[SydPhil] Time and Causation Workshop, August 16, University of Sydney

Kristie Miller kristie.miller at sydney.edu.au
Sat Aug 6 09:25:38 AEST 2022

Time and Causation Workshop

 The University of Sydney, (in-person room to be announced shortly!)

 ZOOM URL https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88599051681?pwd=WDQrOGdielNCckxhWEt5ZThRS1JZdz09

All welcome

 Cei Maslen (Victoria University of Wellington)

 Causal Relativism: Dissolving the cement of the universe

 Over the past few years, MacFarlane has argued for a view known as “New Relativism”.  He has argued for a limited position, not a global position.  E.g. he makes a strong case for the relative truth of taste claims and knowledge claims. The purpose of this paper is to investigate extending this type of relativism to another class of statements – causal claims.   Can “c causes e” be true for me but not for you?  One may be tempted to dismiss such a suggestion out of hand, as threatening the status of causation as the “cement of the universe”.  But this would be over-hasty.


 Helen Beebee (Leeds University)

 Causation: how can experimental philosophy shed light on metaphysics?

 There is a burgeoning literature on the phenomenon of ‘causal selection’. There is now considerable evidence that our ordinary causal judgements, as elicited in standard ex-phi surveys, select from among various candidate causes on broadly normative grounds. What light, if any, do — and can — such ex-phi surveys shed on the nature of causation itself? We explore this question indirectly, via asking what light ex-phi sheds, or could shed, on whether or not our ordinary concept of causation is ‘egalitarian’. On the face of it, causal selection might seem to settle that question. In fact, however, things are quite a lot more complicated than this. Neither standard ex-phi methodologies for exploring our ordinary judgements nor the main explanatory focus of much ex-phi work in this area — namely the best psychological explanation of causal selection — are conducive to delivering much evidence concerning the ordinary concept of causation. We consider whether — and if so, how —  experimental philosophy might deliver better evidence concerning egalitarianism.


 Ant Eagle  (University of Adelaide)

Humeanism and Context

 It is widely supposed that nested counterfactuals like ‘Had there been nothing but a lone electron, then had there been more electrons than one, the force between any two would have accorded with Coulomb’s law’ pose a problem for Humeanism about laws. The objection, at least when raised within a broadly Lewisian framework for the evaluation of counterfactuals, requires a premise to the effect that the standards of similarity applied to the nested counterfactual are those of the closest antecedent world, not the actual world. I argue that Humeans have no reason to accept this premise, and very good reasons from similar cases involving other context-sensitive expressions to reject it.


Richard Corry (University of Tasmania)

Power, Influence, and the Interaction Gap

 Over the last few decades, an ontology of powers has become increasingly popular among metaphysicians. According to this view, at least some properties have a powerful, or dispositional, essence, which is manifested in appropriate circumstances and remains a potentiality otherwise. Power theorists regard powers as the foundation of causal interaction, and thus claim that an ontology of powers will help us understand the philosophically perplexing notion of causation. In particular, for example, power theorists claim that an ontology of powers can shed light on how a number of causes can combine to produce an effect. Recently, however, Baltimore has argued that when it comes to understanding how powers combine there is an explanatory gap that power theorists are yet to close. He calls this the “interaction gap”. He considers two theories of how powers combine (“contribution combination” and “mutual manifestation”) and argues that only one of these theories has the resources to bridge the interaction gap. In this paper I argue that the interaction gap is bigger than Baltimore recognises, and show that neither contribution combination nor mutual manifestation can bridge it. I then consider a third view: the ontology of power and influence and argue that this view has the resources to fully bridge the interaction gap.


Sam Baron (Dianoia Institute, Australian Catholic University)

Causation and spacetime

 In the mid 20th century, a group of theorems showed that much of the metric structure of general relativity could be recovered from causal structure. This led a number of philosophers to defend a causal theory of spacetime, in which spatiotemporal relations were reduced to causal relations. The causal theory met with fierce opposition by the likes of Earman and Smart, and was largely abandoned within philosophy. In physics, however, the story is different: the theorems that motivated the causal theory of spacetime were developed into two approaches to quantum gravity: causal set theory and causal dynamic triangulation. In this talk, I will return to the causal theory of spacetime in light of recent physics and show that there is a version of it that endures philosophical scrutiny.





Professor Kristie Miller
ARC Future Fellow
Joint Director, the Centre for Time
School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry and
The Centre for Time
The University of Sydney
Sydney Australia
Room S213, A 14 Main Quad

kristie.miller at sydney.edu.au
kristie_miller at yahoo.com
Ph: +612 9036 9663

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