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Dr Peter Vickers

Associate Professor (Reader)/Director PG Research\Co-Director CHESS

BSc, MA, PhD

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Associate Professor (Reader)/Director PG Research\Co-Director CHESS in the Department of Philosophy  
Co-Director in the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS)  


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OFFICE: Room 207 in the Philosophy Department
My office hours until further notice:

Tuesdays 2-5pm


In 2003 I received a BSc in Mathematics and Philosophy from the University of York, followed by an MA (2005) in History and Philosophy of Science from the University of Leeds. This led to a PhD in history and philosophy of science (2009), also at Leeds, supervised by Prof. Steven French. The starting point was certain difficulties concerning the representation and reconstruction of inconsistent scientific theories. Gradually I developed a new methodology for analysing debates about inconsistencies in science which I called ‘theory eliminativism’. This was the major focus during my year as a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh, USA (2010-11). I received a contract from Oxford University Press to develop my PhD thesis into a book, entitled Understanding Inconsistent Science, and this was published in 2013. I started as a lecturer at Durham University in 2011. Philosophy aside, I am a keen runner.


I am happy to supervise dissertations on any of the topics listed under 'Research Interests', and on closely related topics. Some examples of specific topics I would be happy to supervise are as follows:

'Expecting the unexpected in the search for alien life'

'How do we identify future-proof science?'

'Theory and evidence in light of the dynamics of the scientific community'

'When (if ever) is an inconsistency in science a serious problem?'

'Is it possible to be a scientific realist about quantum mechanics?'

'What is a biosignature?'

'How can we measure the strength of a scientific consensus?'

'When does a scientific theory turn into a fact?'

Works in Progress

Monograph (2022/23): The World Delusion: Nothing is as it seems (An alternative introduction to science and philosophy)

Postgraduate Teaching
  • Philosophical Issues in Science and Medicine (PISM)
Undergraduate Teaching

Administrative Duties
  • IT officer 2011-2015
  • Seminar and RIP lecture organiser 2011-14
  • Admissions Tutor 2014-2018
  • Secretary of the Research Committee 2012-14
  • Deputy Director of Research 2013-14
  • Ethics rep 2012-14
  • Science, Medicine, and Society research cluster coordinator 2017-18
  • Director of postgraduate research, from October 2018
Research Groups

Research interests

  • Philosophy of astrobiology
  • Social epistemology
  • Exoplanet science
  • Scientific realism/anti-realism
  • Evidence
  • Inconsistency in science
  • The relationship between history of science and philosophy of science
  • Eliminativism and pluralism about concepts

Esteem Indicators

  • 2022: Invited plenary address in Poland: Invited plenary address, at ‘Philosophical Perspectives on Sciences’, an international conference celebrating the 550th anniversary of the birth of Nicolaus Copernicus, at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences, Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, Poland. ;
  • 2022: Invited presentation at The Isaac Newton Institute for Mathematical Sciences in Cambridge: I'll be presenting at an event series entitled 'The Role of Uncertainty in Mathematical Modelling of Pandemics'
  • 2021: Invited presentation at the Center for Philosophy of Science, Pittsburgh: Invited presentation at the Center for Philosophy of Science, Pittsburgh, USA: 'Identifying Future-Proof Science'.
  • 2020: Talk at the UK Centre for Astrobiology:
  • 2019: Talk at NASA: Invitation to speak at NASA Goddard on the topic 'Expecting the unexpected in the search for alien life'.
  • 2018: Plenary lecture in Spain: Invitation to deliver a plenary address at the five-day International Ontology Conference, San Sebastian, Spain, October 2-6 2018.
  • 2018: Weekend School in Oxford: Weekend School at the Oxford Centre for Continuing Education, on the topic of 'Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science', 24-25th November 2018.
  • 2017: Invitation to UNAM, Mexico: In February 2017 I was invited to UNAM, Mexico City, to deliver two graduate seminars and two research presentations, with a focus on my book ;Understanding Inconsistent Science.
  • 2017: Keynote lecture in Nottingham: I was invited to deliver a keynote lecture at the 13th Annual UK Integrated History and Philosophy of Science Workshop, held in Nottingham 20th-22nd June 2017.
  • 2016: Talk at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy: On 1st June 2016 I gave an invited talk entitled 'The Sommerfeld Miracle' at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP), Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany.
  • 2016: Weekend school at the Oxford Centre for Further Education: On 9-10th January 2016 I gave two presentations as part of a 'weekend school’ at the Oxford Centre for Further Education, based on my book *Understanding Inconsistent Science*
  • 2015: Talk at the BSPS: I was invited to give a talk at one of the British Society for the Philosophy of Science (BSPS) Ordinary Meetings, on 16th March 2015.
  • 2014: AHRC Research Grant: In 2014 I was awarded an AHRC Research Grant for a 42 month project (ending 31st January 2018) entitled 'Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science'. This major project follows on directly from the success of the pilot project conducted in 2012, and builds directly on the issues explored in my 2013 paper 'A Confrontation of Convergent Realism'. The project is a collaboration with (Co-I) Timothy Lyons, based at Indiana University-Purdue University Indiansapolis (IUPUI), in the United States. Several international events are planned over the next few years as part of the project.
  • 2014: Talk in Ghent: Invitation to give a talk at the workshop ‘Inconsistencies in Scientific Reasoning’ held at Ghent University, Belgium, on 24th October 2014. The event followed a reading group on my book Understanding Inconsistent Science in the Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science at Ghent.
  • 2013: Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture: I was invited to give a Royal Institute of Philosophy Lecture at the University of Bradford, on 13th November 2013.
  • 2012: AHRC Exploratory Award: In 2012 I received an AHRC Science in Culture Scheme Exploratory Award for a six-month project exploring the possibility that there are currently many episodes in the history of science which bear on contemporary scientific realism. The project was entitled 'Evaluating Scientific Realism: A New Generation of Historical Case Studies', and it ;led directly to my paper 'A Confrontation of Convergent Realism' (2013).
  • Associate Editor of Studies: I am an Associate Editor of the journal ;Studies in History and Philosophy of Science.


Authored book

Chapter in book

  • Vickers, P. (2017). Historical Challenges to Realism. In The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism. Saatsi, J. Routledge. 48-59.
  • Vickers, P (2016). Why Kirchhoff's Approximation Works. In Gustav Robert Kirchhoff's Treatise “On the Theory of Light Rays” (1882). Klaus Hentschel & Ning Yan Zhu World Scientific.
  • Vickers, P. (2012). Theory Flexibility and Inconsistency in Science. In Is Science Inconsistent?. Special Issue of Synthese.
  • Vickers, P. & Bueno, O. (2012). Introduction. In Is Science Inconsistent?.
  • Vickers, P. (2011). A Brief Chronology of the Philosophy of Science. In The Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Science. Continuum Press.

Edited book

  • Lyons, T. D. & Vickers, P. (2021). Contemporary Scientific Realism and the Challenge from the History of Science. Oxford University Press.
  • Vickers, P & Bueno, O (2011). Is Science Inconsistent?. Special issue of Synthese.

Edited Journal

  • Bueno, Otávio & Vickers, Peter (2014). Is Science Inconsistent?. Synthese, 191 (13): Springer.

Journal Article

Other (Print)

  • Vickers, Peter (2017). Sommerfeld’s Miracle: The Ultimate Challenge to Scientific Realism.
  • Vickers, P. (2015). Contemporary Scientific Realism and the 1811 Gill Slit Prediction.
  • Vickers, P. (2014). Case Studies in the Scientific Realism Debate: From pilot project to international collaboration.
  • Vickers, P. (2013). Is science inconsistent?