Monday 29th October – 1-2pm – Seminar Room, Byrne House

Ann-Sophie Barwich will be leading the session, which will be based on a draft chapter from her thesis.

As part of the thesis, the chapter has two aims: it first concerns the role of scientific representations (here: classifications) in research practice and. second, provides a case study in support of John Dupré’s pluralistic ontology of ‘promiscuous realism’. She therefore hopes to benefit from critical comments and suggestions for improvement from the group.

The chapter presents an epistemic history of odour materials and an analysis of their classification in the 19th and 20th century. The focus lies on the different definitions of ‘materiality’ in the conceptualisation of odours as scientifically relevant objects, presenting an image of vast taxonomic diversity. This diversity is not necessarily a result of the partially subjective nature of smell perception but, rather, is grounded in the plurality of materials classified as well as in the varying interests involved in working with these materials. It will appear that the different ontologies of odour materials diverge to an extend which makes a uniquely comprehensive classification of odours not only impossible but with respect to the variety of materials, practices and the various scientific interests involved in their investigation in fact undesirable.

The chapter can be obtained by emailing Jim Lowe at jwel201 [at] – as it is a work in progress please do not disseminate further without Ann’s express permission.

For further information about this session or BIG in general, please contact Sabina Leonelli at  S.Leonelli [at]


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