USS-SWC 2001 – Unity and Plurality in Science

The 1st Vienna Summer University was held on 16–28 July 2001.


  • Don Howard (University of Notre Dame)
  • Elliott Sober (University of Wisconsin)

A unified scientific understanding of nature was once a widely-accepted aim of science and remains so in more than a few areas of contemporary science. In recent years, however, both the possibility and the advisability of unification have been questioned, with some arguing that themeism should be prized in the sciences, perhaps for political as well as philosophical reasons.
The course considered questions about unity and themeity in science from a variety of philosophical, historical, and institutional perspectives.


  • Theoretical unification in physical science
  • Vitalism, materialism, and reductionism in biology
  • Relativity, complementarity, and underdetermination: Metaphors of multiplicity in twentieth-century science and philosophy
  • The Unity of Science movement and the Vienna Circle
  • The organization of scientific research
  • Realism, reduction, simplicity, and explanation: Methodological perspectives on unification