Historisk-filosofiska fakulteten

Paul Needham: "Macroscopic Metaphysics"

  • Datum: 2017-09-14 kl 10:15 12:00
  • Plats: Engelska parken - Eng2-1022
  • Arrangör: Filosofiska institutionen
  • Kontaktperson: Matti Eklund
  • Seminarium

Högre seminariet i teoretisk filosofi

Paul Needham, Stockholms universitet: "Macroscopic Metaphysics"

The lecture will be an introduction to my forthcoming book, Macroscopic Metaphysics: Middle-Sized Objects and Longish Processes, based on the first two chapters. An abstract below outlines the content. I will be concentrating on the general strategy of dealing with material objects in a spatio-temporal framework, emphasising my understanding of how mereology should (and shouldn’t) be used, and illustrating the first steps in the development of my view with the introduction of the “occupies” predicate relating material objects to spaces and times.

An ontology of continuants and occurrents to be developed in the course of the book within a framework of regions of space and intervals of time is initially outlined in Ch. 1. Much of the chapter is concerned with explaining how mereology is understood. First and foremost, quantities of matter, to which the principles of classical mereology are held to apply, are distinguished from material objects, here called individuals, that change their constitutive matter over time and to which mereological principles don’t apply. The motivation for this and detailed development of the features of the constitutes relation (as distinct from mereological parthood) comes in chapters 2 and 3. On this understanding, certain lines of objection to classical principles of mereology are put aside. Rehearsing reasons for rejecting some other suggestions for modifying classical principles mereology serves further to illustrate how the mereological concepts are understood here. But the main thrust of the chapter is to emphasise what the mereological principles say and what they leave open concerning the relations of part, overlap, separation and identity and the operations of sum, product and difference. Classical mereology is an incomplete theory whose axioms can be supplemented in various ways to characterise the kind of objects to which they apply. It is shown how this can be done for a theory reasonably called a theory of temporal intervals and again, when supplemented with an additional, nonmereological, primitive, to develop a theory of spatial regions. Both theories are complete first order theories (i.e., no further independent axioms can be added without contradiction). An analogous development doesn’t seem possible for a pure mereological theory of quantities of matter. Developing a theory of quantities of matter requires introducing times and spaces, as well as other entities, along with predicates relating these various kinds of entities, which is pursued in the following chapters. Readers who are not interested in the technical details may like to skim quickly over the presentations of the theories of times and spaces, together with the proof of completeness, in sections 1.3 and 1.4 and their corresponding subsections, and proceed directly to the final section of the chapter which outlines the strategy for the remainder of the book.

A fundamental relation connecting matter with space and time is the occupies relation. The occupies relation stands between a material body, a region of space and an interval of time, and its features and related concepts are pursued in Ch. 2. Individuals are the material bodies considered first, and it is argued that it is unnecessary to consider the regions they occupy to be bounded by boundary entities. An account of the abutment of individuals is presented on the basis of the spatial regions described in Ch. 1 without needing to introduce boundaries as distinct entities. This is a time dependent relation which treats times as intervals and accommodates the fact that the bodies in question might move whilst abutting, calling on an account of the occupies relation that accommodates movement. What I call an accumulation condition, formulated in mereological terms, is introduced for this purpose. Analogues of this mereological condition for other predicates are discussed in the sequel.