CPNSS - Center for the Philosophy of Nature and Science Studies

Background for CPNSS

The center was initiated in 1994 by the Faculty of Science. For the moment it has a few persons doing full time research at the center, and a number of associated researchers at the Institutes of the Faculty of Science, as well as other Institutes, who devotes the total or some parts of their research and teaching to this field (cf. the staff page). In its present phase, the center has more the character of a network than of a complete established research unit.

Purpose of CPNSS

The aim of our work is to contribute to develop philosophy of nature and science studies as an integrated research and educational activity at the Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, and thereby also contribute to the making of an intellectual milieu for theory of science, science studies, foundational studies, and philosophy of nature in Denmark.

Research at CPNSS

Research by staff and associates is reported at the individual websites as listed on the staff page (many are located at the institutes of the Faculty of Science). For additional information on some core associates, see our CPNSS 2005 Activity Report (download the pdf-file here [1.7 MB]).

The terms "Philosophy of Nature" and "Science Studies"

Our point of departure is the natural sciences and their contributions to the modern world picture, modern technology and modern conceptions of nature. As distinct aspects of Nature are the subject matter of science, separate aspects of the scientific world constitutes the subject matter of various disciplines within science studies. Facing a world of today - with environmental crisis; promises and risks following technological and scientific development; global tensions between the rich North and the materially poor South - time may be ripe for seeking more integrated approaches to the study of science and society.

The term science studies we take in a broad sense as denoting research from various approaches into the special sciences and their history, philosophy, sociology, internal and external ethics, and structure of communication.

The term philosophy of nature is here understood as (among other things) reflections upon the concept of nature in relation to scientific, philosophical and other metatheoretical insights; i.e., not only "ontology" as a special field of philosophy, and certainly not the romantic "Naturphilosophie" (even though the history of this German movement may be of interest as part of a general history of the concept of Nature). We would like to give the term "philosophy of nature" a new meaning, signifying the fruitful spirit of critical dialogue that we have experienced in our teaching, bringing together students, scientists and scholars from the humanities and science studies, striving to cross disciplinary boundaries between science and metascience and between the various fields of metascience, without dissolving important differences of theory, approach, and research object, but furnishing a more open kind of discourse and hopefully a deeper understanding.

The rationale is, that if you want to understand a large part of the problems related to the concept of nature in its broadest sense - e.g., the place of subjectivity and value in Nature - within a modern, scientifically founded world view, you have to grasp also the nature of scientific research process in which new knowledge is created, discovered and constructed. Thus, even if we differ in specific epistemological and methodological commitments, we share a belief that there exists an inner logical connection between philosophy of nature and science studies.

How the CPNSS started

The story begins not in Copenhagen but at this little bench (see photo) in Santa Fe, New Mexico. This city is not only an original place for creative exchanges between native Indian and American cultures, it is the location of the famous Santa Fe Institute, that has fostered unorthodox bridges between natural and behavioural sciences, such as the fields of complex systems research and Artificial Life. The idea of a meeting point between distinct epistemological cultures became influential in establishing the CPNSS (for a few more details of this story, click here).

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