SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

A Case Study: Backward Causation in the Middle Ages
(Metaphysics and Ontology, English)

Backward causation is the particular case in which the causal succession of cause and effect does not coincide with their temporal succession, in other words, it is the particular case in which the effect precedes temporally the cause. We usually read that the philosophical debate about backward causation begins with M. Dummet and A. Flew only in the mid 1950's, in virtue of some studies of particular phenomena in the field of Physics, producing some paradoxes, i.e. the bootstrap paradoxes, the consistency paradoxes, the Newcomb paradox.

This paper tries, firstly, to show as the notion of backward causation is already present in the medieval debate about some metaphysical questions. Moreover, we will try, secondly, to support the thesis that the broader conception of backward causation used by medieval thinkers could be useful to solve the contemporary paradoxes.

For this reason, it will be necessary to analyse the medieval theory of the four causes (material, formal, efficient and final cause), the grounding relations of the causes with regard to different perspectives considered (ontological, chronological, intentional, causal), the various possibilities of temporal location of a generic cause in relation to its effect, finally, the temporal location of the different four causes in relation to their effect, in other words, the relation between causal succession and temporal succession of every cause in relation to the single effect.

In conclusion, it will be possible to demonstrate that a broader conception of causality can be useful to the contemporary debate to solve the backward causation paradoxes. Indeed, if we admit not only one kind of cause (the medieval efficient cause), it will be possible to assert that backward causation does not include only the extraordinary cases of subjects moving towards the past, but also the ordinary cases of effects which, in virtue of their nature, always imply a final cause located in a successive temporal moment.

Chair: Alexander Michael Witkamp
Time: 18:20-18:50, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.003

Giuseppe Colonna 
(University of Italian Switzerland, Switzerland)

I am a graduate student in Philosophy (Metaphysics and Philosophy of Mind) at the University of Italian Switzerland and musician.

After my previous studies of BA in History and History of Philosophy and my MFA in Piano in Italy, I came in Switzerland to deepen my analytical background with professors like Varzi, Fine, Mulligan, Simons, Smith, Marmodoro. I have focused my work on the medieval theories of time: in particular, the different conceptions of aevum and eternity; the question about the spatio-temporal location of the separate substances (angels and souls). At the moment, I am working on my master thesis about the medieval tradition of the Aristotelian category of "When" in its relation with time.

My greatest aspiration concerns the attempt to enrich the actual debate of contempory Logic and Metaphysics with some original perspectives taken from the Medieval Philosophy.

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