International Workshop Agency, Past and Future University of Hamburg 18 - 20 July 2019
Talks Simona Aimar (UCL) - Causation and Causatives Julian Bacharach (UCL) - Agent-regret and the fixity of the past Alison Fernandes (Dublin) - Asymmetries of Agency Florian Fischer (Siegen) - The shape of things to come Kim Frost (Syracuse) - The Temporality of Practical Mistakes Jennifer Hornsby (London) - Events and the passage of time Julia Jorati (Ohio) - Leibnizian agency and the importance of teleology for the direction of time Roberto Loss (Hamburg) - Grounding the future (and the future of grounding) Erasmus Mayr (Erlangen-Nürnberg) - tba Anne Sophie Meincke (Southampton) - Agency and Time: A Process Account Hugh Mellor (Cambridge) - Causes and effects are facts Calvin Normore (Los Angeles) - tba Thomas Pink (London) - Freedom as a power Antje Rumberg (Stockholm) - Agency and branching time: Acting in the tree of possibilities Michael Thompson (Pittsburgh) - "No One Deliberates about the Past" - or the Present or Future
Thursday, 18. July 2019
10:00 - 10:15 Welcome and introduction
10:15 - 11:15 Julian Bacharach (UCL) - Agent-regret and the fixity of the past
11:30 - 12:30 Thomas Pink (London) - Freedom, Reason and Power
14:30 - 15:30 Florian Fischer (Siegen) - The shape of things to come
15:45 - 16:45 Jennifer Hornsby (London) - Events and the passage of time
17:15 - 18:15 Hugh Mellor (Cambridge) - Causes and effects are facts
Friday, 19. July 2019
10:00 - 11:00 Kim Frost (Syracuse) - The Temporality of Practical Mistakes
11:15 - 12:15 Roberto Loss (Hamburg) - Grounding the future (and the future of grounding)
14:30 - 15:30 Anne Sophie Meincke (Southampton) - Agency and Time: A Process Account
15:45 - 16:45 Simona Aimar (UCL) - Causation and Causatives 17:00 - 18:00 Michael Thompson (Pittsburgh) - "No One Deliberates about the Past" - or the Present or Future
Venue Hauptgebäude der Universität Flügelbau West Großer Hörsaal (ESA 1 W 221) Edmund-Siemers-Allee 1 20146 Hamburg
Organisation Julian Bacharach, Florian Fischer and Magali Roques
Registration All participants are welcome, but please send a short email to email@example.com to let us know you are coming.
The SPoT is very thankful to the Fritz Thyssen Foundation for the generous funding of this event!
Asymmetries of Agency Alison Fernandes
Agency is, at least for us, temporally asymmetric. We deliberate on the future, but not the past. We remember the past, but not the future. And we direct our care to what happens to us tomorrow, but not yesterday. How should we account for these asymmetries? I’ll lay out a program for explaining such asymmetries in scientific terms, focusing on asymmetries of deliberation. The fact that we deliberate on the future reflects a deep temporal asymmetry in the physical probabilistic structure of the world. While such a view might seem committed to an unbridled Physicalism about agency, I’ll argue that features of agency turn out to be equally important for understanding scientific relations. Physics and agency are both required to make sense of the temporal asymmetries we encounter.
Leibnizian agency and the importance of teleology for the direction of time Julia Jorati
Teleology, or end-directedness, is enormously important for Leibniz’s philosophy of action. Action, in turn, is a key notion in Leibniz’s theory of time: all substances change constantly in ways that are closely analogous to human agency; without such change, there would be no time. My paper explores the role that the teleological activity of substances plays in Leibniz’s philosophy of time. I argue that the end-directedness of this activity grounds the directionality of time. Substances always change in order to realize the ends toward which they are naturally directed. Hence, the doctrine that all change is teleological allows Leibniz to explain the otherwise puzzling directionality of time.
Grounding the future (and the future of grounding) Roberto Loss According to what may be labelled ‘serious Ockhamism’, (i) the future is open, (ii) the openness of the future consists in the fact that what exists is insufficient to determine the truth-value of (at least some) future-directed statements, and yet (iii) future-directed statements all possess a determinate truth-value. Serious Ockhamism appears to be in tension with the idea that truth is grounded in reality. Some serious Ockhamists bite the bullet and accept some truths to be indeed ungrounded. Others prefer, instead, a more sophisticated approach and claim that even if future-contingent statements are not grounded in the way reality is, they are nevertheless not ungrounded, as they are ‘cross-temporally’ grounded in the way reality will be. In this talk I will construe the grounding challenge faced by serious Ockhamists as involving the notion of metaphysical grounding and I will argue that, although the kind of ‘cross-temporal grounding’ serious Ockhamists appeal to is in tension with a set of rather ‘orthodox’ grounding principles, serious Ockhamists appear to have independent reasons to embrace at least a certain kind of grounding ‘heresy’.
Agency and Time: A Process Account Anne Sophie Meincke
In this paper, I give an ontologically robust account of the forward-looking temporal structure of agency on the basis of a process ontology of both actions and agents. I proceed in two steps. First, I present this ontology, which entails arguing for the following three claims: (i) agents-as-we-know-them are bio-agents, i.e., organisms endowed with a global capacity to act (bio-agency), (ii) organisms are stabilised higher-order processes whose stability results from their continuous interaction with processes in the environment, (iii) actions are a particular form of such self-stabilising interactions. Second, then, I defend the claim that actions, qua bio-actions, are temporally forward-looking just as, and because, bio-agents are. A bio-agent’s actions modulate the interactive process of self-stabilisation which is the bio-agent, transposing the temporal dynamics of this process into movement in or through space. These temporal dynamics flow from a bio-agent’s generative directedness towards possibilities. To act means to enact possibilities created in, and embodied by, the agent-constituting process of agent-environment interactions. Agents are their possibilities. Hence, actions cannot be reduced to events in time but are to be understood as intrinsically temporal, future-directed processes.
Causes and effects are facts Hugh Mellor
It is both odd and unfortunate that singular causation is routinely represented by a relational predicate, ‘causes’, linking singular terms ‘c’ and ‘e’. It is unfortunate because the extensionality of ‘c causes e’ makes it hard to account for: (i) negative causes and/or effects, as in ‘The bullet’s missing him caused him not to die’; (ii) the difference between causing something and affecting it, as in ‘Her parachute’s opening slowed her fall’; (iii) intensional causal statements like ‘His payment of his fine caused his release’, and hence (iv) much mental causation. These problems vanish if causation is represented not by a predicate but by a connective, ‘because’, linking truths, ‘C’ and ‘E’, as in: (i) ‘He didn’t die, because the bullet missed him’; (ii) ‘She fell slowly because her parachute opened’; and (iii) ‘He was released because he paid his fine’. This is because ‘C’ and ‘E’, unlike ‘c’ and ‘e’, can be (i) negative existentials, (ii) ascriptions of inessential properties to events, (iii) non-extensional, and hence (iv) no reason, given the non- extensionality of ‘E because C’, to distinguish mental from physical agency. Taking singular causes and effects to be events rather than facts (in the minimal sense of ‘It’s a fact that P iff “P” is true’) is not only unfortunate because it generates spurious problems. It is also odd, because the two basic theories of singular causation, in terms of (a) instances of covering laws or (b) counterfactuals, both make causes and effects facts in the above sense. Why, given this, the myth of event-causation ever arose and still persists is a mystery I shan’t discuss: my object here is not to explain its appeal but to discredit it.
Freedom, Reason and Power Tom Pink
A fundamental change in theories of agency occurred in the early modern period – the removal from the theory of action of appeals to powers other than ordinary causation. This paper examines the consequences of this change for moral theory, and, in particular, for the development of scepticism about practical reason.