20 November 2017 from 15:00 to 18:00

Afternoon programme the Night of Descartes

Symposium on Science and the future - Part of Night of Descartes

© iStockphoto.com/Warrenrandalcarr
© iStockphoto.com/Warrenrandalcarr

In the afternoon preceding the “Night of Descartes”, we aim to shed light on the promises and difficulties involved in reflecting on the future of science. We do so by addressing and combining various disciplinary perspectives: Philosophy of science, history of science, comparative literature, scientific and political consultancy.

The future of science

Science is always reflecting about its own future: Which experiments should I perform tomorrow? What are the trends in the field that make my research proposal promising? Which strategic themes can help to increase our university’s international visibility? What are the topics that need to be on the national research agenda? Which promises does science hold, and how can we counteract the potentially dystopic consequences of apparently attractive research projects? How accurate are the predictions that we can make on the basis of a law of nature? What kind of project might the grant agencies want to see? Why is the future of science so attractive for all sorts of popular genres? Even though we have learned that no reliable predictions concerning the future course of science are possible, we constantly ponder the future of our work – in our research practices, in academic politics, in popularizing science.


  • Introduction (Paul Ziche/Harmen Peters (Utrecht; history of philosophy/history of science): Trends in future-directed discourses concerning the sciences

  • Science and policy: On which basis can we come to strategies for a future-directed policy with respect to the sciences? (Frans Brom, The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy/Ethics Institute, Den Haag/Utrecht)

  • Utopian and dystopian images of science in literature (Barnita Bagchi, Comparative Literature, Utrecht

  • Lessons from/for philosophy of science: Philosophical and ethical issues in dealing with the sciences’ future (René van Woudenberg, epistemology/philosophy, Free University, Amsterdam)

The afternoon is devoted to exchanging perspectives and ideas, and to promote discussions. It will be followed up by further events relating to the topic of “Science and the Future” in 2018.


Start date and time
20 November 2017 15:00
End date and time
20 November 2017 18:00
Entrance fee