Tag Archives: philosophy

Interdisciplinarity: goals and conditions


paradigmi_big“Our view of interdisciplinarity takes very seriously the long training any specialist has to undertake in order to acquire the huge knowledge and the tuned epistemological attitudes necessary to master his or her research methods and protocols. Indeed, we think that a successful interdisciplinary project would educate its participants into this respectful view of anyone else’s training, getting rid of the naïve idea that others’ jobs are useless or easy to do. For sure, the expected result is not that one researcher ‘absorbs’ the others who become superfluous.”

Brambilla R, Serrelli E (2016). The goals and conditions of successful interdisciplinarity. Some critical guidelines in planning, managing and evaluating interdisciplinary projects. Paradigmi. Rivista di critica filosofica 2/2016: 151-169. ISSN 1120-3404 [DOI 10.3280/PARA2016-002012]
Continue reading Interdisciplinarity: goals and conditions

Interdisciplinary Workshop on Robustness – Engineering Science

Interdisciplinary Workshop on Robustness – Engineering Science

Rome, February 5th – 6th, 2015

Part of the Bio-Techno-Practice project

See program on Academia.edu


  • Gabriele Oliva – Robustness: A systems engineering point of view
  • Lorenzo Farina – Robustness through feedback: Benefits and limitations
  • Miles McLeod – Closing rhetorical gaps is healthy for everyone: The robustness of models and the aims of systems biology
  • Viola Schiaffonati – Model-based engineering
  • Alessandro Giuliani – News from the ‘twilight zone’: Protein molecules between the crystal and the fluid
  • Dino Accoto –  Robustness in robotics: Morphology, materials and intelligence
  • Marco Buzzoni – Robustness, mechanism, and the counterfactual use of finality in biology
  • Alfred Nordmann – Rules of thumb as paradigms of robust knowledge


Dino Accoto – University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Biomedical Robotics and Biomicrosystems Laboratory
Marco Buzzoni – University of Macerata, Department of Human Sciences
Lorenzo Farina – University of Rome La Sapienza, Department of Computer Control and Management Engineering
Alessandro Giuliani – Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome
Miles McLeod – TINT Centre of Excellence in the Philosophy of the Social Science, Helsinki, Finland
Gabriele Oliva – University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Complex Systems and Security Laboratory
Alfred Nordmann – Institut für Philosophie, Technische Universität Darmstadt
Viola Schiaffonati – Politecnico di Milano, Department of Electronic, Information and Bioengineering


Raffaella Campaner – University of Bologna, Department of Philosophy and Communication

Philosophical Steering Committee

Marta Bertolaso – University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, FAST, Faculty of Engineering
Sandra D. Mitchell – Pittsburgh University, Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Scientific Steering Committee

Flavio Keller – University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Faculty of Medicine
Simonetta Filippi – University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome, Faculty of Engineering

Local Organizing Committee

Emanuele Serrelli – University of Milano Bicocca
Anna Maria Dieli – University of Tor Vergata, Rome; IHPST, Paris


Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma
Via Álvaro del Portillo, 21
00128 Roma

With the participation of

“Istituto per la Storia del Pensiero Filosofico e Scientifico Moderno (ISPF)”, National Research Council, Naples
Department of Philosophy and Communication, University of Bologna
University of Macerata

With the contribution of

“Fondazione Cattolica Assicurazioni”

Empathy towards the “living planet”: a knowledge paradox in the Anthropocene?

I paradossi di Gaia [Gaia’s paradoxes]

The paradoxes of Gaia for education in the anthropocene
Gaia – EARTH DAY by Alice Popkorn
Starting picture + Goddess by Marcus Ranum

Abstract: Empathy towards planet Earth seems to be the crux of an education paradox in the anthropocene, well exemplified by the story of “Gaia” in the scientific community and in the global society. The image of the world as a living being is probably as old as our species. Ancient views based on Mother Earth have been providing the narrative framework for education in many cultures for thousands years, and some aspects are somehow retraced in today’s sustainability education, although with different nuances and metaphysical assumptions. Around 1970, the idea of Earth as an organism was named “Gaia” and filled with scientific content by James Lovelock. He pointed out signatures of global processes thereby, he argued, the biosphere participates into planetary self-regulation around optimal conditions, just like in the physiology of a giant organism. In the scientific community Gaia would have troubled fortune: as a “hypothesis” or “theory” it was afflicted by serious and insistent objections, and it never got to be acknowledged. At the same time, for the public Gaia never ceased to be terribly attractive. Indeed, its communication effectiveness was emphasized by its advocates, who pointed out its educational potential in sensitizing people to care for the planet. But these aspects, too, were seen negatively by critics: the ‘homeostatic’ properties of Gaia would rather play in favor of passive attitudes and of economic interests of impacting and polluting companies; moreover, the organismal nature of Gaia would stimulate mystical views, ‘pagan religions’, and ultimately an anti-scientific mindset. The solution to this paradox should perhaps be sought in the double direction of reconsidering some human dimensions of scientific work and of setting up scientific education more coherent with the “Nature of Science” in the Anthropocene.

Event: Biodiversità ed estensione dell’empatia [Biodiversity and empathy extension]

The meeting aims to contribute to probe the foundations of an ethical approach to biodiversity and of human responsibility upon the non-human, through a reflection on those long-term transformations of science, society, and philosophical self-representation that have modified the horizon of human relations.
Since the 1960s, the ecological urgency has strongly pushed towards an assumption of responsibility towards the environment. In those years, science itself had warned about climate change and vertiginous biodiversity reduction that are now seen to characterize the current epoch, the “anthropocene”. An integrated reflection on biodiversity arose, capable of overcoming the boundaries of Modern philosophical anthropology, and situating humans into a system of relationships and interdependencies embracing non-human forms–from other living beings to abiotic environmental factors. The peculiar ability of broadening the horizon of empathic experience beyond mirroring seems to be rooted in massive developments of neuroscientific knowledge and technology, as well as in the cognitive and affective construction of our species. A discussion on evolution (natural and socio-cultural) and a renewed reflection on the very concept of human nature are therefore necessary. Just at the peak of science and technology’s manipulative power upon living nature, some authors glimpse the rise of a new opportunity: that of an empathic “age” or “civilization” (Rifkin 2010, De Waal 2010), where relatioships with different forms of “otherness” are managed in an inclusive and relational way.

Other speakers: S. Caianiello (chair), A. Minelli, L. Fogassi, C. Morabito & G. Galloni, G. Fiorito, U. Leone.

Organization: L’evento è organizzato con i fondi del Progetto PRIN 2010-2011 “Ethos e Natura. Modelli storici, problemi teorici e questioni metodologiche”, cofinanziato dal MIUR. Coordinatore nazionale: Prof. Franco Biasutti (Unità di ricerca di Catania, coordinata da G. Bentivegna, su “L’agire morale tra natura e cultura. Lineamenti storiografici e riflessioni teoriche”). Con la collaborazione dell’Istituto per la storia del pensiero filosofico e scientifico moderno del C.N.R., (nel contesto del ciclo “Osservatorio sui saperi umanistici”) e del Centro Interuniversitario “Res Viva”. Inserita nel programma del Dottorato di Filosofia della Federico II (in particolare curriculum di bioetica).

Look for it in the Talks page (with additional links):

2015, Feb 4 (h.9:00) – “Biodiversità ed estensione dell’empatia”, org. by Istituto per la Storia del Pensiero Filosofico e Scientifico Moderno (ISPF), C.N.R., Sezione di Filosofia del Dipartimento di Studi Umanistici dell’Università di Napoli “Federico II”, Naples, IT: I paradossi di Gaia. Conference talk.


Bio-Techno-Practice is an International and Interdisciplinary Laboratory devoted to the analysis of concepts emerging from science with philosophical, cultural and sociological relevance, and gathers researchers (scientists and philosophers) from different countries and universities. This allows foreseeing future trends for research and investments by focusing on the convergences among life and human sciences, physics and engineering.

BTP is now working on the concept of ROBUSTNESS by means of international workshops (Robustness I, Robustness II) that will lead to an interdisciplinary publication.
Future of Sci Pract

The Future of Scientific Practice: ‘Bio-Techno-Logos’ ed. by Marta Bertolaso is the first product of the Bio-Techno-Practice project. Focusing on cell dynamics, molecular medicine and robotics, contributors explore the interplay between biological, technological and theoretical ways of thinking. They argue that the direction of modern science means that these areas can no longer be explored independently but must be integrated if we are to better understand the world. The collection makes a strong contribution to current debates in the philosophy of science and the changing role of scientific practice.

Provisional table of contents:

Introduction: Philosophy within Science – Marta Bertolaso
Part I: Towards a Conceptual Clarification of the Biological Dynamics
1 Microscopic and Macroscopic Insights of Dynamic Cell Behaviour – Kumar Selvarajoo
2 Proteins: A Unique Solution to Signal Transmission Efficiency – Alessandro Giuliani
3 How Gene Regulatory Network and Cell Population Dynamics Affect Molecular Explanation in Medicine – Sui Huang
4 Embodied Intelligence in the Biomechatronic Design of Robots – Dino Accoto
Part II: Towards a Clarification of What Scientific Understanding Entails
5 Managing Complexity: The Innovative Aims and Methods of Model-Building in Systems Biology, and their Challenges for Philosophy of Science – Miles McLeod
6 Stratification and Biomedicine: How Philosophy Stems from Medicine and Biotechnology – Zsuzsa Pavelka, Federico Boem and Giovanni Boniolo
7 Are Cells Computers? Can they be Reproduced on Computers? – Vincent C Müller
8 Biological, Technological and Epistemological Aspects of Robotics – Giampaolo Ghilardi
Part III: Towards a Development of a Philosophy of Scientific Practice
9 Technology and Mechanism in Biology – Marco Buzzoni
10 Scientific Understanding and the Explantatory Use of False Models – Antonio Diéguez
11 Prediction and Prescription in Biological Systems: The Role of Technology for Measurement and Transformation – Wenceslao J Gonzalez
12 Scientific Personal Agency – Marta Bertolaso, Giampaolo Ghilardi and Alfredo Marcos

The goals and conditions of successful interdisciplinarity

In this conceptual analysis, we argue that the contemporary popularity of interdisciplinarity should be complemented by a deeper, critical reflection on its goals and on the conditions for its success. The goal of producing a surplus of knowledge should be interpreted as the production of new ways of thinking, and leave recognizable traces in the involved disciplines. Interdisciplinary success is closely dependent on particular conditions, i.e. an object, a goal, regular shared practices, and the researchers’ capacities for believing in and sticking to specific attidudes. Such conditions should be taken into serious account when interdisciplinary endeavours are planned and selected. We further argue that the highest goal of interdisciplinarity consists in the transformation of society and culture. The goal, related to science’s placement in contemporary society, has to do with the meaning and effects of research. Also to those disciplines that have less familiarity with science politics reflections could and should be challenged and stimulated by the highest goal.

Look for it in the Publications page (with additional links):

Brambilla R, Serrelli E (forthcoming). The goals and conditions of successful interdisciplinarity. Some critical guidelines in planning, managing and evaluating interdisciplinary projects. Paradigmi. Rivista di critica filosofica, in press. ISSN 1120-3404 [http://hdl.handle.net/10281/49695]

Interdisciplinary Workshop on Robustness

Goal of the workshop is to rise relevant questions as well as to encourage interdisciplinary discussions surrounding the topic of Robustness.

2014, October 14 (09.30) – 16 (17.30)

Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma
Via Álvaro del Portillo, 21
00128 Roma


October 14th
09:30 – 10.30  Plenary Session – Gerald H. Pollack
11.00 – 13:30  Session 1: The methodological and conceptual foundations of robustness
S. Caianiello – Prolegomena to a history of the notion of robustness
G. Caniglia – Robustness, Integration and What We Can Do When We Cannot Observe Something
S. Mitchell – Challenges of Robustness for Causal Explanation
P. Huneman – Robustness as an explanandum and explanans in evolutionary biology and ecology
14:30 – 17:30  Session 2: Talking about robustness
G. Vitiello – Dynamical rearrangement of Symmetry, minimum stimulus and robustness
L. Di Paola, A. Giuliani – Ecological Process Design and Robustness: the Case of Biofuels
S. Filippi – Robustness and Emergent Dynamics in Noisy Biological Systems
F. Keller – Robustness and Embodiment of Higher Cognitive Functions
M. Trombetta – Tissue Engineering and Cell Driving

October 15th
09:30 – 11:00  Session 2: Talking about robustness
A. Marcos – Difference
A. Moreno – Robustness and Autonomy
14:00 – 17:45  Working Groups

October 16th
09:30 – 12:30  Results presentation
13:45 – 17:00  Roundtable
17:00 – 17.30  Conclusions

Philosophical and Scientific Steering Committee
Marta Bertolaso – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, FAST e Facoltà di Ingegneria
Sandra D. Mitchell – University of Pittsburgh
Jane Maienschein – Arizona State University
Simonetta Filippi – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, Facoltà di Ingegneria
Flavio Keller – Università Campus  Bio-Medico di Roma, Facoltà di Medicina

Marta Bertolaso – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, FAST e Facoltà di Ingegneria

Local Organizing Committee
Luca Valera – Università Campus Bio-Medico di Roma, FAST
Anna Maria Dieli – Università Tor Vergata, Roma; IHPST, Paris

Organizzato da:
Campus Bio-Medico di Roma
Con il contributo di Fondazione Cattolica Assicurazioni

Referente organizzativo:
Silvia Caianiello

Ufficio stampa:
Luca Valera
Campus Bio-Medico


More pictures on Flickr.

The Nature of Classification

9780230347922I am cited in John S. Wilkins and Malte C. Ebach’s thoughtful book The Nature of Classification. Relationships and Kinds in the Natural Sciences, 2014.I am grateful to John Wilkins, colleague and friend, for the fascinating conversations we had; to both authors for mentioning my name; and to Alessandro Minelli for pointing out this reference to me. Continue reading The Nature of Classification

Interviews at the Lisbon Summer School on Evolution

These interviews were conducted at the 2013 International Summer School on Evolution which was organized by the Applied Evolutionary Epistemology Lab in collaboration with Ciência Viva, and held at Ciência Viva’s Pavilion of Knowledge in Lisbon, Portugal.

In the following first video I was interviewed on Philosophy of Biology, the Extended Synthesis, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Niche Construction, Macroevolution, Symbiogenesis and the Gaia Hypothesis and Niche Construction.

In the second video the School teachers were asked to give their definition of evolution: these were Bruce Lieberman, Folmer Bokma, Michael Arnold, Luis Villarreal, Frietson Galis, Ilya Tëmkin, Mónica Tamariz, Marion Blute, Fiona Jordan, Michael Ruse, Derek Turner, Frédéric Bouchard, Emanuele Serrelli and Nathalie Gontier. The AppEEL You Tube channel features full interviews with these and other scholars.

See the post on my and Nathalie’s course: Modeling sociocultural evolution.

More info can be found at:

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Sponsored by:

  • John Templeton Foundation
  • Ciência Viva Ciência Viva Knowledge Pavilion
  • Centre for Philosophy of Science of the University of Lisbon
  • Faculty of Science of the University of Lisbon
  • University of Lisbon