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Typically, scientists call subjects they investigate scientific phenomena. While the notion of a scientific phenomenon seems to be common in science, apart from a few exceptions, it has not been systematically discussed in philosophy of science. This is surprising. Has the notion simply been overlooked? Or are there deeper reasons for this obvious neglect?  

One reason might be that the notion is generally considered as unproblematic in the sense that there is wide agreement as to what it means. This, however, is not the case. One way to understand the notion of a scientific phenomenon traces back to the ancient astronomical program called “Saving the phenomena” which claims that astronomical theories should account for the observed orbits of celestial bodies without violating the principles of Greek natural philosophy. In this sense, scientific phenomena are observed facts that should be explained. As Bogen and Woodward (1988) have pointed out, however, scientific explanations often do not concern observed facts, but rather some general patterns that can be inferred from the data. They suggest to broaden the notion of a scientific phenomenon in order to include these unobservable patterns and to take scientific phenomena generally as the explanada of scientific theories. Over and above this question concerning the observability of scientific phenomena, a second problem arises: If knowledge about phenomena is indeed typically gained via inferences, in what sense are phenomena theory-laden? Are scientific phenomena that are inferred on a par with theoretical entities? 

A second reason for not discussing the notion in philosophy of science might be that its analysis might not yield any philosophical insights. Depending on the way one uses the notion, one ends up in well-known discussions either about observations or about theories and explanations. Although scientists talk about phenomena, this notion, one could claim, does not do any philosoph

ical work in order to illuminate the way science works.

The conference aims at better understanding of the notion of a scientific phenomenon. How should the notion be used? Does it, in one sense or the other, do any philosophical work at all?


                                    Jochen Apel, University of Heidelberg 
                                    James Bogen, University of Pittsburgh
                                    Brigitte Falkenburg, University of Dortmund
                                    Uljana Feest, TU Berlin
                                    Stephan Hartmann, Tilburg University
                                    Andreas Huettemann, University of Muenster
Benedikt Löwe, University of Amsterdam

                                    Peter Machamer, University of Pittsburgh
                                    Michela Massimi, UCL
                                    James McAllister, University of Leiden

                                    Sandra Mitchell, University of Pittsburgh
                                    Thomas Müller, University of Utrecht

                                    Samuel Schindler, University of Leeds

Mauricio Suarez, Complutense University Madrid

                                    Eran Tal, University of Toronto

                                    Ioannis Votsis, University of Düsseldorf
                                    James Woodward, CALTECH