Dr Milena Ivanova

Photo of Dr Milena Ivanova

Ext. Director of Studies; Director of Studies in Philosophy


I am a philosopher working on topics in the metaphysics and epistemology of science. I received my doctoral degree in 2013 from the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bristol. My thesis, Realism, Conventionalism and Theory Choice, was supervised by James Ladyman and examined by Michael Friedman and Samir Okasha. My doctoral research was funded by the British Society for the Philosophy of Science (2009-2011) and the Royal Institute of Philosophy (2011-2012). Between 2013-2014, I was a lecturer in the Unit for History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney. Between 2015-2017 I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy and a visiting research fellow at the University of Queensland. Currently, I am an affiliated scholar at the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.

Teaching Interests

At the University of Cambridge, I coordinate the Writing Support Seminars, and supervise 2nd and 3rd year students in Philosophy of Science (including topics from general philosophy of science, philosophy of social sciences, philosophy of physics, philosophy of biology and cognitive science). I am Director of Studies in Philosophy at Emmanuel College and Hughes Hall and in History and Philosophy of Science at Wolfson College and Hughes Hall.

At the MCMP I coordinated the following courses:

  • Aesthetics of Science
    Scientists often praise theories for their aesthetic value; they endorse and pursue scientific theories they find beautiful and elegant. Scientific practise reveals that scientists use aesthetic values in theory choice, and often aesthetic values are not simply taken as methodological tools but as indicators of the theory’s truth. But what makes a theory beautiful; are our aesthetic appreciations fixed or do they change with scientific revolutions; and is beauty indicative of the truth of a theory? In this course we will investigate central theses in the aesthetics of science. We will establish what properties a theory needs to possess in order to be considered beautiful. We will discuss at length how we come to regard certain properties as aesthetically significant and will evaluate a model, named ‘the aesthetic induction’, that purports to address this question. We will critically discuss the aesthetic induction and alternative models. A central problem to be discussed concerns whether scientific revolutions affect aesthetic evaluations. Finally, we will address the link between beauty and scientific understanding, the concepts of truth and representation in science, and whether aesthetic evaluations can be seen as indicators of empirical success or truth.
  • The A Priori in Science
    Does all scientific knowledge originate from experience or are there elements in scientific theories justified a priori? Are scientific principles a priori in any sense? This course will concentrate on the origin, evolution and current understanding of the constitutive a priori in science. The aim will be to analyse different conceptions of the a priori in science and examine their tenability. The first part of the course will examine the origin and development of the relativized a priori, parallel to the development of the special and general theory of relativity. The second part of the course will concentrate on current debates in epistemology on a priori justification and naturalism; the issue of theory change; the problem of realism about scientific theories; and draw their connection to the defense of the constitutive a priori.

At the University of Sydney, I coordinated the following course:

  • What Is This Thing Called Science?
    This course provides an introduction to central topics in the philosophy and sociology of science. In particular, we will examine attempts to answer the following sorts of question: What are the distinctive characteristics of the quest for knowledge that we call 'science'? Is there some set of methods that are characteristic of science, perhaps even unique to it? Is there some set of goals that are characteristic of science? What distinguishes science from other intellectual endeavours? Does science really describe the reality behind the phenomena, or is it just an efficient scheme for making predictions about the behaviour of the observable world? Does science advance in an orderly fashion, or does it undergo dynamic upheavals? What kinds of factors influence the development of science? Is it really just the product of objective evidence, interpreted by rational individuals or is the progress of science driven by political processes or distorted by forms of irrational bias?


My work falls within the scope of philosophy of science, epistemology and metaphysics. Particularly, I am interested in the scientific realism debate, the development of conventionalism and pragmatism and the role of non-empirical factors in scientific reasoning. My current research addresses two epistemological issues in philosophy of science: (1) the nature of scientific principles; and (2) the role of non-empirical values in science. My work is informed by the history of philosophy of science, especially the relationship between science and philosophy in the early twentieth century.