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Professor Nancy Cartwright

Professor/Director of CHESS - No general enquiries (please refer to the contact us page)

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Professor/Director of CHESS - No general enquiries (please refer to the contact us page) in the Department of Philosophy +44 (0) 191 33 46049
Co-Director in the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)  


Nancy Cartwright FBA FAcSS is Professor of Philosophy at Durham University and a Distinguished Professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). At Durham she is also co-Director of the Centre for Humanities engaging Science and Society. In the first half of her career at Stanford University she specialised in the philosophy of the natural sciences, especially physics; in the second half, at the London School of Economics and now Durham and UCSD, she has specialised in philosophy and methodology of the social sciences with special attention to economics. Her current research focusses on objectivity and evidence, especially for evidence-based policy.

Her research interests include philosophy and history of science (especially physics and economics). Cartwright has worked extensively in modelling, causal inference, causal powers, and objectivity, evidence, especially for evidence-based policy [EBP] and the philosophy of social technology. Her current work, for the project ‘Knowledge for Use’ [K4U], investigates how to use scientific research results for better policies. She has worked with others on projects in this area on education, child protection and international development.

Professor Cartwright has written a number of books: Nature the Artful Modeler: Lectures on Laws, Science, How Nature Arranges the World, and How We Can Arrange It Better (2019), Improving Child Safety: deliberation, judgement and empirical research [with E Munro, J Hardie & E Montuschi] (2017), Evidence: For Policy and Wheresoever Rigor is a Must (2013), Evidence Based Policy: A Practical Guide to Doing it Better [with J Hardie] (2012), Causal Powers: What Are They? Why Do We Need Them? What Can be Done with Them and What Cannot (2007), Measuring Causes: Invariance, Modularity and the Causal Markov Condition (2000), Hunting Causes and Using Them (2007), The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science (1999), Otto Neurath: Philosophy between Science and Politics [with J Cat, K Fleck & T Uebel] (1995), Nature's Capacities and their Measurement (1989) and How the Laws of Physics Lie (1983).

She has also co-edited three collections: Rethinking Order: After the Laws of Nature [with K Ward] (2016), Philosophy of Social Science: A New Introduction [with Eleonora Montuschi] (2014), and Idealization XII: Correcting the Models. Idealization and Abstraction in the Sciences [with M R Jones] (2005).

Nancy Cartwright is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) and the Academy of Europe and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

Cartwright has received two honorary doctorate degrees from the University of St Andrews and the Southern Methodist University and has recently been awarded the Hempel Award for lifetime achievement of Philosophy of Science and the Martin R Lebowitz Prize (alongside Elliott Sober) for philosophical achievement and contribution by the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

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Office Hours

Prof Nancy Cartwright is mostly on research leave right now. For an appointment, email her or Nicola Craigs at

Research interests

  • The philosophy of social technology
  • History and philosophy of science (especially physics and economics)
  • Causal inference
  • Objectivity in science
  • Evidence, especially for evidence-based policy

Research Projects

Awarded Grants

  • 2015: H2020-K4U: Knowledge for Use: Making the most of Social Sciences to build better policies(£1190079.29 from European Commission)
  • 2014: Revitalising the Health Equity Agenda(£0.00 from ESRC)

Esteem Indicators

  • 2018: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) Distinguished Lecture Series at the National Science Foundation (NSF) Headquarters:
  • 2018: The Wesley C. Salmon Memorial Lecture, Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh: ;
  • 2017: Carus Lectures (APA 2017 Pacific Division Meeting), Seattle:
  • 2017: Senior Research Associate at the African Centre for Epistemology and Philosophy of Science (ACEPS), University of Johannesburg:

  • 2017: The Martin R. Lebowitz Prize for Philosophical Achievement awarded by the Phi Beta Kappa Society (alongside Elliott Sober):
  • 2016: Associate Member, Senior Common Room at Wadham College, Oxford:
  • 2016: Fellow, The Academy of Social Sciences:
  • 2015: John Dewey Lecture: 2015 Pacific Division APA meeting:

  • 2014: Tsing Hua Honorary Distinguished Chair Professor, awarded by the National Tsing Hua University :
  • 2013: Honorary Degree, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, University of St Andrews:
  • 2012: 225 Medallion, Distinguished Alumna, University of Pittsburgh:
  • 2012: Honorary Degree. Doctor of Humane Letters, honors causa, Southern Methodist University, Dallas TX:
  • 2011: Member, Doctorate School in Philosophy of the Universita 'Ca' Foscari', Venice:
  • 2009: Chancellor’s Associates Faculty Excellence Award for Excellence in Research in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, University of California at San Diego:
  • 2008: President, American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division) :
  • 2008: President, Philosophy of Science Association :
  • 2007: Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Durham University:
  • 2007: Titular Member, Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences (A.I.P.S.):
  • 2007: Vice-President, American Philosophical Association (Pacific Division):
  • 2005: Senior Visiting Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bologna:
  • 2004: Fellow, American Philosophical Society:
  • 2002: Associate Member, Nuffield College, Oxford:
  • 2001: Foreign Honorary Member, American Academy of Arts and Science:
  • 1999: Member, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (The German National Academy of Natural Science):
  • 1996: Fellow, British Academy:
  • 1996: Old Dominion Fellow, Philosophy, Princeton University:
  • 1993: Fellow, MacArthur Foundation:
  • 1987: Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg (Institute for Advanced Study), Berlin:
  • 1982: Fellow, ZiF (Center for Interdisciplinary Research), Bielefeld, Germany:
  • 1976: Fellow, Philosophy of Science Center, University of Pittsburgh:
  • 1971: Postdoctoral Fellow, U.S. National Science Foundation, Cambridge University:


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Supervision students