Design a site like this with
Get started


Milky Way at The Pinnacles Desert, Western Australia

The Future of The Past

Philosophical issues in the “historical sciences”

 8 – 9 August 2022

Sidney M. Edelstein Center for the History and Philosophy of Science , Technology and Medicine, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem


About The Future of The Past

The Universe began around 13.8 bya (billion years ago). The solar system formed over 4.5 bya, the Earth and its Moon around 100 myr (million years) later. Liquid water was present on Earth’s surface by 4.4 bya, with life appearing by 3.8 (possibly as early as 4.2) bya. The first animals appear in the fossil record by 541 mya, and representatives of every major phylum were present just 20 myr later.

galaxy icon

The so-called “historical” sciences constitute a sizeable proportion of the scientific endeavor and have made considerable progress in establishing an astonishing array of claims concerning the past. Yet despite their ubiquity and evident success, sciences that reconstruct the past (with the exception of evolutionary biology) have largely been ignored by philosophers of science.

This has begun to change in recent decades, with an increasing number of philosophers turning their attention to metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic concerns in geology, paleontology, archaeology, and related areas. 

The debate, however, is still very much in its infancy, with considerable work to be done and many open questions to explore. There are also several areas of science which investigate the past or are in some sense “historical,” but which have received little attention from philosophers.

The aim of this workshop is to bring together an international group of scholars to discuss and debate some of these questions and to broaden the field by introducing new research on under-investigated areas of historical-scientific research.

Conference Schedule

View the detailed conference program

Monday, 8 August 2022
  • Keynote address: Peter Vickers – Durham University (UK) – The Future of the Alvarez Hypothesis
  • Session I: The Historical Sciences in the History of Philosophy
  • Session II: The Methodologically Historical: How Historical Scientists Investigate the Past 1
  • Keynote address: Caitlin Wylie – University of Virginia (USA) – What Makes a Fossil a Specimen?
  • Session III: The Past Informing the Present and Future
  • Session IV: The Metaphysically Historical: What Historical Scientists Investigate 1
  • Keynote address: Alisa Bokulich – Boston University (USA) – Are We in a Sixth Mass Extinction?
Tuesday, 9 August 2022
  • Keynote address: Derek Turner – Connecticut College (USA) – The Aesthetics of Narrative Explanation
  • Session V: Historical Components of the Social Sciences and Social Implications of Historical Science
  • Session VI: The Metaphysically Historical: What Historical Scientists Investigate 2
  • Session VII: The Methodologically Historical: How Historical Scientists Investigate the Past 2
  • Session VIII: Demarcation Problems: Historical Science Vs. Nonhistorical Science, Historical Science Vs. Historical Humanities
  • Keynote address: Alison Wylie – University of British Columbia (Canada) – Critical Genealogies: Collaborative Archaeology in Settler-colonial Contexts

Conference Organizers

Craig W. Fox

Thomas Rossetter