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Indiana University Bloomington

Colloquium Series

           

Spring 2018 Colloquium Series

January 12, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

WY005

Dr. Alan Love
University of Minnesota

"Scientific Metaphysics, Fundamentality, and Varieties of Pluralism"

Abstract:
Scientific metaphysics is based on the idea that metaphysical inquiry into the structure of reality should be informed by the remarkable success of science. Whether the diversity of successes across the sciences in both theory and practice speaks to the “fundamental” structure of reality is less clear. Many claims about fundamentality in scientific metaphysics involve discounting the successes of some sciences (e.g., biology) in relation to others (e.g., physics) in an effort to elucidate the ultimate structure of reality. Although this discounting might be warranted in some approaches to metaphysics that utilize independent evaluative criteria (e.g., parsimony), I argue that it is not warranted in a genuinely scientific metaphysics (i.e., where the evaluative criteria stem from the sciences themselves). Instead, some form of pluralism should be embraced. That is, when we analyze the theories and practices that are successful in the sciences, and then ask what the structure of reality might be like such that these are successful, we receive a plurality of answers. However, pluralism comes in several varieties. I review several extant varieties of pluralism in scientific metaphysics (e.g., Dupré’s promiscuous realism, Cartwright’s dappled world, Waters’ “no general structure”) and conclude that—despite their agreement against fundamentality—it remains uncertain how to choose among them based on “naturalistic” criteria alone (i.e., using evaluative criteria that stem from the sciences). This uncertainty raises a methodological question about whether there is a reliable way to adjudicate pluralist varieties of scientific metaphysics.

March 23, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

WY005
Graduate Student Conference

Anjan Chakravartti
University of Notre Dame

"TBA"

Abstract:
March 23-25 Graduate Student Conference

March 29, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

WY005
TBA

Dr. Ryan Mitchell
Indiana University-Physics Department

"TBA"

Abstract:
TBA

April 5, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM

WY005
Westfall Lecture

Dr. Niccolo Guicciardini
University of Bergamo Milan, Italy

"Interpreting Newton"

Abstract:
Since John Maynard Keynes’ seminal lecture Newton, The Man (1946), opinions about Isaac Newton’s personality and intellectual achievement have been diverse, and often conflicting. For example, the following questions have divided some of the great masters of the “Newtonian industry.” Was Newton a mystic of some sort, obsessed by the secret art of alchemy, who devoted only a tiny fraction of his time to science and mathematics? Or was he the founder of a rigorous mathematicised scientific method, which changed forever the criteria relative to which we test theoretical predictions by stringent comparisons with experimental data? Did Newton cultivate the grand plan of developing a metaphysics alternative to those held by the two great giants of seventeenth-century philosophy, Descartes and Leibniz? Or was he mostly interested in the humble craft of empirical investigation, spurning the “romances” of metaphysics? The magnitude and complexity of Newton’s Nachlass have allowed different answers to these and similar questions. According to some, all the above-mentioned questions can receive qualified positive answers. According to others, they give rise to conflicting interpretations that cannot be reconciled. In this talk I shall try my own interpretation, for sure a partial one. Since I am a historian of mathematics, I begin from the field that is most familiar to me. So, my more limited opening question will be: What kind of mathematician was Isaac Newton? I shall then move on to explore some territory that is foreign to me with a view to verifying whether the image of Newton the mathematician sketched in the first part of my talk can shed some light on the other intellectual endeavors to which he committed himself.