Shamik Dasgupta: “How to be a Relationalist”

Hi Everyone,
Shamik Dasgupta (Princeton University) will be giving the first talk of the semester on Tuesday November 3. More info below:
Speaker: Shamik Dasgupta (Princeton University).
Time: Tuesday, November 3, 5pm-7pm. [*note time change]
Location: NYU Silver Center for Arts and Science (SILVR) Room 520
100 Washington Square E, New York, NY 10003, USA
Title: How to be a Relationalist
Philosophers and physicists have entertained “relationalist” views about a number of domains. Examples include the view that motion is fundamentally relative (not absolute), that quantities like mass are fundamentally relational (not intrinsic), and others besides. These relationalist views all entail a restricted possibility space: that there is no distinction between worlds agreeing on relative motions, that there is no distinction between worlds agreeing on all mass relations, and so on. This restricted possibility space is often considered a virtue, but some have argued that it is a vice. In particular, it has been argued that an adequate physical theory of observed phenomena requires drawing distinctions between possibilities that the relationalist cannot recognize (Newtons bucket argument is just one example of this kind of argument). In response, I suggest that the relationalist distinguish between different senses of possibility. Relationalist views do indeed imply a restricted possibility space, but not in the same sense of “possibility” in which the relationalist should couch her physical theorizing. If that is right, then relationalist views can offer adequate physical theories after all. The challenge is to clearly articulate these different senses of “possibility”, and I will make a start at doing so.
There will be a dinner after the talk. If you are interested, please send an email with “Dinner” in the heading to as soon as possible so that I can make the reservation for the appropriate number of people (please note that all faculty and grad students are welcome, but only the speaker’s dinner will be covered). If you have any other questions, please email
More Talks from Metro Area Philosophers of Science Group, 2015 Fall:
Nov 17, Tuesday 5:00-7:00pm @ NYU (SILVR) Room 401 [*note time change]
Topic: “The Mathematical Route to Causal Understanding”
Dec 4, Friday 4:30-6:30pm @ NYU
Kathryn Tabb (Columbia University)
Topic: “Random Walks and Torturous Paths: Moving from the Descriptive to the Etiological in Psychiatry”
Another relevant talk in the Metro Area: 
Nov 19, Thursday 4:10 pm – 6:00 pm, Philosophy Hall 716, Columbia University
Mark Wilson (Pittsburgh University) is giving a departmental colloquium. Title: TBA
More details to follow.
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