The Meaning of It All (with Anna Alexandrova)

Scientists often turn to philosophers for answers to the big questions about science: what is the meaning of what we do, what makes it valid, why does it even matter? In this episode we put all our thorniest questions to our guest, Anna Alexandrova. Anna is a philosopher of science at Cambridge University and author of the new book A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being. We talk about replicability and reform in science, what scientists can learn from philosophy beyond the Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos canon, the important role of norms in scientific discourse, and how you do science on values-laden concepts like well-being. Plus: Simine’s dad Hamid drops by, and Alexa and Sanjay try to pry out some embarrassing childhood stories about their cohost. And we respond to listener feedback about our discussion of the two-body problem in our job market episode.

Discussed in this episode:

The Black Goat is hosted by Sanjay Srivastava, Alexa Tullett, and Simine Vazire. Find us on the web at, on Twitter at @blackgoatpod, or on Facebook at You can email us at You can subscribe to us on iTunes.

Our theme music is Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle, available on under a Creative Commons noncommercial attribution license.

This is episode 18. It was recorded September 26 and 28, 2017.