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Science philosopher Nancy Cartwright to receive honorary degree at SMU Commencement

Considered one of the world's most influential contemporary philosophers of science

April 4, 2012

Philosophy Professor Nancy Cartwright - Photo by Nigel SteadDALLAS (SMU) – Nancy Cartwright, considered one of the most important and influential contemporary philosophers of science, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Southern Methodist University (SMU) during the university’s commencement ceremony May 12.

Cartwright is a professor in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method at the London School of Economics and Political Science and in the Department of Philosophy at the University of California at San Diego.

The author of seven books, she has produced groundbreaking work on issues such as the nature of physical laws, causation and scientific reasoning. She is a pioneer of today’s practice-based philosophy of science and helped develop the philosophy of social policy, economics, sociology, medicine, epidemiology and political science.

Cartwright is a Fellow of the British Academy and a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the German Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina) and a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

SMU also will confer an honorary Doctor of Laws degree upon former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will deliver the commencement address.  SMU expects to award approximately 2,100 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees in the University-wide ceremony at 9:30 a.m. at Moody Coliseum on campus.

Books by Nancy Cartwright

  • Hunting Causes and Using Them: Approaches in Philosophy and Economics, Cambridge University Press (June 2007) — Cartwright argues that causation is not one thing, as commonly assumed, but many. There is a huge variety of causal relations, each with different characterizing features, different methods for discovery and different uses to which it can be put.
  • The Dappled World: A Study of the Boundaries of Science, Cambridge University Press (September 1999) — Cartwright argues against a vision of a uniform world completely ordered under a single elegant theory, and proposes instead a patchwork of laws of nature.
  • Nature's Capacities and Their Measurement, Oxford University Press (October 1989) — Cartwright argues that capacities are essential in our scientific world, and, contrary to empiricist orthodoxy, that they can meet sufficiently strict demands for testability.
  • How the Laws of Physics Lie, Oxford University Press (August 1983) — In this sequence of philosophical essays about natural science, the Cartwright argues that fundamental explanatory laws, the deepest and most admired successes of modern physics, do not in fact describe regularities that exist in nature.

Essays by Cartwright also have appeared in numerous collections.

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