CfR: Dispositions in the Life-Sciences: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives (Trier University, June 2-3 2022)

Submitted by Fabian Hundertmark (Bielefeld University).


Dispositions in the Life-Sciences: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives
Trier University, V 302 (Senatssaal)
June 2-3, 2022

The metaphysics of dispositional properties is a topic relevant to the philosophy of the (life) sciences, the history of philosophy, and contemporary metaphysics.
Dispositional concepts are ubiquitous in the life sciences. Crucial technical notions from various disciplines, such as stemness, pluripotency, boldness, arachnophobia, evolvability, plasticity, or fitness, exhibit dispositional features that require philosophical attention. While most philosophical work on dispositions focuses on everyday examples, the life sciences offer exciting and novel insights on the topic and opportunities for contrasting philosophical theories against particular scientific practices.

On the other hand, the philosophical debate on dispositions has also proved a valuable tool for interpreting historical positions in philosophy. For example, there is a branch of Kant scholarship that understands his account of forces and powers in terms of a form of dispositionalism. So far, this has been proposed for his philosophy of physics. But it seems particularly appropriate for his philosophy of biology in the Critique of the Power of Judgment, which is particularly concerned with the dichotomy between mechanistic and teleological explanations of biological systems. Dispositionalist readings have been proposed for Aristotle’s metaphysics, too. Hence, it is also a worthwhile project to ask for dispositionalist readings of his views on living beings.

This workshop aims at discussing views on dispositions in the life sciences from a contemporary and a historical perspective. It focuses on contemporary views in the philosophy of science that take scientific practice as their fundament and wants to cross a bridge to historical accounts that model biological systems by dispositional properties.

The workshop takes place as part of the research group “Inductive Metaphysics” (, funded by DFG (German Research Foundation).

Rani Lill Anjum (Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Aas)
Christopher J. Austin (Durham University)
Kristina Engelhard (University of Trier)
Andrea Gambarotto (Université catholique de Louvain)
Fabian Hundertmark (Bielefeld University)
Marie I. Kaiser (Bielefeld University)
Alan Love (University of Minnesota)
Laura Nuño de la Rosa (University of Madrid)
James Messina (Madison)
María Ferreira Ruiz (Bielefeld University)
Gil Santos (University of Lisbon)
Javier Suárez (Jagiellonian University & Bielefeld University)
Davide Vecchi (University of Lisbon)

Organizers: Kristina Engelhard (Trier), Lorenzo Spagnesi (Trier), Fabian Hundertmark (Bielefeld), Marie I. Kaiser (Bielefeld), María Ferreira Ruiz (Bielefeld), Javier Suárez Díaz (Bielefeld).

In case you want to participate, you can register by sending an email to Lorenzo Spagnesi (