Interdisciplinarity in Philosophy of Science


This paper examines various ways in which philosophy of science can be interdisciplinary. It aims to provide a map of relations between philosophy and sciences, some of which are interdisciplinary. Such a map should also inform discussions concerning the question “How much philosophy is there in the philosophy of science?” In Sect. 1, we distinguish between synoptic and collaborative interdisciplinarity. With respect to the latter, we furthermore distinguish between two kinds of reflective forms of collaborative interdisciplinarity. We also briefly explicate how complexity triggers interdisciplinarity. In Sect. 2, we apply the distinctions of Sect. 1 to philosophy of science and analyze in which sense different styles of philosophy of science are interdisciplinary. The styles that we discuss are a synoptic-general, a reflective-general, a reflective-particular, a particular-embedded and a descriptive or normative style.

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Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    Boden uses “generalizing interdisciplinarity,” but because of distinctions regarding “general philosophy” made in Sect. 2, we opt for an alternative terminology here.

  2. 2.

    Note that the way we understand this notion differs from the various ways that other authors have used the term “reflexive interdisciplinarity.” Weingart (1996) seems to use the term to refer to processes of monitoring interdisciplinary work from within, while Blanchard (2012) takes it to refer to the way in which scientists working in interdisciplinary fields such as research on climate change and biodiversity reflect on their role in society at large.

  3. 3.

    See:, last access May 15, 2014.

  4. 4.

    Talk at the first conference of the German Society for Philosophy of Science (Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsphilosophie) in Hanover, 2013, Germany.

  5. 5.

    The Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Science (I2SOS) at Bielefeld University is one such example.


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In March 2013, the interdisciplinarity of philosophy of science was the subject of a workshop and a panel discussion at the first conference of the German Society for Philosophy of Science (Gesellschaft für Wissenschaftsphilosophie) in Hanover, Germany (conference theme: “How much philosophy is there in the philosophy of science?”). The focus was on the situation of early-career researchers. The workshop and panel discussion was funded by the Andrea von Braun Foundation (see, last access August 6, 2013). We would like to thank the Andrea von Braun Foundation for its great support, as well as the workshop participants and the panelists, who are listed on the above-mentioned page, for the stimulating discussions. We would also like to thank the colleagues and students who organized the conference in Hanover and made it possible that the event could take place in such a fruitful atmosphere. This paper is the theoretical counterpart of a paper that addresses the practical implications for early-career researchers and research-related institutions with respect to funding and job profiles in interdisciplinary contexts in philosophy of science (Kaiser, Kronfeldner, Meunier (forthc.), “Problems and Prospects of Interdisciplinary Philosophy of Science: A Report from the Workbench,” Briefe zur Interdisziplinarität).

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Correspondence to Maria Kronfeldner.

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Kaiser, M.I., Kronfeldner, M. & Meunier, R. Interdisciplinarity in Philosophy of Science. J Gen Philos Sci 45, 59–70 (2014).

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  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Reflective disciplines
  • Collaboration
  • Philosophical styles
  • Complexity
  • Normativity