Lakatos Award 2020: Nicholas Shea

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) is pleased to announce the winner of the 2020 Lakatos Award, which goes to Nicholas Shea for his book Representation in Cognitive Science (Oxford University Press, 2018).

The Lakatos Award was made possible by a generous endowment from the Latsis Foundation, in memory of the former LSE professor Imre Lakatos. It is administered by an international Management Committee, which is organised from the LSE but entirely independent of LSE’s Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method. The Committee decides the outcome of the Award competition on the basis of advice from an anonymous panel of selectors who produce detailed reports on the shortlisted books.

The prize winner will receive their Award and deliver their prize lecture at the LSE at a time and location to be confirmed later. The lecture will be open to the public.

Representation in Cognitive Science is praised by selectors as “a blockbuster of a book” and “a landmark study”. Its argument is acclaimed to be “original in interesting ways, without losing touch with the existing literature” and the book is reported to be “well-written and convincingly argued”. This is all the more important given that “the problem is a really difficult one, that is arguably the key problem in the philosophy of psychology and cognitive science” and “making a novel contribution in this area, as Shea has done, is no small feat: it requires mastery of a massive and complex philosophical literature, and a deep familiarity with cognitive science, both of which Shea has”. The book is praised for how it “integrates the abstract philosophical arguments with examples and case studies from cognitive science”. For these reasons “the book certainly constitutes a major advance on the problem of naturalizing representational content and is a welcome contribution to the teleosemantic tradition”.

The book is open access and the PDF can be downloaded for free from Oxford University Press’s website here


Nominations are invited for the 2021 Lakatos Award, with a strict deadline of Tuesday 1 September 2020. The 2021 award will be for a monograph in the philosophy of science broadly construed, either single authored or co-authored, published in English with an imprint from 2015 to 2020, inclusive. Anthologies and edited collections are not eligible. Any person of recognised standing within the philosophy of science or an allied field may nominate a book. Nominations must include a statement explaining the nominator’s reasons for regarding the book prizeworthy. Self-nominations are not allowed.

Please address nominations, or any requests for further information, to the Award Administrator, Tom Hinrichsen, at

Imre Lakatos, who died in 1974 aged 51, had been Professor of Logic with special reference to the Philosophy of Mathematics at the LSE since 1969. He joined the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method in 1960. Born in Hungary in 1922, he graduated (in Physics, Mathematics and Philosophy) from Debrecen University in 1944. He then joined the underground resistance. (His mother and grandmother perished in Auschwitz.) After the War, he was active in the Communist Party and had an influential position in the Ministry of Education. In 1950 he was arrested and spent the next three years as a political prisoner. After his release, he was given refuge in the Hungarian Academy of Science where he translated western works in science and mathematics into Hungarian. After the suppression of the Hungarian uprising he escaped to Vienna and from there, with the aid of a Rockefeller Fellowship, on to Cambridge, England. He there wrote his (second) doctoral thesis out of which grew his famous Proofs and Refutations (CUP, 1976, edited by John Worrall and Elie Zahar). Two volumes of Philosophical Papers, edited by John Worrall and Gregory Currie, appeared in 1978, also from CUP.

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