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Philosophy of Astrophysics

Stars, Simulations, and the Struggle to Determine What is Out There

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  • Open Access
  • © 2023

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  • The first book to gather research in philosophy of astrophysics in one volume
  • The only book that can be used as a textbook for courses in philosophy of astrophysics
  • Combines novel, breakthrough contributions with insightful overviews of current discussions
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Part of the book series: Synthese Library (SYLI, volume 472)

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About this book

This is an open access book. This book, the first edited collection of its kind, explores the recent emergence of philosophical research in astrophysics. It assembles a variety of original essays from scholars who are currently shaping this field, and it combines insightful overviews of the current state of play with novel, significant contributions. It therefore provides an ideal source for understanding the current debates in philosophy of astrophysics, and it offers new ideas for future cutting-edge research. The selection of essays offered in this book addresses methodological and metaphysical questions that target a wide range of topics, including dark matter, black holes, astrophysical observations and modelling.

The book serves as the first standard resource in philosophy of astrophysics for all scholars who work in the field and want to expand or deepen their knowledge, but it also provides anaccessible guide for all those philosophers and scientists who are interested in getting a first, basic understanding of the main issues in philosophy of astrophysics.


Table of contents (17 chapters)

  1. Theory, Observation, and the Relation Between Them

  2. Black Holes

  3. Concluding Thoughts

Editors and Affiliations

  • Department of Philosophy, Siena College, Loudonville, USA

    Nora Mills Boyd

  • Department of Philosophy, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

    Siska De Baerdemaeker

  • University Observatory Munich, Faculty of Physics, Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, Germany

    Kevin Heng

  • Department of Philosophy, University of Perugia, Perugia, Italy

    Vera Matarese

About the editors

Nora Mills Boyd is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Siena College. Her research focuses on empiricism in philosophy of science, philosophy of experiment, and the philosophy of astrophysics and cosmology. After working as a research engineer at the University of Washington Center for Experimental Nuclear Physics and Astrophysics, she received her PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh in 2018. She has published journal articles in Philosophy of Science and Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. Her Cambridge University Press Element Epistemology of Experimental Physics was published in the Philosophy of Physics series in 2021.

Siska De Baerdemaeker is a researcher at Stockholm University. Between 2023 and 2025, she will work on a Project Grant from Riksbanken Jubileumsfond on the epistemology of experiment in context of dark matter research. Before, she worked as a postdoctoral researcher with Richard Dawid on theory confirmation in fundamental physics. She also has research projects on the history of relativistic cosmology in the 1920s and 1930s. In April 2020, she received her PhD in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Pittsburgh. Her work has been published in Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, and HOPOS. Her Cambridge University Press Element Philosophy of Cosmology and Astrophysics is under contract in the Philosophy of Physics series.

Kevin Heng is Chair Professor (German: Lehrstuhlinhaber) of Theoretical Astrophysics of Extrasolar Planets at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany. He is Honorary Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom.  Previously, he was the director of the interdisciplinary Center for Space and Habitability (CSH) at the University of Bern, Switzerland. He is the recipient of a 2017 European Research Council (ERC) Consolidator Grant and the 2018 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).  He is mainly interested in the theory, simulation and phenomenology of the atmospheres of exoplanets, including atmospheric radiative transfer, chemistry, fluid dynamics and Bayesian data inversion methods. Recently, he has turned his attention to the geosciences, especially geochemistry as it is indispensable in the understanding of biosignatures and their false positives.  He is the author of Exoplanetary Atmospheres: Theoretical Concepts and Foundations (2017, Princeton University Press).  He has published over 170 peer-reviewed papers, including in the Astrophysical Journal (ApJ), Astronomical Journal (AJ), Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society (MNRAS), Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A), Nature, Nature Astronomy, Science, etc; he has also published two modeling papers with epidemiologists.

Vera Matarese holds a tenure track Assistant Professorship (RTDb) in Philosophy of Science at the University of Perugia (Italy). Before, she was a postdoctoral researcher in the Institute of Philosophy and a research fellow in the Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern. Her research focuses on the metaphysics of science as well as on the methodology of science. She was also a member of NCCR PlanetS, and she served on the Center for Space and Habitability Management Committee, whose tasks are to approve its scientific program as well as to foster daily interactions and structured collaborative research across different disciplines. To this end, for the past two years, she ran a virtual seminar series in philosophy of astrophysics. She was a visiting fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh in fall 2019, and she is the recipient of an EPSA visiting fellowship to join the FraMEPhys project at the University of Birmingham in spring 2022. She is the single author of articles published in Synthese, Foundations of Physics, Axiomathes, and of book chapters forthcoming in Synthese Library and Routledge.

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