Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Persistence and Modality
International Workshop Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Persistence and Modality 21-23 October 2021 University of Mainz
Jeffrey E. Brower (Purdue University) - Aquinas on the nature and persistence of processes—the case of motion Ralf Busse (University of Mainz) - No Foundations for Metaphysical Coherentism Fabrice Correia (University of Geneva) - Non-Modal Conceptions of Essence in Contemporary Metaphysics Simon J. Evnine (University of Miami) - The Historicity of Artifacts: Use and Counter-Use Florian Fischer (University of Siegen) - Modality within the Triadic Process Account of Dispositions Dirk Franken (University of Mainz) - Existence and Persistence: On the Double Role of Aristotelian Forms Mark Jago (University of Nottingham) - Possibility: what it is and how we know about it Anna Marmodoro (Durham University) - Instantiation Harold Noonan (University of Nottingham) & Benjamin Curtis (Nottingham Trent University) - tba David S. Oderberg (University of Reading) - tba John Pemberton (LSE, Oxford, and Durham) - Aristotle’s alternative to enduring and perduring: lasting Howard Robinson (Central European University and Rutgers University)- tba Sònia Roca Royes (University of Stirling) - Metaphysics of objects, conceptual engineering, and knowledge of essence Thomas B. Sattig (University of Tübingen) - Persistence and Mereological Structure Alan Sidelle (University of Wisconsin-Madison) - Dispositional Essentialism and the Necessity of Laws: A Deflationary Account Tuomas Tahko (University of Bristol) - Possibility Precedes Actuality Barbara Vetter (FU Berlin) - Modal Epistemology for Neo-Aristotelians
Registration The conference will be online. All participants are welcome. Please send a short email to firstname.lastname@example.org to indicate your will to participate.
Non-Modal Conceptions of Essence in Contemporary Metaphysics Fabrice Correia (Geneva)
I discuss the non-modal conceptions of essence that have been put forward after Kit Fine’s seminal paper “Essence and Modality” (1994), as well as the view, advocated by Fine, that it is metaphysical modality that should be understood in terms of essence rather than the other way around.
The Historicity of Artifacts: Use and Counter-Use Simon J. Evnine (Miami)
In an attempt to capture some of the social and political import of Sara Ahmed’s concept of “queer use,” I extend my hylomorphic account of artifacts in two ways. The first way is to allow that users can also be creators; the second allows multiple users to create jointly if they constitute what Benedict Anderson calls an “imagined community.
Modality within the Triadic Process Account of Dispositions Florian Fischer (Siegen)
Dispositions bear the potential of an inner-worldly account of modality without the extravaganza of possible worlds. However, just starting a causal chain is not enough to unfold a possibility. Other manifestations might interfere (the notorious masking problem) and, what is often withheld, the timing needs to be just right. In this talk, I will present a dispositional theory of modality that addresses both issues. I propose a triadic ontology, which focuses on the level of interactions, in-between dispositions, and resulting behaviour, which I call Wirkunken. Both the Wirkungen and the resultant behaviour are understood as processes. By this account, something is possible if the corresponding process results from the temporally complex interplay of Wirkungs-processes over time.
Instantiation Anna Marmodoro (Durham)
What is it, metaphysically, for a universal property to be instantiated in a concrete particular, and for a concrete particular to instantiate a universal property? The mainstream approach is to take a universal property to be in a concrete particular by being a part of it. Two issues arise from this stance: What kind of partcan a property be, in a physical object? And how can a property, as such, recur in multiple physical objects at the same time (which is presupposed by those who use recurrence to explain resemblance), and thus be a part of each of them? These two issues have put instantiation under critical fire, with some claiming it to be a ‘bankrupt’ idea. This bears directly on whether Aristotle’s metaphysics of objects and their properties is approached as philosophically valuable to us, or to be junked, in relation to progress in current research in metaphysics. In this paper I argue against those interpretations according to which Aristotle accounts for the instantiation of properties in objects by positing a compositional relation between properties and matter, or alternatively a mereological relation between properties and objects. I offer my own understanding of Aristotle’s position, and then attempt taking a step further. I argue that for Aristotle, an instantiated property is in an object, but neither as a part, nor as related to its matter; rather, properties are in objects as qualifications of a primemetaphysical subject. My further step is to argue that this move, and not holism (contrary to what some have argued, both among scholars and contemporary followers of Aristotle), also explains the oneness of objects.
Aristotle’s alternative to enduring and perduring: lasting John Pemberton (LSE, Oxford, and Durham)
Aristotle supposes that both things (e.g. substances, artefacts, elements) and motions (kineses) exist through some period of time and are ontologically prior to their temporal parts. I dub such temporal holism ‘lasting’. Lasting things are unlike enduring things in that they have temporal parts; and unlike perduring things in that their temporal parts are not actual, but rather are potential (they may be abstracted from the whole – they do not compose the whole). Lasting, that is Aristotle’s persisting, is thus a distinctive alternative to enduring and perduring. I assess this alternative showing it to be attractive.
Metaphysics of objects, conceptual engineering, and knowledge of essence Sònia Roca Royes (Stirling)
This will be an exploratory talk that builds off my inductive, non-rationalist epistemology of modality about material entities. I have distinguished in the past the knowability conditions of ordinary possibilities such as this climbing rope could break, from those of essential facts (and associated impossibilities), arguing that an account of the epistemology of essential facts oughtto represent our knowledge of them as less securely grounded than the inductive route provides for the less challenging possibilities, like the breakability of the climbing rope. Abduction—as an epistemology of essential facts about concreta—would fit the bill here. The lesser probative force of the envisioned abductive argument generates, however, a sceptical concern about its outputs. Conceptual engineering comes in at this dialectical moment to remedy this. I will suggest the following normative decision: that our concepts should be so fashioned as to refer to the largest—in a sense to be explained—modally extended entities for whose existence we have direct evidence, regardless of whether, metaphysically, these entities are just proper parts of ‘larger’ ones our unruled concepts might have been onto. Once so fashioned, the sceptical concern disappears; and the greatest amount of knowable modal facts is enabled.
Dispositional Essentialism and the Necessity of Laws: A Deflationary Account Alan Sidelle(Wisconsin-Madison)
There are two related claims that have lately garnered interest and currency: dispositional essentialism - the idea that some or all properties, or some or all fundamental properties, are essentially dispositional; and the claim that laws of nature, or again, at least many of them, or the fundamental ones, are metaphysically necessary. I have argued elsewhere (2002) that the laws of nature do not have a mind-independent metaphysical necessity, but recent developments on dispositions, much thanks due to Alexander Bird and Brian Ellis, have given these ideas a new vibrancy and made them the topic of more focused discussion. So I would like to revisit this again, arguing that the new work, as interesting and important as it is to our understanding of fundamental properties, powers and dispositions, should not change our minds about metaphysical necessity. One should still think that necessity is conceptually or conventionally grounded. I will not be arguing that laws of nature are not necessary, nor that properties do not have dispositional essences. I will only argue if there are these necessities, then, like other de re or empirical necessities, they have no metaphysical weight and are based in our rules or decisions about how to talk about and conceptualize the world. We may have excellent reasons to talk and think in this way – but these reasons do not include, require or provide evidence of mind-independent metaphysical necessity or essences.
Possibility Precedes Actuality Tuomas Tahko (Bristol)
This paper is inspired by and develops on E. J. Lowe’s work, who writes in his book The Possibility of Metaphysics that ‘metaphysical possibility is an inescapable determinant of actuality’ (1998: 9). Metaphysics deals with possibilities – metaphysical possibilities – but is not able to determine what is actual without the help of empirical research. Accordingly, a delimitation of the space of possibilities is required. The resulting – controversial – picture is that we generally need to know whether something is possible before we can know whether it is actual. In order to appreciate this picture, we need to understand Lowe’s slogan: ‘essence precedes existence’ (Lowe 2008: 40). This slogan has both an ontological and an epistemic reading. The ontological reading is related to the now familiar idea that essence grounds modality, as popularised by Kit Fine. The epistemic reading suggests that we can know the essence of some entity before we know whether or not that entity exists. However, this idea is often met with puzzlement and Lowe himself sadly passed away before he had a chance to clarify this framework. I will present the idea as I understand it and put forward a qualified defence of it, illustrating the framework with a case study concerning the discovery of transuranic elements.
Program coming soon
The SPoT is very thankful to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) for the generous funding of this event!
Organisation Dirk Franken (Mainz) and Florian Fischer (Siegen)