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Nora BerenstainNora Berenstain

Department of Philosophy
801 McClung Tower
Knoxville, Tennessee 37996-0480

Phone: 865-974-3255

My Ph.D. is from the University of Texas. I joined the Department as Assistant Professor in 2012.

My research in the metaphysics of science focuses on the role of mathematics in the empirical sciences, the relationship of math to modality, and the question of whether laws of nature have natural necessity. I work on structuralism in math and science, and I am particularly interested in the relationship between structuralism in mathematics and ontic structural realism in the philosophy of physics.

My work in feminist epistemology focuses on epistemic oppression and the social dimensions of knowledge within a background of intersecting structural oppressions. I investigate the inner workings of structural epistemic phenomena such as epistemic exploitation, structural gaslighting, and settler colonial administrative violence, and I explore the everyday material effects of epistemic oppression.

Structural oppression and science have many intertwining and intimate relationships. Most of these relationships have been mutually supportive and reinforcing. Scientific disciplines and theories have offered explanatory stories and foundational arguments for the ‘naturalness’ of the presumed inferiorities of populations on which many structural oppressions have been built. Structural oppressions, in turn, provide background interpretive contexts in which scientific hypotheses and theories are evaluated, making purported scientific confirmations of, for instance, biological explanation of gendered differences in sexual behavior and racial health disparities, appear to be empirically well-established. Less frequently have science and scientifically developed concepts been used to interrogate and intervene in the existence of the structural oppressions they have long supported and reinforced. My current work explores the possibility of levying key scientific notions against structural oppressions by theorizing and characterizing them in all their robustness and asking what might be needed for their genuine disruption.


  • “Epistemic Exploitation.” (2016) Ergo 3.22.
  • “The Applicability of Mathematics to Physical Modality.” (2016) Synthese, 1-17.
  • “What A Structuralist Theory of Properties Could Not Be, (2016) in A. Marmodoro, and
    D. Yates (eds.) The Metaphysics of Relations. Oxford University Press.
  • “Necessary Laws and Chemical Kinds.” (2014) Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92.4:
  • “Ontic Structural Realism and Modality.” (2012) with James Ladyman, in E. Landry and
  • D. Rickles (eds.) Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. University of Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science. Springer.


"White Ignorance and Epistemic Violence in Philosophy"

  • New Directions in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies, University of Tennessee 4/2017

"Whitewashing Hermeneutical Injustice"

  • Society for Analytical Feminism, Pacific APA, Seattle 4/2017

"Active Ignorance and the Rhetoric of Biological Race Realism"

  • FEMMSS: Gender, Race, and Concepts of Difference, University of Notre Dame 10/2016

“Epistemic Exploitation”

  • Society for Analytical Feminism, Central APA, Chicago 3/2016
  • Analyzing Social Wrongs, Institut fur Wissenschaft und Kunst, Vienna, Austria 5/2015
  • Understanding Epistemic Injustice, University of Bristol 6/2014

“Scientific Realism and the Applicability of Mathematics to Physical Modality”

  • Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University 1/2016

“Strengthening Weak Emergence”

  • History and Philosophy of Science: Emergence, University of Colorado at Boulder 10/2015

“Introspection, Rationality, and Resistance to Implicit Bias”

  • Hypatia Conference: Diversifying Philosophy, Villanova University 5/2015
  • Science, Technology, and Gender: Challenges and Opportunities, Waterloo, Canada 8/2014

“Mathematical Structure, Physical Modality, and Non-causal Explanation”

  • Explanation Beyond Causation, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich 10/2014

“Scientific Realism and the Commitment to Mathematics, Modality, and Metaphysical Dependence”

  • New Thinking about Scientific Realism, Cape Town, South Africa 6/2014

“Against Sophisticated Humeanism”

  • Northwest Philosophy Conference, Lewis & Clark College 11/2011

“What A Structuralist View of Properties Could Not Be”

  • Metaphysics Conference, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico 10/2011

“Metaphysical Dependence: The Role of Mathematical Structure in Physical Modality”

  • Structure and Identity Conference, University of Bristol, UK 07/2010

“Necessary Laws and Chemical Kinds: A Case Study in A Posteriori Necessity”

  • Philosophy of Science Association, Montreal, Canada 11/2010
  • Intersections with Philosophy of Language, Brandeis University 02/2010
  • USC/UCLA Philosophy Graduate Conference 02/2010
  •  University of Iowa Philosophy Graduate Conference 04/2009


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