Abstracts for ‘Emergence and Laws’ workshop


Jeremy Butterfied (Cambridge)

“On spontaneous symmetry-breaking in finite systems”

I will discuss the approach of Landsman and Reuvers, developed in two papers in 2013. I will endorse it as an account of spontaneous symmetry-breaking in finite systems: while being cautious about it as a scheme for solving the quantum measurement problem.

  • N.P. Landsman & R. Reuvers, A flea on Schrodinger’s Cat, Found. Phys. 43, 373 (2013).
  • N.P. Landsman, Spontaneous symmetry breaking in quantum systems: Emergence
    or reduction?, Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44, 379 (2013).

Roman Frigg (LSE)

“The anatomy of reduction in statistical mechanics”

Based on recent mathematical results in ergodic theory, I re-examine the alleged reductive relation between TD and SM and try to come to grips with the anatomy of the relation between different levels.

Ned Hall (Harvard)

‘Ink on paper’

Must a successful reconstruction of quantum mechanics posit local “beables” in a three-dimensional space? We can gain insight into this question by focusing on this “scrutability thesis”: A fundamental physical theory is empirically successful only if the manifest facts that serve as evidence for it are a priori derivable from a description of the world provided in terms of that theory’s fundamental ontology. I’ll explore this thesis, then try to refute it. Interesting consequences seem to follow from the refutation. Notably: the version of the GRW theory that posits an ontology of “flashes” won’t work; and there is a deep sense in which our evidence for physical theories is in part evidence about ourselves.

Vera Hoffmann-Kolss (Cologne)

‘Causal Modelling, Higher-Level Causation and the Problem of Epiphenomenal Relationships’

One of the most popular versions of a counterfactual account of causation is the causal modelling approach prominently defended by Hitchcock and Woodward. It is widely agreed that this approach can adequately account for higher-level causal relations. In my paper, I call this claim into question. I argue that if causal relations at several levels are taken into account, there are cases where causal modelling theories cannot distinguish between real causation and epiphenomenal relationships. It follows that counterfactual accounts are less adequate for dealing with causal relations at multiple levels than is often assumed.

Barry Loewer (Rutgers)

‘The Reduction of (almost) Everything to Statistical Mechanics’

I will spell out a realist comprehensive version of statistical mechanics suggested by Boltzmann and developed subsequently by Albert, Carroll (and others) that provides a kind of probability map of the universe that grounds objective chances, special science laws, and causal relations. I will then discuss some philosophical problems that face the account.

Alexander Reutlinger (LMU Munich)

‘On Scientific and Metaphysical Explanations of Laws’

In the recent literature on scientific explanation, there is an emerging consensus that there are causal and non-causal explanations in science. But how does explanation work in other areas than science? Are there, for instance, philosophical explanations? If there are any, how do they work – are they causal or non-causal? Barry Loewer’s recent work is highly instructive for addressing this topic. Loewer draws attention to the distinction between a scientific and a metaphysical explanation of laws. The goal of my talk is to elaborate this distinction. In particular I will argue for two claims: first, what makes both scientific and metaphysical explanations explanatory is captured by a counterfactual account of explanation. Second, metaphysical explanations typically are non-causal how-possibly explanation.

Juha Saatsi (Leeds)

‘Emergence and Explanation’

In this talk I explore some arguments for (ontological, strong) emergence in the light of currently popular accounts of scientific explanation. Amongst the various arguments for emergence there are some that explicitly turn on the idea that any purportedly reductive theory is bound to be explanatorily incomplete. After discussing these arguments in general terms, I will focus more specifically on the explanatory indispensability of infinite limits in renormalisation group explanations of universality (as discussed by Batterman, Menon and Callender, and others).

 Markus Schrenk (Duesseldorf)

‘Special Science Laws: Their Exceptions and their Emergence’

In the first part of this talk I introduce a fairly well researched theory of special science laws – the Better Best System Account (BBSA; cf. Cohen&Callender 2009) – and especially the way in which this theory can handle ceteris paribus laws, i.e., laws with exceptions (Schrenk 2007, 2014). In the second part of the talk I toy with a new idea: the BBSA remains, as it is, silent about the interrelations of the various special sciences (biology, chemistry, etc.). I believe a hierarchy can be established via the explanatory relations regarding the exceptions to their laws. This hierarchy building mechanism might also be utilisable for a novel top-down characterisation of the emergence of higher level laws from the levels below.