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Message posted on 01/11/2018

CfP Simplicities and Complexities International Conference

International Conference on Simplicities and Complexities
22-24 May 2019
Bonn, Germany
Call for Papers - Deadline: 15 January 2019

Simplicities and Complexities" will take place from 22 to 24 May 2019 at the
University of Bonn, Germany. It aims to bring together scientists and scholars
from a spectrum of disciplines such as physics, biology, ecology, chemistry,
and computational science, as well as from philosophy, sociology, and history
of science. This conference is organized by the interdisciplinary, DFG- and
FWF-funded research unit "Epistemology of the LHC".

Philosophers and scientists alike have often assumed simplicity to be an
epistemic ideal. Some examples of theories taken as successful realizations of
this ideal include General Relativity and Darwin's theory of Natural
Selection. These theories influenced early and mid-20th century philosophers'
understanding of the criteria successful scientific theories and practices had
to meet, even when facing complex phenomena. However, this influence did not
mean that the notion of simplicity was clear-cut. A suitable and encompassing
definition of simplicity has yet to be developed. Some unanswered questions
include: In what sense can and do physicists consider a theory, such as the
Standard Model of elementary particle physics, as being sufficiently simple?
How do ideals of simplicity differ when applied to disciplines other than
physics? Biological concepts, for example, do not tend to refer to laws,
whereas concepts from the social sciences frequently resort to notions of
order and structure that are different from those of natural sciences. Are
there, accordingly, simplicities (in plural) rather than a unified
logic-inspired notion? Finally, are there cases where simplicity is simply a
bad epistemic ideal, and not merely for the reason that it is often

Throughout the 20th century the sciences have approached more and more complex
phenomena, in tune with the increased social relevance of scientific
knowledge. The perceived need to address complexity head-on has led to a
broader reaction against simplification and reductionism within the sciences.
However, if simplicity, in its various outfits, has proven an unreliable
guide, what should it be replaced with? Looking at the various strategies of
addressing complexity in the sciences and the disciplines reflecting upon
them, it appears that the notion is at least as variegated as simplicity. To
be sure, there exist measures of complexity as well as mathematical,
empirical, or discursive strategies to deal with it, but they vary strongly
from one discipline to another.

The aim of the conference is to analyze, differentiate, and connect the
various notions and practices of simplicity and complexity, in physics as well
as in other sciences, guided by the following questions:

Which kinds and levels of simplicity can be distinguished (e.g. formal or
ontological, structural or practical)? Which roles do they play and which
purposes do they serve? Does simplicity, in a suitable reformulation, remain a
valid ideal - and if so, in which fields and problem contexts? Or, instead,
where has it been abandoned or replaced by a plurality of interconnected
approaches and alternative perspectives?
What about complexity? How is the complexity of an object of investigation
addressed (represented, mirrored, negated, etc.) by the adopted theoretical
and empirical approaches in different fields?
Addressing complex problems, especially those relevant to society, requires
institutional settings beyond the traditional research laboratory. How does
the complexity of such settings relate to the complexity of epistemic
strategies and of the problems themselves? In what sense can we trust the
other players in a complex epistemic network?
How should we conceive of the relation between simplicity and complexity? Are
there alternatives to seeing complexity in opposition to simplicity? Does
physics, in virtue of its history, maintain its special position in the
contemporary debates on simplicity and complexity? What do reflections on the
epistemic cultures of ecology, cultural anthropology, economics, etc. have to
offer in terms of how simplicities and complexities can be balanced?
We invite contributors from a spectrum of disciplines, scientists and scholars
reflecting on their respective and neighboring research fields, as well as
historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science investigating the
epistemologies, practices, and discourses of fellow epistemic communities. The
conference will thrive on intense discussion surpassing disciplinary

Invited Speakers

Talia Dan-Cohen, Washington University in St. Louis (US)
Stefan Bschen, RWTH Aachen (Germany)

Michael Stltzner, University of South Carolina (US)
Marta Bertolaso, University Campus Bio-Medico of Rome (Italy)
Alan Baker, Swarthmore College (US)

Volker Grimm, Helmholtz Centre for Enviromental Research (Germany)

Thomas Vogt, University of South Carolina (US)

Robert Harlander, RWTH Aachen (Germany)
Stephen Blundell, University of Oxford (UK)
Beate Heinemann, DESY Freiburg (Germany)

Other speakers will be announced soon

Call for Papers
The organisation committee invites abstract submissions on the theme of the
conference. Short abstracts (200-300 words) should be submitted to EasyChair
by 15 January 2019. We aim to communicate our decision by 28 February.
Submissions are welcome from the broad spectrum of scientific fields.
This workshop is organized by the DFG and FWF-funded research unit
"Epistemology of the LHC".

Cristin Chall (University of Bonn)
Dennis Lehmkuhl (University of Bonn)
Niels Martens (RWTH Aachen)
Martina Merz (University of Klagenfurt)
Miguel ngel Carretero Sahuquillo (University of Wuppertal)
Gregor Schiemann (University of Wuppertal)
Michael Stltzner (University of South Carolina)

For further information, please contact
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