Philosopher Anjan Chakravartty Joins University of Notre Dame

November 16, 2011 • Joanna Basile

Anjan Chakravartty

Anjan Chakravartty, a distinguished philosopher of science and metaphysics, is joining the University of Notre Dame as a professor in the Department of Philosophy and the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values.

“This is a signal hire for the Notre Dame philosophy department, the History and Philosophy of Science graduate program, and the Reilly center,” says Don Howard, director of the center and a a professor of philosophy. “Chakravartty is a rapidly rising star who brings not only a distinguished record of scholarship but also a record of academic leadership.”

Chakravartty comes from the University of Toronto, where he was director of and associate professor in the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, with a cross-appointment in the philosophy department.

His arrival at Notre Dame, Howard notes, coincides with his assuming the editorship of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, considered one of the premier journals in the field.

“Professor Chakravartty is an exciting senior hire in the philosophy of science, building on our strengths in this distinctive area,” says Richard Cross, Rev. John A. O’Brien
 Professor of Philosophy and chair of the Department of Philosophy. “His work spans the gap between metaphysics and the philosophy of science and is a wonderful fit for our department given its historic emphasis in these two fields.”

Chakravartty, who received his doctorate at the University of Cambridge, focuses his research on the philosophy of science and metaphysics, including topics in the philosophy of physics and biology.

“Given the changeable nature of scientific knowledge over time and the highly abstract and idealized nature of scientific models even now, what parts of science should we believe?” Chakravartty asks. “How should we understand the causal processes and laws of nature described by scientific theories? Do scientific categories reflect anything like a natural, pre-scientific division of nature into kinds of entities and processes?”

His current research, he says, explores these kinds of questions in several ways.

“I’ve become interested in the ways in which scientific models represent things in the world and what precisely representation means in this context,” he says. “I’ve also become intrigued by the relationship between traditional, philosophical modes of metaphysical theorizing about the world and the sorts of methods of investigation typical of the modern sciences. These may sound like separate topics, but they are very much connected in my mind, and my immediate future plans are for a book examining these themes.”

Chakravartty’s latest book, A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism: Knowing the Unobservable, won the Canadian Philosophical Association’s biennial book prize in 2009. The prize committee called it “an outstanding study in the philosophy of science that makes very important contributions to metaphysics and epistemology.”

“My interests intersect beautifully with the work of my colleagues in the philosophy department—with its celebrated strength in metaphysics—and with the broad expertise of my colleagues in the History and Philosophy of Science graduate program in the Reilly center,” says Chakravartty, who will begin teaching in fall 2012.

“It’s hard to imagine a better place to be a philosopher than Notre Dame.”

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