Exploring various aspects of modern and ancient metaphysics as they relate to the hypothesis that powers (or dispositions) are the sole elementary building block in ontology.
Two Concepts of Emergence
Timothy O'Connor (Indiana) gives a talk for the Power Structuralism in Ancient Ontologies podcast series. Abstract: The correlated terms "emergence" and "reduction" are used in several ways in contemporary discussions ranging from complex systems theory to philosophy of mind, a fact that engenders confusion or talking at cross purposes. I try to bring greater clarity to this discussion by reflecting on John Conway's cellular automaton The Game of Life and simple variations on it. We may think of such variants as toy models of our own world that, owing to their simplicity, enable us to see quite clearly, in general terms, two importantly distinct ways (“weak” and “strong”) in which organized macroscopic phenomena might emerge from underlying microphysical processes. Strong emergence is of greater significance to metaphysics and philosophy of mind; it is also commonly deemed implausible. I close by suggesting that typical reasons for this evidential judgement are unconvincing.
Processes and Powers
John Dupré (Exeter) gives a talk for the Power Structuralism in Ancient Ontologies podcast series Abstract: This talk will explore the implications for a metaphysics of powers of the replacement of a substance ontology with a process ontology. I take a process to be an entity that must be active in some way to exist and I argue that processes are more fundamental than things: things are temporary and partial stabilisations in a flux of process. Can the activities that sustain processes be understood as the exercise of powers? Can the interactions between processes be treated similarly as the exercises of powers by processes? Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Powers: Necessity and Neighbourhoods
Neil Williams (Buffalo University) gives a talk for the Power Structuralism in Ancient Ontologies podcast series Abstract; The typical understanding of powers—according to which they have their effects necessarily—has recently come under attack. The threat of imagined counterfactual scenarios (wherein the power is exercised but the characteristic manifestation does not ensue) has led some to question the traditional picture, and prompted others to give it up entirely. But this defection has been too hasty: that exercising powers produce their manifestations necessarily ranks highly among the most attractive features of the powers metaphysic, and should not be discarded lightly. Moreover, the arguments against necessity are founded upon assumptions that the friend of powers is at liberty to reject. I show how the anti-necessitarian arguments can be avoided, and thus how necessity can be restored.
Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Causal Production as Interaction: a Causal Account of Persistence and Grounding
Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (Lund University) gives a talk for the Power Structuralism in Ancient Ontologies podcast series Abstract: In this talk I will elaborate on the naturalist theory of causation that I first presented in ‘Causal Production as Interaction’ (2002). In the course of presenting the view I will elucidate in what sense the account (i) presents causation as a necessary process of production without appeal to ceteris paribus clauses, (ii) explains the connection between causation and counterfactuals without appeal to a possible worlds ontology, (iii) does not suffer from the problem of action at a temporal distance, (iv) can exclude the possibility of interference and prevention, (v) is compatible with the way the natural sciences describe material reality (within the framework of classical science), and indeed explains why material reality—as described by science—is a causal reality. I will also indicate, more sketchily, how this causal account allows us to think of the persistence of compound entities as being a thoroughly causal affair, and thus provide a causal account of composition and grounding. Finally, I will discuss whether account depicts persistent compounds as both substances and processes. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Doing Away With Dispositions: Towards a Law-Based Account of Modality in Science
Stephen French (Leeds) gives a talk for the Power Structuralism in Ancient Ontologies series. Abstract: 'Recent defences of dispositionalism and powers based accounts have appealed to the way properties such as charge and spin are treated in physics. However, I shall argue that on closer analysis, modern physics does not supply the level of support that is typically adduced. Adjusting these accounts to bring them more into line with the way physics treats such properties takes them closer to certain structuralist views and I shall explore the - sometimes wafer thin - differences between these alternative approaches to properties. In conclusion I shall suggest that adopting an appropriate stance towards 'reading' theories in physics does away with dispositions and powers as seated in fundamental objects in favour of modally informed structure.' Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Quidditism and Modal Methodology
Alastair Wilson, Birmingham, gives a talk for the Power Structuralism in Ancient Ontologies series Abstract: Jonathan Schaffer has recently defended the doctrine of quidditism against an epistemological challenge, claiming that the challenge amounts to nothing more than ‘external-world scepticism writ small’. I disagree with this assessment. The cases are significantly disanalogous, and quiddistic scepticism is much harder to avoid than external-world scepticism. Ultimately, the epistemological challenge is indecisive: quidditists can live with the sceptical conclusion. But there is a stronger anti-quidditist argument in the vicinity. Following John Hawthorne, I show how the epistemological challenge can be reformulated as an argument from theoretical parsimony. I argue that whether the parsimony argument is decisive depends on wider issues in the metaphysics of modality: different accounts of modality yield different verdicts about parsimony. The upshot is that we cannot expect to make progress in the quidditism debate while remaining neutral on the nature of modality. Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales; http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/
Why no introduction or program notes to explain who is lecturing ?
An ontology of the universe.
Nothing else to say.