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  • Bielefeld Masterclass in Philosophy 2021

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Finally: a real-life masterclass

Bielefeld Masterclass in Philosophy 2021

Fake Research and Harmful Findings: When Science does Damage

October 20—22, 2021

The pioneers of the Scientific Revolution in the early 1600s conceived the new science of the period as an undertaking in the service of the common good. By contrast, parts of present-day research are said to be detrimental in groundlessly undermining an evidentially backed and well-supported scientific consensus or to impair and hurt social groups. Take climate change denialists who attempt to undercut well-established knowledge about threats to humankind by sticking to received political and economic interests. Or think of cases of “virtuous ignorance” (Proctor), in which we don’t want to see personal affairs made subject to public scrutiny. Such research may contribute to preventing urgent political action or make people suffer without justification.

Such issues pose epistemic and moral challenges. The epistemic challenge is whether it is advisable to seek to identify fake science and ostracize the relevant approaches or, alternatively, whether the adverse side-effects possibly tied up with such attempts would create more harm than good. After all, the misidentification of such fake accounts would lead to the unfavorable suppression of scientific debate. In moral respect, blacklisting certain research undertakings might conflict with the freedom of research. Moreover, hurt feelings may not be a sufficient reason for abandoning a research endeavor.

The 2021 masterclass in philosophy differs from its predecessors in implementing a controversial scheme. Both the epistemic and the moral dimension will be addressed in contrasting ways. The parties involved will defend and criticize the appropriateness of ruling out certain approaches right away as epistemically unsound and morally defective.

October 20, 10:15—12:00

ZiF Plenary Hall Janet Kourany (University of Notre Dame), Agnotological Quandaries: Toward a Proper Balance of Knowledge and Ignorance in Research.

October 20, 14:15—16:00

ZiF Plenary Hall Torsten Wilholt (Leibniz-University Hannover), Dangerous Knowledge and the Freedom of Science.

October 21, 10:15—12:00

ZiF Plenary Hall Inmaculada de Melo-Martín (Weill Cornell Medical College), Identifying Normatively Inappropriate Dissent: Easier Said than Done.

October 21, 14:15—16:00


ZiF Plenary Hall Martin Carrier (Bielefeld University), Fake Research: How Can We Recognize it and Respond to it?

October 22, 10:15—12:00

X-Building, A2-103 Lutz Wingert (ETH Zurich), TBA

October 22, 14:15—16:00

X-Building, A2-103 Panel Debate: All speakers and Mathias Girel (ENS Paris)

There is no fee, but please register for participation with Eike Inga Schilling at Bielefeld University (

The masterclass is intended to be realized in physical presence (barring unexpected developments in matters of Corona). But we will see to it that online access via Zoom will be possible. All real-life participants need to present proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19, or an up-to-date negative Covid test.


Meeting-ID: 993 3788 2005
Password: 387415

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