not a fundamental source of knowledge. The present paper argues that this view is far from accurate. Kant devotes ample space to discussions of testimony and, in his lectures on logic, arrives at a distinct and stable philosophical position regarding testimony. Important elements of this position consist in (a) acknowledging the ineliminability of testimony; (b) realizing that testimony can establish empirical knowledge (...)
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  31. Axel Gelfert, Simulating Many-Body Models in Physics: Rigorous Results, 'Benchmarks', and Cross-Model Justification.
    This paper argues that, for a prospective philosophical analysis of models and simulations to be successful, it must accommodate an account of mathematically rigorous results. Such rigorous results are best thought of as genuinely model-specific contributions, which can neither be deduced from fundamental theory nor inferred from empirical data. Rigorous results often provide new indirect ways of assessing the success of computer simulations of individual models. This is most obvious in cases where rigorous results map different models on to one (...)
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  32. Axel Gelfert (2005). Richard Foley: Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others. [REVIEW] Logical Analysis and History of Philosophy 8:220-227.
    In his previous books, The Theory of Epistemic Rationality (1987) and Working Without a Net (1993), Richard Foley presented a highly influential account of what it means for one’s beliefs and belief-forming practices to be rational. Developing a positive new account of epistemic rationality, however, has never been Foley’s sole concern. His project is metaepistemological in character as much as it is epistemological. Put crudely, questions such as ‘What makes some beliefs knowledge?’ are of equal importance to Foley as such (...)
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  33. Axel Gelfert (2005). Mathematical Rigor in Physics: Putting Exact Results in Their Place. Philosophy of Science 72 (5):723-738.
    The present paper examines the role of exact results in the theory of many‐body physics, and specifically the example of the Mermin‐Wagner theorem, a rigorous result concerning the absence of phase transitions in low‐dimensional systems. While the theorem has been shown to hold for a wide range of many‐body models, it is frequently ‘violated’ by results derived from the same models using numerical techniques. This raises the question of how scientists regulate their theoretical commitments in such cases, given that the (...)
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  34. Marcel Weber, Warren Schmaus, Heather A. Jamniczky, Gry Oftedal, Robert C. Bishop, Axel Gelfert, Mathias Frisch, Daniel Parker, Mario Castagnino & Olimpia Lombardi (2005). 1. Preface Preface (Pp. I-Ii). Philosophy of Science 72 (5).
     
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  35. Axel Gelfert (2003). Manipulative Success and the Unreal. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17 (3):245-263.
    In its original form due to Ian Hacking, entity realism postulates a criterion of manipulative success which replaces explanatory virtue as the criterion of justified scientific belief. The article analyses the foundations on which this postulate rests and identifies the conditions on which one can derive a form of entity realism from it. It then develops in detail an extensive class of counterexamples, drawing on the notion of quasi-particles in condensed matter physics. While the phenomena associated with quasi-particles pass the (...)
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