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Event: Workshop: The Epistemic Role of Narratives in Science

Event date September 01, 2022 - September 02, 2022
Submission deadline July 29, 2022
Location Switzerland
Host(s) Department of Philosophy, University of Zurich
Event website/information For more info, contact Alexandra Quack ( or Catherine Herfeld (



LOCATION: Department of Philosophy, University of Zurich, Switzerland


DATE:  September 1 – 2, 2022


ORGANIZERS: Catherine Herfeld, Alexandra Quack (University of Zurich)


Narratives play an important epistemic role in science. Across a wide range of disciplines, scientists employ narratives for different purposes in their research. In recent years, philosophers and historians of science have increasingly begun to inquire into such uses of narratives. Focusing on the epistemic functions of narratives in science, they have shown that narratives perform diverse and often crucial tasks in the scientific research process. For example, it has been argued that narratives productively interact with mathematical models in a variety of different disciplines, thereby raising important questions about the explanatory contribution of narratives in modelling (e.g., Morgan and Wise 2017). While there is no doubt about the originality and importance of those contributions, the philosophical literature on narratives in science is still at an early stage. Specifying further how narratives are used and how they function in science therefore remains an important task. For this workshop, we take those contributions as our departure point to discuss, further develop, and conceptually expand existing accounts and/or to apply them to cases from a variety of different disciplines. In doing so, the primary goal of this workshop is to bring together researchers interested in the epistemic role of narratives to further advance the philosophical research agenda on the use and functions of narratives in science. Possible questions that we will discuss at the workshop include:


  • When do scientists use narratives?
  • What do scientists need narratives for, i.e., what problems do narratives solve for them?
  • How could we categorize the functions of narratives in science?
  • In what way do various scientific methods rely on narratives?
  • To what extent do narratives contribute to explanation and/or scientific understanding?
  • What is it about narratives that allows them to fulfill the epistemic functions they are proposed to fulfill?


We welcome contributions from historians and philosophers of the natural, the social, and the life sciences. Some of the research presented will conceptually analyze the conditions for using narratives in science. Other research will focus on specific historical episodes or philosophical issues that give rise to narratives in the various fields. The different contributions can also rely on a broad set of methods, spanning from systematic approaches, (historical) case-study analysis, and empirical approaches, etc. In this way, the workshop will hopefully make significant headway towards an in-depth analysis of the epistemic role of narratives within and across the sciences.


(Preliminary) list of invited speakers: John Beatty, Sharon Crasnow, Claudia Cristalli, Adrian Currie, Till Grüne-Yanoff, Paula Olmos, Alirio Rosales


There are several slots for contributed submissions. Please submit an abstract of max. 500 words (including a title) to until July 29th 2022. We will inform you shortly thereafter if your abstract has been accepted.


If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact the organizers:

Alexandra Quack (

Catherine Herfeld (

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