SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Power to Change
(Affiliated Workshop, English)

This workshop relates the metaphysics of change and persistence with the metaphysics of powers.
Research on persistence has developed dramatically in the past 30 years or so. Moving way beyond the ''classical'' endurance/perdurance-distinction of Lewis 1986, philosophers offer ever more sophisticated explications of the classical conceptions, develop alternative theories, and analyze how they fit with Relativity and Quantum Theory. Still, philosophers working in the wake of Lewis place far too much emphasis on the (alleged) conflict with Leibniz' law, but almost ignore the crucial question how things persist. How do entities, whether occurents or continuants, keep going into ever new times?
Are the simply carried along by a general flow, as Newton proposed, or continually recreated, as Descartes thought, or is there a continual creation of brief new entities, as Whitehead said? Theories of powers, or dispositions might contain a clue to the answer. Interestingly, moreover, the connection can be prepared in various ways. One way is that manifestation processes persist through time. Alternatively, one could argue that the passage of time is manifested in the development of continuants.
The participants of this workshop will present and compare cutting edge research on this newly established field.

Lewis, David (1986), On The Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing

Visit the workshop website!


09:00--09:40 Manfred Stöckler: Description of Change in a Quantum Theory
Short break
09:45--10:25 Thorben Petersen: What is a Theory of Persistence
Short break
10:30--11:10 Kristina Engelhard: [TBA]
Coffee break
11:35--12:15 Beate Krickel: Activity Causation in Mechanisms
Short break
12:20--13:00 Florian Fischer: What's this Hip New Thing Called Produrance
13:00--16:15 Break: Lunch Break, SOPhiA Opening, Plenary Lecture
16:15--16:55 John Pemberton: 3 Paradigms of Change
16:55--17:35 Peter Simons: Keep Going: The Motor of Persistence


Manfred Stöckler (Bremen): Description of Change in Quantum Theory
Fundamental physics used to be an important source of metaphysics for centuries. At present the communities of the philosophers of science and the metaphysicians tend to separate. For this reason, I analyse how contemporary quantum theory describes change in the microworld. What are the mathematical counterparts of concepts like property, continuant object or force in quantum theory? The concept state of a system plays a central part in the dynamical description. The relation of state and properties is much more complicated in quantum theory than in every day life or in classical physics. Quantum theory seems to contain two different ways of change (at least in a common interpretation): i. the 'normal' change of the state function due to a differential equation (Schrödinger equation) that can be derived from a very general dynamical law and a special description of the system, and ii. the change of the state occurring during a measurement. There are good reasons that this second kind of change is not deterministic. So many philosophers of quantum mechanics assert that the state function does only describe dispositions, not real states. While the dynamical law is deeply connected to the core of the theory, the description of interactions (forces) and concrete systems must be added ''by hand'' in special applications. Causal concepts do not occur at the fundamental level. Newton's theory of gravitation could suggest that the gravitational force locally changes the momentum of a planet. Such a description seems not to be an adequate picture in quantum theory.
We must be cautious when we derive ontological consequences from physical theories: What is suggested by the mathematical formalism? Which ontological implications depend on additional philosophical assumptions, varying with the plurality of interpretations of the theory? The modest aim of my paper is to show how an important part of contemporary physics conceptualizes change in the microworld. I do not contend that the ontology of our world could be read off from fundamental physics, but I think that metaphysicians should learn more about physics than they normally do before they start to build general theories.

Thorben Petersen (Bremen): What is a Theory of Persistence?
Research on persistence has developed dramatically in the past 30 years or so. Moving beyond the ''classical'' endurance/perdurance-distinction of Lewis 1986, philosophers offer more sophisticated explications of the classical conceptions, develop alternative theories, and analyze how theories of persistence fit with Relativity and Quantum Theory (Hawley 2001, Sider 2001, Balashov 2010, Pashby 2016). Still, philosophers working in the wake of Lewis place far too much emphasis on the (alleged) conflict with Leibniz' law, and (so) almost ignore the crucial question how things persist. It would seem, though, that a theory of persistence basically should reveal how things ''keep going into ever new times'' (as Peter Simons puts it). However, even though research on persistence has become way more specialized, it would seem that we are just at the beginning.
Actually, it is not easy to even say what a theory of persistence is supposed to achieve. Wasserman 2016, for instance, observes that theories like endurantism and perdurantism attempt to explain how things persist, and are not just ontological claims about temporal parts, or stages, or substances etc. (as they are often taken to be). Unfortunately, he does not say what to expect from a theory of persistence, or even what makes for a good theory, nor what exactly is meant by 'persistence', and so on. In this talk, I will motivate the idea of an explication.
Since it is hard to analyze the concept of persistence, it makes sense to start by distinguishing this concept from related concepts (including the concepts of change, identity and time) and compare different theories of persistence in various contexts. As far as powers are concerned, it seems reasonable to adopt a powers-based theory of the persistence of higher-order social phenomena (like bands and teams and organizations), but not in relation with particles, say (which in turn suggests that we should be pluralistic about persistence).

-- Balashov, Yuri (2010). Persistence and Space-time. Oxford University Press.
-- Hawley, Katherine (2001). How Things Persist. Oxford University Press.
-- Lewis, David (1986). On The Plurality of Worlds. Blackwell Publishing.
-- Pashby, Thomas (2016). Location Relations in Physics and The Metaphysics of Persistence. Dialectica 70 (3), 269-309.
-- Sider, Theodore (2001). Four-Dimensionalism. Oxford University Press.
-- Wasserman, Ryan (2016). Theories of Persistence. Philosophical Studies 173, 243-250.

Kristina Engelhard (Cologne): Time and potentials as iterated dispositions
In my talk I am concerned with the issue whether there are distinguishing features of potentials understood as a certain kind of property such as the potential of an acorn to turn into an oak tree or the potential of a girl to become a professional chess player. Many philosophers equate potentials with common dispositions, sometimes they are determined as higher order dispositions. My thesis however is that they are iterated dispositions, i.e. first order dispositions to acquire yet further dispositions and that there are distinguishing features of potentials concerning their manifestation. The differences concern first the moment in time of these properties? manifestability, second the process of manifestation and third change of the object instantiating those properties. All these distinguishing features are related with temporal features of the manifestation process of potentials on the one hand and of common dispositions on the other hand.

Beate Krickel (Bochum): Activity Causation in Mechanisms
Many defenders of the new mechanistic account base their views on an ontology consisting of entities (objects) and activities. Thereby, the notion of an activity is supposed to capture the dynamic, active, causal, and temporally extended nature of mechanisms. So far, no satisfying account of activities has been provided. Especially, it remains unclear how the notion of an activity is related to the notion of causation, and whether we can use the former in order to make sense of the latter. In this paper, I will provide an account of causation in terms of activities that fills this gap. I will argue that activity causation diverges from common attempts to define causation in terms of a relation between distinct relata. I will show how we can determine the truth value of causal statements based on activity causation and how we can solve several problems typically afflicting process-based accounts of causation.

Florian Fischer (Bonn): What's this Hip New Thing Called Produrance
In his On the Plurality of Worlds, David Lewis formulates the problem of temporary intrinsics in the following way: `Persisting things change their intrinsic properties. For instance shape: when I sit, I have a bent shape; when I stand, I have a straightened shape. Both shapes are temporary intrinsic properties; I have them only some of the time. How is such change possible?' [Lewis, 1986, p. 202]. One and the same object (e.g. David Lewis) can have different incompatible properties (bent shape, straightened shape) at different times. In contrast to this a plausible principle, called Leibniz? Law of the indiscernibilty of identicals, states that if two things are identical then they share all their properties.
The contemporary accounts of persistence (perdurantism, adverbialism, indexicalism, etc.) focus on avoiding the threatening contradiction with Lebniz' Law. The question how change comes about is not covered at all. In this talk, I present a theory of dispositions as change-makers. I understand the manifestations of dispositions as processes and accordingly I will call the resulting account of persistence `produrance'. I will introduce produrantism and sketch how it solves the problem of temporary intrinsics.

John Pemberton (London): 3 Paradigms of Change
According to a popular account (Paradigm 1), change involves one state being followed by (perhaps giving rise to) another. Perhaps powers obtaining in some state give rise to a manifestation, which is a new state (e.g. the instantiation of a new set of properties or powers), or perhaps a transition to a new state; or perhaps a causal relation licenses a cause being followed by an effect. Russell rejects such state-state change: the lack of successors in continuous time implies a temporal gap between the 2 states, and hence an implausible jump of causation across time. Russell proposes instead (Paradigm 2) that causal lines, i.e. the obtaining of similar events at a (perhaps densely infinite) series of 'neighbouring' places which exhibit 'quasi-permanence', are the ground for change. This avoids pairwise connections between states, whilst rendering such states as brute and unexplained. Under both paradigms 1 & 2, change is the obtaining of one state and then the obtaining of another (related or similar) state nearby shortly afterwards.
Aristotle (Paradigm 3) supposes that many powers attach to time-extended bearers (e.g. things such as knives or hot coals) and manifest through time: the power and its bearer obtain through the period of manifesting. The manifesting of powers together through time give rise to changing (of the configuration of power-bearers) through time. Many of the powers in contemporary focus have such Aristotelian-timing, e.g. the powers which give rise to the basic forces of physics (e.g. gravitational attraction), cutting, pushing, heating, dissolving, pumping, etc. I suggest that changing in this world accords with paradigm 3, and that this has important implications for ontology, and perhaps for time itself.

Peter Simons (Dublin): Keep Going: The Motor of Persistence
We are familiar with two ways in which things keep going. Processes and events (occurrents) keep going by lasting longer, growing or extending in time. Things or objects (continuants) keep going by not ceasing to exist, in whatever manner of continued existence is suited to their kind. Of these two modes of being in time, I hold the former to be prior to the latter. But both beg another question: how do the entities, whether occurrents or continuants, keep going, into ever new times? Are they simply carried along by a general flow, as Newton thought; are they somehow continually recreated, as Descartes thought; or is there a continual creation of brief new entities, a ``creative advance'', as Whitehead thought? Our answer is: None of the above. As for what that answer is: Let's wait.

Organisation: Florian Fischer (Bonn) & Thorben Petersen (Bremen).

Chair: Florian Fischer & Thorben Petersen
Time: 09:00-13:00, 13 September 2017 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Kristina Engelhard 
(University of Cologne, Germany)

Kristina Engelhard is a post-doc researcher in the DFG-funded research group ``Inductive Metaphysics''; her project on inductive metaphysics in 18th century metaphysics is hosted at the TU Dortmund. Her areas of specialisation are metaphysics and metaphysics of science, rationalism and classical german philosophy. She is just finishing a book on dispositions. Her main interest is explaining the modal force of dispositions.

Florian Fischer 
(University of Bonn, Germany)

Florian Fischer is postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bonn. He obtained his PhD from the University of Bonn in 2017 with a thesis on ``Natural Laws as Dispositions''. He holds a master degree in philosophy (minors in German literature and Astronomy) and completed the logic year at University of Amsterdam in 2008. During his PhD he went for research visits to the Universities of Bielefeld (6 month), Utrecht (1 month) and Oxford (3 month). Together with some friends he founded the SPoT ( in 2014. Since then the SPoT has organized a couple of conference on the philosophy of time. His current research project focuses on ``The Power to Change'' at the intersection of persistence and dispositions.

Beate Krickel 
(Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany)

Beate Krickel is a postdoctoral researcher in the DFG-funded research training group ``Situated Cognition'' at Ruhr-University Bochum working on topics regarding causation and constitution. She finished her PhD at Humboldt-Universität Berlin with a thesis on the metaphysics of the new mechanistic debate in the philosophy of the life sciences. She published articles on the metaphysics of mechanistic explanation and interlevel causation. Her research interests are in metaphysics of science and mind, and in philosophy of psychology. For more info see

John Pemberton 
(London School of Economics & University of Oxford, UK)

John Pemberton is an Associate at the Centre for the Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences at the LSE and an Associate at the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society at Durham University. The central focus of his research is processes, powers, change, causation, mechanisms (nomological machines) and laws---this work straddles the boundary between philosophy of science and metaphysics. A further strand of John's work is focused on the foundations of finance and economics, making use of his extensive experience in these practice areas.

Thorben Petersen 
(University of Bremen, Germany)

Thorben Petersen is a phd student at the University of Bremen. His thesis is on the nature of time and is supervised by Prof. Dr. Manfred Stöckler. He is the co-founder of SPoT---Society for Philosophy of Time and has been to research visits at the Universities of Oxford and Rutgers.

Peter Simons 
(Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)

Manfred Stöckler 
(University of Bremen, Germany)

Manfred Stöckler is emeritus professor of philosophy (University of Bremen, Institute of Philosophy). He studied physics and philosophy at the universities of Gießen and Heidelberg (Diploma in theoretical physics 1976, PhD in philosophy 1981, Habilitation at the Department of Physics of the University of Gießen 1988). He hold positions as research assistant at the Center for Philosophy of Science in Gießen and at the Institute for Philosophy of the university of Heidelberg. 1991 he was appointed to the professorship for theoretical philosophy at the University of Bremen. His research focuses on philosophical problems of physics, especially quantum mechanics and cosmology, concepts of reduction and emergence, and philosophy of time. Manfred Stöckler is member of the Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Hamburg.

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