Dr Angela Breitenbach is the CRASSH/SCAS ProFutura Fellow 2015-18.
The Ideal of Unity: Regulative Principles in Science and Beyond
Scientists favour theories that unify a greater range of phenomena by means of a smaller set of principles. More generally, we prefer explanations that elucidate apparently diverse matters of fact by reference to a common theoretical foundation. An account of the natural world with fewer independent premises is usually more comprehensible than one with more. And yet probing into the details of explanations in biology, psychology or economics, for example, yields a picture that looks anything but unified or simple. The special sciences are many and diverse, differing in their objects of study as well as in their concepts and principles.
This project seeks to examine whether the demand for unity can be justified in the face of the apparent disunity of the sciences. It asks what a justifiable conception of unity would look like, and how such a conception would relate to competing accounts of reductionism and pluralism. By thus assessing a common but often unquestioned assumption, the project aims to explore the nature and value of unity for scientific research and for understanding more generally.
Angela Breitenbach studied philosophy and history and philosophy of science at the University of Cambridge and received her doctorate from the Humboldt University of Berlin. She was a Junior Research Fellow at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of East Anglia. She joined the Cambridge Faculty of Philosophy and King’s College in 2012.
Angela’s research focuses on Kant and the history of modern philosophy, philosophy of science, philosophy of biology and aesthetics. Her publications include Die Analogie von Vernunft und Natur (de Gruyter 2009) and numerous articles on Kant’s epistemology, the role of teleology in biology, analogies and regulative principles, and the function of aesthetics in the study of nature. From 2013 to 2015 she held a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship, awarded for a project on beauty in science, and she has been an active partner of the Leverhulme Trust International Network on Kant and the Laws of Nature.