Seminar this week: Karen Crowther

The Geneva Symmetry Group is happy to present a seminar by our own Karen Crowther this Thursday:

Thursday, 21 March 2019, at 16:15 in room B002 (Bastions):

Karen Crowther (Geneva): Levels and fundamentality in the metaphysics of physics

Abstract: There are two standard roads taken by those who want to argue for the privileged status of physics among the sciences: one runs via ‘ontological dependence’, and the other goes via causal or dynamical dependence. Following the route of ontological dependence means descending a mineshaft of ‘levels of explanation’, whereas the path of causal dependence is flat, being at a level altitude, and leads back in time. Yet, travel either road (from any starting point) in the direction following the dependence-chains towards their apparent sources, and you will—supposedly—always end up in the exclusive domain of physics. Each of these arguments is meant by its various proponents to establish that physics provides (or is capable of providing) the (most) fundamental description of nature (cf. Ney, 2017).

Within physics itself, there are two ways of establishing the relative fundamentality of one theory compared to another, via two senses of reduction: ‘inter-level’ and ‘intra-level’ (Crowther, 2018). The former is standardly recognised as roughly correlating with the chain of ontological dependence (i.e., the phenomena described by theories of macro-physics are typically supposed to be ontologically dependent on the entities/behaviour described by theories of micro-physics), and thus has been of interest to naturalised metaphysics. The latter, though, has not been considered interesting for metaphysics, because it is not thought to correlate either with ontological dependence, nor causal or dynamical dependence. I argue, however, that this is a mistake, and that actually, the intra-level relation does reflect ontological dependence (in the same sense as the inter-level relation) and thus should not be neglected by metaphysics. This argument further supports the assertion that the same notion of fundamentality underlies both the inter- and intra-level claims of fundamentality in physics (cf. recent talks by James Ladyman).

About wuthrich

I am a philosopher of physics at the University of Geneva.
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