Reflections on philosophy of nanoscience from nanoscience practitioners

  • Fern Wickson Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen
  • Raymond Nepstad Institutt for fysikk og teknologi, Universitetet i Bergen
  • Trond Åm Filosofisk institutt, NTNU
  • Mathias Winkler Kjemisk institutt, Universitetet i Bergen
Keywords: ELSA, interdisciplinarity, nanoscience, nanotechnology, philosophy


In this paper we present findings from an experiment involving both scientists working at the nanoscale and philosophers interested in this emerging field of research. Early career scientists working at the nanoscale were asked to read, discuss and debate two examples of philosophy of science that had been written with a specific focus on nanoscale science and technology. The papers that our participating scientists were asked to read were one by Jan Schmidt (2004) and one by George Khushf (2004). These papers are interesting for comparative discussion because although both draw on similar cases to make their arguments, Schmidt argues that nanotechnology represents a new form of reductionism, while Khushf argues that the field represents a shift towards more systems-based approaches of understanding and acting. The initial aim of this experimental exercise was both to create a space for discussion and reflection, and to investigate the scientific literacy of emerging works in the philosophy of nanoscience. Interestingly, interdisciplinary interaction during the exercise saw unexpected topics of interest and discussion emerge. In discussing the two articles, the scientists participating in our exercise highlighted a range of questions that not only related to the scientific content of the philosophers' arguments, but also to the way in which they conducted and presented their research. This exercise demonstrates the added value and richness that can come from interdisciplinary interactions across the social and natural sciences and from iterative discussions across theory and practice, especially when focused on emerging fields of research such as that of nanoscience and technology.

How to Cite
Wickson, F., Nepstad, R., Åm, T., & Winkler, M. (2008). Reflections on philosophy of nanoscience from nanoscience practitioners. Etikk I Praksis - Nordic Journal of Applied Ethics, 2(2), 73-92.
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