Causal Relativism (Jenn McDonald)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on April 4th from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) in-person at the Graduate Center (Room 5382) for a talk by Jenn McDonald (Columbia).

Title: Causal Relativism

Abstract: In this talk, I defend a kind of causal relativism. I argue that actual causation cannot be taken to hold simpliciter between two particular things (‘things’ such as events, states-of-affairs, etc.).  Instead, actual causation holds only relative to a background space of possibilities – a modal profile The argument applies generally to any difference-making analysis of actual causation.  But I will use the framework of structural equation models to make the case.   I first demonstrate that structural equation models represent situations in this way – as relative to some modal profile or other.  This observation is underappreciated in the literature.  I show how it raises a problem for all extant analyses of actual causation in terms of these models.  This problem is best responded to by a kind of causal relativism, or so I will argue.  Notably, the problem cannot be avoided by rejecting a structural equation framework.  While the framework is useful for its illustration, the problem arises for any analysis governed by the idea that a cause is what makes a difference in an effect’s occurrence.

Necessity, Essence and Explanation (Dongwoo Kim)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on March 28th from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) via Zoom for a talk by Dongwoo Kim (CUNY).

Title: Necessity, Essence and Explanation

Abstract: I shall discuss some of the relations between metaphysical modality, essence and explanation. The essentialist approach to metaphysical modality seeks to give an account of necessity (and thus of possibility) as having its source in essence. But what is essence, and in what sense and how does it give rise to necessity? In their recent paper “Essential Properties are Super-Explanatory: Taming Metaphysical Modality” (2020), Marion Godman, Antonella Mallozzi and David Papineau have attempted to address these issues with respect to aposteriori necessities concerning kinds. According to their account, the essence of a kind consists in the super-explanatory property—a single property that is causally responsible for a multitude of commonalities shared by the instances of the kind. And they argue that this super-explanatory notion of essence offers a principled account of aposteriori necessities concerning kinds. In this talk, I am going to argue that their account is not satisfactory. I shall examine two main arguments of GMP that the super-explanatory property of a kind is metaphysically necessary and argue that they both are fallacious. Along the way, a general problem will emerge that applies to any account that tries to explicate the notion of essence in terms of an explanatory relation.

Why Mathematics Works so Well (Noson Yanofsky)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on March 21st from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) in-person at the Graduate Center (Room 5382) for a talk by Noson Yanofsky (CUNY).

Title: Why Mathematics Works so Well

Abstract: A major question in philosophy of science involves the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in physics. Why should mathematics, created or discovered, with nothing empirical in mind be so perfectly suited to describe the laws of the physical universe? To answer this, we review the well-known fact that the defining properties of the laws of physics are their symmetries. We then show that there are similar symmetries of mathematical facts and that these symmetries are the defining properties of mathematics. By examining the symmetries of physics and mathematics, we show that the effectiveness is actually quite reasonable. In essence, we show that the regularities of physics are a subset of the regularities of mathematics.

Avicenna motivates two new logics (Wilfrid Hodges)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on March 14th from 4:15-6:15 (NY time) via Zoom for a talk by Wilfrid Hodges (Queen Mary).

Title: Avicenna motivates two new logics

Abstract: The logician Avicenna (Ibn Sina in Arabic) tells us that some thousand and twenty years ago he discovered a group of previously unknown logics. He seems to have been the first logician – at least west of India and after the ancient Greeks – who made any such claim. We will examine two of these new logics and his motivations for them. The first new logic, discovered in around 994 when Avicenna was about eighteen years old, was rediscovered by Boole in the mid 19th century. We will study some features of it that were important to Avicenna (and to some recent logicians) but apparently missed by Boole. The second new logic, probably from around 1000, seems to be the earliest logic with inference rules that act below the surface levels of the formulas. It was impossible to state the inference rules correctly before Frege introduced the notion of scope, but we will see how far Avicenna got.