Methodology, mathematics, experiment in social science Methodology, mathematics, experiment in social science

We study a variety of problems at the intersection between philosophy and the social sciences, from the use and effects of mathematical resources in model construction to the relationship between experimental research in psychology and philosophy. Topics of special interest are:

  • Psychology and philosophical intuitions;
  • Experimental philosophy;
  • Mathematisation and mathematical explanation in social science;
  • Infinitely small and large numbers in mathematical social science;
  • The Precautionary Principle; 
  • Methodology and Ethics in Social Science.

Projects in the Philosophy and Social Science include collaborations with UEA psychologists and social scientists at an international level. Interdisciplinary work in this area has been the subject of several research workshops and conferences, including the two Mathematising Science conferences in 2013 and 2014. In December 2014, we organised the international conference Aesthetics in Mathematics, which brought together philosophers of mathematics and social scientists working in Mathematics Education. On July 15th and 16th, 2017, Philosophy at UEA will host the eighth annual conference of the Experimental Philosophy Group UK, presented with the support of the Mind Association and the Analysis Trust. The major theme for this year will be "Alternative Methods in Experimental Philosophy - Beyond the Questionnaire" 

We welcome applications from students interested in pursuing a PhD in this field, as well as enquiries from PhD students interested in doing postdoctoral work with us. Please feel free to contact Davide Rizza for further information.

Academic members working in this area

Dr Eugen Fischer contributes to the ‘sources project’ currently emerging from experimental philosophy. Experimental philosophy imports experimental methods and findings from the social sciences, and especially psychology, into philosophy. The sources project (also known as 'cognitive epistemology') develops and tests psychological explanations of philosophical intuitions that help us assess their evidentiary value. Dr Fischer’s current research examines how metaphors and analogies as well as stereotypes shape intuitions from the philosophies of mind and perception. His experimental work is done in collaboration with, among others, psychologist Paul Engelhardt (UEA) and computational linguist Aurelie Herbelot (Cambridge). (See page)

Recent publications
Fischer, Eugen, 2014: Philosophical Intuitions, Heuristics, and Metaphors. Synthese 191, 569-606
Fischer, Eugen, Engelhardt, P.E. and Herbelot, A., 2015: Intuitions and Illusions: From Explanation and Experiment to Assessment. In E. Fischer and J. Collins (eds.): Experimental Philosophy, Rationalism, and Naturalism. Rethinking Philosophical Method. London: Routledge



Dr Davide Rizza's current research focusses on mathematical modelling in social science (primarily voting theory, utility theory, mathematical psychology). Examining the use of mathematics in social science, Dr Rizza seeks to develop an account of mathematisation as a form of symbolic enquiry based on the construction of formal instruments of intervention upon a series of problems. He is also interested in the use of infinitesimal methods - in particular Nonstandard Analysis and the Arithmetic of Infinity recently introduced by Yaroslav Sergeyev - to construct classically unavailable models within economic theory (e.g. utility models, decision models) and mathematical psychology (e.g. extensive measurement).  (See page). 

Recent publications
Rizza, Davide 2016. 'Divergent mathematical treatments in utility theory'. Erkenntnis, 81, 1287-1303.
Rizza, Davide 2016. 'Supertasks and numeral systems', American Institute of Physics Conference Proceedings, 1776, 090005. (doi:10.1063/1.4965369)


Dr Rupert Read Rupert Read's current research, for which he will be taking a sabbatical to pursue in Spring 2016, is on a new philosophical rendition of the Precautionary Principle. Working with Nassim N. Taleb, Read is seeking to place that Principle on a secure foundation, understanding it as the requirement to pursue an alternative to potentially ruinous courses of action, when there is a non-ruinous alternative course of action available.. (See page)

Recent publications

Read, Rupert, N.Taleb, Y.Bar-Yam, R. Douady, J. Norman, 2014. The precautionary principle: Fragility and black swans from policy actions  in NYU Extreme Risk Initiative Working Paper.

Read, Rupert, P. Hutchinson and W. Sharrock, 2008. There is no such thing as a social science. London: Ashgate.

Dr. Michael L. Frazer has written extensively on the relevance of eighteenth-century theories of the moral sentiments to both philosophy and social science today. His current research project is on how many methodological disagreements in the humanities and social sciences are better understood as ethical and political disagreements. 

Recent Publications
Frazer, Michael L. 2014. “Including the Unaffected”, The Journal of Political Philosophy, 22:4.
Frazer, Michael L. 2010. The Enlightenment of Sympathy: Justice and the Moral Sentiments in the Eighteenth-Century and Today. Oxford University Press.