Integrating history and philosophy of science in the study of measurement practices
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Room 3401 (Lifts 2/ 17-18), Academic Building


In this talk, I would like to initiate a discussion concerning the integration of philosophy and history of science specific to the study of measurement. In recent times, the epistemological study of measurement has gained momentum. The foundation of the Society for the Study of Measurement (SSM) in 2022 has been an important step towards the institutionalization of the scholarly community interested in measurement as an object of research. While the Society includes scholars from the natural and social sciences, engineering, metrology, as well as the humanities, its purpose of promoting interdisciplinary approaches to the study of measurement is reflected in the existing literature only to a limited extent. What is more, there has been very little discussion in the literature concerning the methodological challenges of integrating different disciplinary approaches to the study of measurement.

This talk uses two cases to show how to what extent HPS approaches allow us to obtain specific insights on measurement practices that would be hardly accessible without an integrative methodology. Rather than building on already existing debates on the methodology of HPS, I will rely on an initial survey of the HPS literature on measurement (currently underway in collaboration with Rebecca Jackson) and on two case studies from my own research. First, I will discuss the case of nineteenth-century craniological measurement and argue that an integrated HPS approach can uncover specific epistemological issues invalidating this scientific practice which were not, and plausibly could not, be identified by classic sociological and historical analyses. Second, I will focus on Fechner’s psychophysical research (1850-1887), and argue that an integrative HPS approach can provide us with a fairer assessment of the specific way in which he achieved progress than what could be offered by a purely normative evaluation. I will then conclude with some remarks on different paths towards integrating history and philosophy for the purposes of studying measurement practices.



Dr. Michele Luchetti is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute for the Interdisciplinary Studies of Science at the University of Bielefeld. Previously, he received his PhD in Philosophy from the Central European University in Budapest in 2020, and he held academic positions at the University of Geneva and at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. Michele has worked on the history and philosophy of measurement across sciences, on the role of values in science, and he is currently developing a project on performativity and knowledge in medical practice, education, and communication. His work has been published in journals such as Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Synthese, and European Journal for Philosophy of Science.

Room 3401 (Lifts 2/ 17-18), Academic Building
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Meeting ID:  925 9783 5225 Passcode:  178505


Speakers / Performers:
Dr. Michele LUCHETTI
University of Bielefeld
Philosophy of Science Lecture Series