Groningen/Munich Summer School: Formal methods in philosophy

Issues on the methodology of philosophical inquiry have received increased attention over the last years, in particular the concepts of philosophical intuition and thought-experiment. Indeed, as it is currently practiced, philosophy as a discipline is characterized by a plurality of methodological approaches. Among these, formal methods have become quite prominent, as attested by the developments in e.g. formal epistemology or formal approaches in ethics. Naturally, the use of formal methods for philosophical analysis is not a novel phenomenon; it dates back at least to Russell and the Vienna Circle. But recent investigations go well beyond these earlier developments, both in scope and in the methods used, so it seems that systematic discussions on the methodology of formal methods in philosophy are at this point much needed.

The summer school “Formal methods in philosophy” (August 23rd to 28th, 2012) aims at filling this lacuna by addressing general methodological issues related to the use of logical and mathematical formalisms in philosophical analysis. It is jointly organized by the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen and the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP).

The summer school is coordinated by Catarina Dutilh Novaes, who will be giving a series of lectures on general methodological issues (drawing significantly on the material presented in her forthcoming book Formal Languages in Logic – A Philosophical and Cognitive Analysis (CUP)). Moreover, it will feature a number of tutorials by prominent researchers who apply formal methods to different sub-areas of philosophy: epistemology, ethics, philosophy of science, philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, history of philosophy. The tutorials will provide a broad picture of the different approaches and techniques available.


Barteld Kooi (Groningen): Dynamic approaches to epistemic paradoxes

Branden Fitelson (Rutgers): Accuracy, coherence, and evidence

Florian Steinberger (Munich): Philosophy of religion, MCMP style

Jan-Willem Romeijn (Groningen): Formal methods in philosophy of science

Jeanne Peijnenburg/David Atkinson (Groningen): Formal methods in epistemology: possible and probable worlds

Jeff Ketland (Munich/Oxford): Mathematical methods in philosophy: some examples

Martin van Hees (Groningen): Formal methods in ethics

Ole Hjortland (Munich): Non-classical logics and philosophical applications

Olivier Roy (Munich): Interactive epistemology

Sylvia Wenmackers (Groningen): Numbers and reality: reals and beyond


1 Different methodologies in philosophy: the history of formal methods in philosophy
2 Formal methods as modeling: the physicist and the mathematician
3 Squeezing arguments
4 The cognition of formal methods 
5 Surprised by the formalism
6 Limitations, risks and pitfalls of formal methods
7 Formal methods for the study of the history of philosophy


The summer school will be immediately followed by an international conference on formalization, rationality and decision, Frontiers of Rationality and Decision. All summer school attendees are welcome to attend the conference at no additional costs.


DATES: August 23rd to 28th 2012.

PLACE: Faculty of Philosophy, Groningen

TARGET AUDIENCE: Master’s and PhD students interested in formal approaches to philosophical questions, but open to more senior researchers as well. The goal is to foster systematic reflection on the methodological challenges involved in applying formal methods to philosophical problems, outlining both their strengths and limitations, so as to provide young researchers with a much-needed methodological/philosophical basis for their future investigations.

REGISTRATION: The registration fee is EUR 50. We have a limited number of places, so early registration is strongly recommended. To register, send a message to rootsofdeduction  at  gmail dot com with 'registration summer school' as a title. You will receive payment instructions once you have registered. The deadline for registration is June 1st 2012, or until the available places have all been filled.

STUDENT SESSION: There will be a small number of slots for students to present their work. If you wish to be considered for the student session, include an extended abstract (2.000 words) in your application material. Deadline: April 15th 2012.

SCHOLARSHIPS: The Groningen Faculty of Philosophy is graciously offering up to 4 scholarships of EUR 500 to help cover for travel and accommodation costs, which will be awarded to the 4 best applications. If you wish to be considered for the scholarships, send a short CV (one page) and a short statement (around 300 words) describing your interest in formal methods in philosophy. Deadline: April 15th 2012.

ACCOMMODATION: Details on accommodation will be posted shortly.

SCHEDULE: The summer school begins in the afternoon of August 23rd, and runs until August 28th. The Saturday afternoon and the whole day on Sunday will be free for excursions/social activities. Generally, the lectures by Catarina Dutilh Novaes will take place in the morning, and the tutorials and student sessions will take place in the afternoon.

CHILD CARE: If you need child care assistance during the summer school, please notify us at rootsofdeduction  at  gmail dot com. If the need arises, we are committed to offering child care possibilities to participants.


Subpages (1): Summer School Program