Fundamentality and Parsimony Workshop

July 4, 2014
Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham

Room B2 Club Lounge, The Hemsley
University of Nottingham
University Park NG7 2RD
United Kingdom

All speakers:

Ivette Fuentes
University of Nottingham
Nottingham University
Stephen Mumford
University of Nottingham
Jonathan Tallant
University of Nottingham
University of Birmingham

Organisers:

Mark Jago
University of Nottingham

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Fundamentality and Parsimony Workshop

Department of Philosophy, University of Nottingham

The workshop will run 10.30am–6pm in the Club Lounge (room B2), The Hemsley, on University Park Campus. Lunch will be available at the Deli at the Hemsley.

There is no cost, but please email mark.jago@nottingham.ac.uk to register.


Schedule:

10.45–12: Stephen Mumford (philosophy, Nottingham), ‘Meditations on Natural Philosophy’

12-1.15: Lunch

1.15–2.30: Alastair Wilson (philosophy, Birmingham), ‘Emergent Contingency’

2.45–4: Lina Jansson (philosophy, Nanyang Technological, Singapore) and Jonathan Tallant (philosophy, Nottingham), ‘Quantitative Parsimony: Probably for the Better’

4.30-5.45: Ivette Fuentes (mathematics, Nottingham), ‘This stubbornly persistent illusion’


Abstracts:


Ivette Fuentes (mathematics, Nottingham), ‘This stubbornly persistent illusion’.

Time plays a central role in physics, however, quantum mechanics and relativity, the two most fundamental theories known of Nature, treat time in fundamentally different ways. This might be at the heart of our inability to incorporate quantum mechanics and relativity into a consistent theory of quantum gravity, which is perhaps the most important open question in theoretical physics of our times. The nature of time also gives rise to profound philosophical questions. Philosophy has indeed questioned the very nature of space and time, perhaps they are just illusions of the mind. In this talk, I will present work in progress that aims at understanding the nature of space and time by employing a unique multidisciplinary approach that includes theoretical physics, experiments, philosophy and visual arts. In particular, using a unique combination of techniques developed in quantum metrology, quantum information and quantum field theory in curved spacetime, I aim at finding the fundamental limits imposed by quantum theory in our perception of time and space due to the observer-dependent notion of quantum particles in relativity. The interplay between arts and science will provide new insights that are only possible through the interaction of both disciplines. 


Alastair Wilson (philosophy, Birmingham), ‘Emergent Contingency’

Everettian quantum mechanics has many remarkable consequences. Perhaps the most remarkable is that physical contingency is an emergent phenomenon: at the fundamental level, physical reality is non-contingent. Everettians who take a naturalistic approach to metaphysics have overwhelming reason to extend this account to metaphysical contingency. Speaking with quantifiers fully unrestricted and using purely qualitative predicates, modal operators are redundant. I trace some anticipations of these ideas by philosophers including Parmenides, Spinoza and Lewis, and discuss some distinctive features of the Everettian implementation of the idea.

Lina Jansson (philosophy, Nanyang Technological, Singapore) and Jonathan Tallant (philosophy, Nottingham), ‘Quantitative Parsimony: Probably for the Better’

A series of recent papers have defended the notion that in addition to considerations of qualitative parsimony (minimizing the types of entities postulated) there is a principle of quantitative parsimony (minimizing the number of entities postulated) in play in certain episodes of theory choice. We will make use of a number of examples to formulate a version of the principle of quantitative parsimony that makes sense of a broad range of cases. In so doing, we will reject accounts given by both Baker and Nolan. Ultimately, our account will trade on reasons that are available in parsimony considerations more broadly.  Our reasoning will rely on the observation that a conjunction typically has a lower probability than its conjuncts that Sober (1981, 145) calls Quine's "limpid rationale".  This demands that the hypotheses being compared have a special relation that we will call additive.

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