Philosophy Friday


On the final Friday each month, you are welcome to join us here at NMBU, in our library, for informal philosophy discussion. Bring your lunch, and we will contribute with coffee, home-baked cookies, a thought-provoking topic and a suitable guest!

Time and place: 12:15 – 13:30 in the University Library in the Tower Building, 1st floor.

Friday 24th November 2017

This month’s Philosophy Friday will be a round table discussion on the theme:

University for everybody?

We are experiencing an historical change: while universities were for centuries reserved to a restricted elite, nowadays an increasing part of population has access to higher education. Some worry that this is not necessarily a good development. In Norway, the debate over ‘mastersyken’ has been spanning for the last couple of years. Internationally, there is a growing wave of ‘anti-intellectualism’, particularly (but not only) related to governance. In our discussion, we are going to ask whether we actually need an educated population, and why. Should universities be ideally accessed by everybody, even if they do not necessarily help to get a better job? We are going to hear several answers from philosophy, and to discuss our own perspectives. Join the discussion and share your opinion over coffee and cookies!

Don´t miss this chance to meet other researchers at NMBU and nearby institutions to hear what they are dealing with!

Pics from past Philosophy Fridays in the NMBU library!

Who are we?

The philosophy discussion will be led and introduced by a team of local philosophers (and one scientist) in addition to the invited guest.

Rani, Samantha, Elena and Fredrik, with cookies!

Rani Lill Anjum is a philosopher obsessed with causes and effects. She couldn’t help but see that causation is all around: genes, free will, health, sport, pollution, law and even in quantum physics (although not many seem to agree on the latter).

Elena Rocca is a lab-rat who discovered the hard way that the outside world is different from the lab. She has now taken on the philosophical burden of finding out how to deal scientifically with real-life complexities.

Bildet viser Hilde Kristin Langsholt , Universitetsbiblioteket , NMBU
Hilde is the Philosophy Friday librarian at NMBU

Samantha Copeland, also known as ‘Serendipity Sam’, is an expert on discoveries made by accident, but which still result in great scientific progress. That’s cause for optimism for everyone producing negative results!

Fredrik Andersen is a philosopher who is more than averagely interested in time and space in physics. He is known for fearlessly questioning our most established views in science.

Hilde Kristin Langsholt is a librarian with a heart and head for philosophy. She is our practical guide to reality and makes sure that the philosophers have a public arena at NMBU.

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Previous Philosophy Fridays:


October 27, 2017. Our event for October was an open round-table discussion on the theme, “What is knowledge, and how can we measure it?”. We gave a shake to our academic routine by provoking reflections about nowadays metrics used to measure scientific primacy. We shared opinion about a number of issues. Is someone a better researcher because he published more papers? Or in journals with higher impact factors? How do this metrics influence the overall quality of research, and also how do they influence research ethics? Or research environment and collaborations? Do we want to maintain the system or should we go beyond this metrics and indexes? We finally discussed about possible alternatives to the present system.

March 31, 2017 Our event for March was an open round-table discussion on the theme, “Science and policymaking: a happy marriage?” Evidence-based policymaking relies on experts’ and technical advice in order to make decisions. However, this has been criticized in many ways: from the ethical point of view, it is said to be an undemocratic process, where expert’s opinion is valued more than the voice of people to whom the policy is aimed.  On the epistemological side, there is also the big challenge that science offers advice based on isolated evidence, while policymaking makes decision at the population level. We shared experiences and discussed future ways to go.

February 24, 2017 Our event for February was an open round-table discussion on the theme “Complexity”. We compared and discussed different methods that scientists might use in order to face complexity. Researchers have at hands a variety of strategies: experimental approaches, observation, statistical analyses, qualitative methods, epidemiology, and single case studies. Every methodology, however, comes with two edges: while providing some information, it obscures a part of the picture. We were joined by epidemiologist Per Nafstad, plant biologists Anna Marie Nicolaysen and Geir Lieblein, and the CauseHealth crowd.

November 25, 2016 The theme of this month’s roundtable was “Experimentation”. Experimentation, the prime method for testing hypotheses in scientific inquiry, is based on control over variables, careful measurements, and establishing cause-effect relationships. Different scientific disciplines use diverse approaches to experimentation: from use of models to reality measurements. Yet, are there some universal issues/difficulties of this practice that can be discussed across disciplines? We discussed common themes across different types of experimentation: mouse modeling (Preben Boysen, mattrygghet og infeksjonsbiologi), field work in experimental economics (Stein Holden, HandelsHøyskolen), and clinical trials in medicine (Elena Rocca & Rani Lill Anjum, the CauseHealth project).

October 28, 2016 We had our first roundtable discussion, with the topic “How risky is it, really”? The concept of risk affects our behaviours and choices as individuals and as society. How do we calculate it, perceive it, communicate it? Is there such a thing  as “real risk” at all, or is it created by human culture and perception? The discussion was facilitated by the CauseHealth crowd as well as by NMBU researchers who tackle the issue of “risk” from different angles: Yevgeniya Tomkiv (CERAD), Andrei Florin Marin (NORAGRIC), John McNeish (NORAGRIC), Federico Cammelli (HH), and Espen Haug (HH).

May 27, 2016 Our guest for May was a researcher in ethics at NTNU in Gjøvik and at the University of Oslo Institute for Health and Society, Bjørn Hofmann. He generated a discussion with us about scientific dishonesty. A recent survey analysed by our guest has shown that many PhD students think that it’s acceptable, for example, to publish results from  research they haven’t yet conducted. We read about researchers who fabricate results or exaggerate their conclusions in the  newspapers. What do you think? What happens to our society if we can no longer trust our scientists? Why do  new researchers cheat or lie about their experimental results, and should our institutions try harder to prevent this from happening? Dr. Hofmann presented us with examples and reflections from his own research, and the group as a whole engaged the problem of scientific dishonesty and discussed what we, as researchers, think we ought to do about it.

April 29, 2016: We looked at the relevance of scientific research for our everyday lives. How direct is the connection from science to society? What does it mean when the government claims to base new policy on scientific evidence? Starting from the specific case of cancer research, we discussd the influence of new evidence on concepts of illness and “medicalisation”. Moreover, we talked about social and global justice around cancer research and care. For instance, how do we make decisions about which cancer patients get drugs?
Our guest, Anne Blanchard from the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities at the University of Bergenintroduced some reflections about the cultural meaning of cancer in today’s society, and how it is influenced by uncertainties in the lab. What followed was an engaging and dynamic discussion about medicalization, priorities in health care and research, and what to do about uncertainty!

February 26 2016: We looked closely at a topic relevant to us all—how to make decisions that match with our values in today’s consumer society. We asked the tough questions: what is the difference between morality and ethics? Should we side with the real or the ideal when making decisions?
Our first guest, Anne Rose Røsbak Feragen from Activa Humanistisk Akademi, supplied us with some philosophical tools for thinking about the hard decisions that come with our desire to be thoughtful consumers and producers of the products in our world, and, over cookies and coffee, we talked about how to apply those tools in our everyday lives.

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