Jeremy Butterfield: On Reductionism and Functionalism about Space and Time

Jeremy Butterfield (Cambridge)
4:30-6:30pm Monday Sept 9; CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave, NYC), room 5307.

Title: On Reductionism and Functionalism about Space and Time.

Abstract: Various programmes and results in the philosophy/foundations of spacetime theories illustrate themes from reductionism and functionalism in general philosophy of science. I will focus on some programmes and results about how the physics of matter contributes to determining, or even determines, or even explains, chrono-geometry. I hope to say something about most of the following examples: in the philosophical literature, Robb (1914), and Mundy (1983); and in the physics literature: Barbour and Bertotti (1982); Hojman, Kuchar and Teitelboim (1976); Dull, Schuller et al. (2012, 2018); and Gomes & Shyam (2016).

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Michela Massimi: Exploratory models, laws and modality

Michela Massimi (Edinburgh)
2:30-4:30pm Thursday April 18; CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave, NYC), room 5307.

Title: Exploratory models, laws and modality.

Abstract: I analyse the exploratory function of two main modelling practices: targetless fictional models and hypothetical perspectival models. In both cases, I argue, modelers invite us to imagine or conceive something about the target system, which is either known to be non-existent (fictional models) or just hypothetical (in perspectival models). I clarify the kind of imagining or conceiving involved in each modelling practice, and I show how each—in its own right—delivers important modal knowledge. I illustrate these two kinds of exploratory models with Maxwell’s ether model and SUSY models at the LHC.

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Nina Emery: The Governing Conception of Laws

Nina Emery (Holyoke)

4:30-6:30pm Monday April 8; NYU, 194 Mercer, room 203.

Title: The Governing Conception of Laws

Abstract: In her paper, “The Non-Governing Conception of Laws,” Helen Beebee argues that it is not a conceptual truth that laws of nature govern their instances, and that this fact insulates Humeans about laws of nature from some of the most pressing objections against their view. I agree with the first claim, but not the second. For although it is not a conceptual truth that laws govern, the view that laws govern follows straightforwardly from an important, though under-appreciated, principle that constrains scientific theory choice, and the principles that constrain scientific theory choice ought to constrain theory choice in metaphysics as well. I then show how the specific understanding of governance that plays a role in this argument raises serious concerns for Humeans about laws of nature.

There will be dinner after the talk. If you are interested, please send an email with `Dinner’ in the heading to nyphilsci@gmail.com (please note that all are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email isaac.wilhelm@rutgers.edu.

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Upcoming MAPS Talks

Here is a list of the dates and times for the final three MAPS talks of this semester.

Note that the first two talks had to be scheduled for days other than Tuesday. And note that the second talk had to be scheduled for a time which is earlier than usual.

  1. Nina Emery (Holyoke), 4:30-6:30pm Monday April 8; NYU, 194 Mercer, room 203.\
  2. Michela Massimi (Edinburgh), 2:30-4:30pm Thursday April 18; CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave, NYC), room 5307.
  3. Elizabeth Miller (Brown), 4:30-6:30pm Tuesday April 23; NYU, 60 Fifth Avenue, room 110.
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Dustin Lazarovici: Typicality of Worlds and the Metaphysics of Laws

Dustin Lazarovici (UNIL)
4:30-6:30pm Tuesday March 5, NYU 60 Fifth Avenue, room 110.

Title: Typicality of Worlds and the Metaphysics of Laws.

Abstract: What are laws of nature? The predominant view in contemporary philosophy of science is the Humean `best system account’ which holds that the laws of nature are merely descriptive, an efficient summary of contingent regularities that we find in the world. Using the concept of typicality, I will spell out a common anti-Humean intuition into a precise argument: A typical Humean world wouldn’t have any law-like regularities to begin with. Thus (I will argue), Humean metaphysics do not fit the objective order that we find in our universe.

There will be dinner after the talk. If you are interested, please send an email with “Dinner” in the heading to nyphilsci@gmail.com (please note that all are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email isaac.wilhelm@rutgers.edu.

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Massimo Pigliucci: The variety of scientism and the limits of science

Massimo Pigliucci (CUNY)
4:30-6:30pm Tuesday February 26, NYU 60 Fifth Avenue, room 110.

Title: The variety of scientism and the limits of science

Abstract: Science is by far the most powerful approach to the investigation of the natural world ever devised. Still, it has limits, and there are many areas and questions where the scientific approach is ill suited, or at best provides only pertinent information rather than full answers. The denial of this modest attitude about science is called scientism, which declares science to be the only form of human knowledge and understanding, attempting to subsume everything else, including all the humanistic disciplines, into “science” very broadly (mis-)construed. In this talk, I argue that this is a mistake, and that it moreover has the potential to undermine public trust in science itself.

There will be dinner after the talk. If you are interested, please send an email with “Dinner” in the heading to nyphilsci@gmail.com (please note that all are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email isaac.wilhelm@rutgers.edu.

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Mario Hubert: When Fields Are Not Degrees of Freedom

Mario Hubert.
4:30-6:30pm Wednesday Nov 28; CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave, NYC), room 5307.

Title: When Fields Are Not Degrees of Freedom (joint work with Vera Hartenstein).

Abstract: We show that in the Maxwell–Lorentz theory of classical electrodynamics most initial values for fields and particles lead to an ill-defined dynamics, as they exhibit singularities or discontinuities along light-cones. This phenomenon suggests that the Maxwell equations and the Lorentz force law ought rather to be read as a system of delay differential equations, that is, differential equations that relate a function and its derivatives at different times. This mathematical reformulation, however, leads to physical and philosophical consequences for the ontological status of the electromagnetic field. In particular, fields cannot be taken as independent degrees of freedom, which suggests that one should not add them to the ontology.

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