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Science, Certainty and Expertise in Political Thought – Graduate Conference

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McCrum Lecture Theatre

Corpus Christi College

Cambridge

CB2 1RH

United Kingdom

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Since the ancient contemplation of politikê epistêmê, science and certainty have shaped the perceived purposes, practices and possibilities of political thought. Political knowledge has long fallen under the domain of practical science, and political theories have often built upon scientific ‘certainties’ and epochal discoveries, from Thomas Hobbes’ mechanical universe to Hannah Arendt’s Archimedean point. Political thinkers throughout the ages have treated expertise as a source of authority, but implied in this authority is the corresponding illegitimacy of thoughts and thinkers deemed groundless, unsystematic or ‘unscientific’.

How has the prevailing scientific wisdom shaped the writings and reception of political thinkers throughout history? How have past thinkers understood the relationship between the distribution of expertise and the distribution of power in society? How might scientific authority push the horizons of political thought on growth and climate change? How does political thought deal with uncertainty?

Our keynote speaker, Dr Sophie Smith (University of Oxford), has worked on early modern definitions of ‘political science’, and has edited a pioneering collection that brings together new perspectives on what political thought can contribute to thinking about the environment.


Call for Papers:

In thinking through this broad theme, participants are welcome to draw on political thought and intellectual history, political theory, history and theories of gender and post-colonialism, cultural history, and the history of science. We encourage submissions from all time periods. Submissions are welcome on the aforementioned topicsand those related, but not limited to:


  • Management, bureaucracy and technocracy; political thought and economic expertise
  • Philosopher kings and the rule of the wise
  • Science, law and the persecution of scientists
  • Science and gender politics
  • Science and the politics of ‘race’
  • Natural philosophy and scholasticism
  • Certainty and the unknown, 
chance and predictability
  • Science and technology as rhetoric


Interested doctoral students should send proposals, comprised of a short abstract (max. 500 words) and a brief CV (max. 2 pages), to jpc82@cam.ac.uk and oh258@cam.ac.uk with the subject “PTIH Conference Submission”. The deadline for proposals is Friday 1st November 2019.

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McCrum Lecture Theatre

Corpus Christi College

Cambridge

CB2 1RH

United Kingdom

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