Individuals Across Sciences: a revisionary metaphysics?
18-20 May 2012 Paris (France)

Call for abstracts

Expected date for notifications of acceptance or rejection: February 1, 2012.

This conference will gather metaphysicians, philosophers of biology and philosophers of physics and chemistry to offer a reflection on criteria of individuality in different sciences and to try to develop a unified account on the notion of what an individual is.


The question of knowing what individuals are and how they can be identified has been recurring throughout the history of philosophy. It was, for example, pointedly studied by Aristotle and Leibniz. Most contemporary philosophers consider the problem from a general, metaphysical, point of view, as is the case for Peter Strawson in his landmark book Individuals: An Essay in Descriptive Metaphysics (Strawson 1959). On the other hand, in philosophy of science, the preferred approach aims to define the ontological status of this or that individual, or this or that class of individuals, typically in the fields of physics (French & Krause 2006, Ladyman & Ross 2007, Morganti 2009) and biology (Hull 1978, Hull 1992, Dupré & O'Malley 2009, Godfrey-Smith 2009). Today, many consider that the approach used in philosophy of science has obviously been more precise and globally more fruitful than the purely metaphysical approach, often thought as excessively general (for example, see Ladyman & Ross 2007). The project of this conference stemmed from two observations. First, the recent developments on the notion of individual in physics or in biology are most certainly fascinating, but are still “regional”, by which we mean that practically no transversal reflection, comparing different scientific criteria of individuation and conceptions of individuality, has been done. Thus, we believe that a dialogue between philosophers of physics and philosophers of biology on this question is of crucial importance. Second, since it isolates a relatively small field of study, regionalism undoubtedly has the advantage of precision. However, it too often lacks ambition compared to the metaphysical approach, which tries to find the general conditions to individuate an object. We are convinced that philosophers of science must interact with metaphysicians, in order to determine in which way the focused ontological questioning of the former can contribute to the latter legitimate project of renewing general metaphysics. In bringing together specialists on metaphysics and on physical and biological ontologies, we hope to further define the difficulties that hold back the construction of a general conception of the individual that would be adequate for both physics and biology, and perhaps even beyond.

Deadline for the submission of abstracts: December 15, 2011

Please submit a short abstract directly on the form (maximum 200 words) and a long (maximum 1000 words) abstract in an attached PDF files.

Submitted abstracts need to be anonymous. Please remove any information related to your name, affiliation, country of residence, etc.

How to submit:

The submission is made exclusively via the current website.

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Important for researchers affiliated to a French institution: pour les personnes affiliées à une institution françaiselors de la procédure de dépôt, dans la rubrique "Tutelles", le code EPST de l’unité d’affiliation des auteurs doit obligatoirement être renseigné (e.g. pour le CNRS et l’université, ce sera UMRxxxx, EAxxxx, etc.).

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