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"Things are Material Processes" - John Pemberton (London School of Economics)

Egenis Seminar

I suppose an ontology, such as that of Aristotle, in which powers in suitable contact over some period give rise to changing over that period within the bearers of the powers, and hence a process of change, e.g. a star gravitationally attracting a planet (giving rise to its movement through an elliptic orbit), a fire heating a kettle, a heart pumping blood. I show how this ontology of change fits well with contemporary science, and how it licenses an account of things (e.g. organisms, atoms, molecules, larger chemical structures, bundles, mechanisms, artefacts, stars) as being material processes: functional parts performing functional roles at each stage so as to bring about the next stage of the process. This process view stands in opposition to the received view that things can be adequately characterised by a list of properties, e.g. things are co-instantiated universals, bundles of properties, collocated tropes, bare particulars with properties, collections of powers, etc. The list-of-properties view offers a static and discretised reconstruction (often reifying point-in-time entities) which misrepresents the complex inter-twining of dynamic processes apparent in the world, I argue. I show how recognising that things are processes provides a solution to van Inwagen’s ‘Special Composition Question’, and helps to address some major challenges within the philosophy of science.

An Egenis, the Centre for the Study of Life Sciences seminar
Date27 May 2015
Time15:00 to 16:30
PlaceByrne House


Byrne House