Welcome to our grad student profile! We are excited to highlight the research of grad students working in science and technology studies, history of science, and philosophy of science. Know someone whose work you’d like to support? Email us!
Varun Bhatta is currently undertaking graduate research in philosophy of science at National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS) in Bengaluru, India. The focus of his thesis, he states, is “to show that physics has largely neglected the ‘physicality’ of objects like electron, photons, etc., and it cannot afford to do so”. He notes that “these unobservable objects have been largely caricatured only through theoretical/dispositional properties (like charge, mass and spin) and thus are bereft of any physical characterizations.” As part of this project, Varun is looking at the “phenomenon of wave-particle duality.”
Varun describes Mysore, where he grew up, as “a beautiful princely city located in South India.” He finished a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering before working as a software developer for a few years in Bengaluru. However, he remarks that “throughout this time, the intention of doing philosophy was slowly brewing.”
While the appeal of philosophy grew in the background, “new experiments in humanities education were mushrooming in India and luckily, one of the finest attempts of that was situated close to Bengaluru – in Manipal, a small coastal town in South India.” Varun comments that “this centre – the Manipal Centre for Philosophy and Humanities – had a strong department in philosophy”, which was his major motivation in moving to Manipal and completing a master’s degree there. Though he began his doctorate there as well, he “reallocated to NIAS due to several twists in the story.”
Varun says that his “interest in history and philosophy of science is largely due to the overlap and strong resonance of science with metaphysics. More specifically, I realized (even though I became aware and more clear about them much later) that only by juxtaposing philosophy and science, I can meaningfully answer for myself what is to do philosophy and practice it in the contemporary times.” Another catalyst was his mentor’s own background in the field of the history and philosophy of science.
Part of Varun’s enjoyment of doing research in the philosophy of science comes from the importance of understanding science’s role in contemporary epistemologies as well as the opportunity to do interdisciplinary work. He remarks, “Given that science, being the paradigmatic knowledge system of the present, has influenced so many diverse fields, I think doing HPS places one at a nodal position from which engaging with numerous interdisciplinary topics is possible.” He is deeply interested in how “many of the fundamental questions that HPS (like the link between theory and observation) and philosophy in general deal with are crucial not only for the natural sciences but are equally important for other disciplines of humanities and social sciences. These points of entry are a huge advantage and an essential requirement, I think, of modern academics.”
Though Varun doesn’t explicitly work on the relationship between cosmopolitanism and the local, he says that it nonetheless informs threads running through his research: “Even though I might not directly deal with the questions of cosmopolitanism and the local in my graduate thesis, I have realized that I cannot escape these questions while practising philosophy and HPS in the present times.” He notes that “these questions become equally pressing in places like India, which is going through its own transition. Living in a scientific paradigm does not necessarily imply that all communities throughout the world, in this contemporary time, have a shared common knowledge base and world view. Therefore, doing HPS in India demands recognizing the local configurations that play as important factors in this cosmopolitan and cosmolocal setup.”
Thank you for sharing with us, Varun! We wish you all the best as you complete your doctorate.