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


09:00--09:40 Talk 1
Short break
09:45--10:25 Talk 2
Short break
10:30--11:10 Talk 3
Coffee break
11:25--12:15 Talk 4
Short break
12:20--13:00 Talk 5
Lunch Break, Conference Opening, Plenary Talk
16:15--16:55 Talk 6
16:55--17:35 Talk 7


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.

John Pemberton (London/Oxford): 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.

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.

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.

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)

Florian Fischer 
(University of Bonn, Germany)

Beate Krickel 
(Ruhr-University Bochum, Germany)

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

Thorben Petersen 
(University of Bremen, Germany)

Peter Simons 
(Trinity College Dublin, Ireland)

Manfred Stöckler 
(University of Bremen, Germany)

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