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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2013-14 >> abstracts>> October

October 2013 Lunchtime Abstracts & Details

::: A Dialogue of the Deaf: Einstein and the Logical Empiricists on Rods and Clocks in General Relativity
Marco Giovanelli, CPS Visiting Fellow,
University of Tübingen
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
12:05 pm, 817R CL

Abstract: This paper intends to show that not only did Einstein and the Logical Empiricists come to disagree about the role, principled or provisional, played by rods and clocks in general relativity, but also in their lifelong interchange, they never clearly identified the problem they were discussing. Einstein’s ambivalent attitude towards the rods and clocks as empirical indicator should be understood in the context of a discussion with Weyl and Eddington about the status of the “Riemannian postulate” within general relativity. On the contrary, Logical Empiricists, though carefully analyzing the Einstein-Weyl-Eddington debate, incomprehensibly insisted on interpreting Einstein’s epistemology of geometry as a continuation of the age-old Helmholtz-Poincaré debate on empirical-conventional choice among Euclidean or non- Euclidean geometries.

::: Quantum Ontology: An Empirical Fundamentalist Approach
Doug Kutach, CPS Visiting Fellow
Friday, October 4, 2013
12:05 pm, 817R CL

Abstract: I will apply the philosophical program known as Empirical Fundamentalism to debates over the ontological status of the quantum state, configuration space, 3D "physical" space. I will argue that it is superior to the "primitive ontology" approach and the "psi-epistemic/psi-ontological" approach.

::: Metaphor, Polysemy and Cognitive Activities in Mechanistic Explanation of Mind

Carrie Figdor, CPS Visiting Fellow,
U. of Iowa
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
12:05 pm, 817R CL

Abstract: Linguistic, psychological, and cognitive neuroscientific data show important differences in how we talk and think about objects and activities. I will present a few selected findings and consider some of their implications for the explanatory role of cognitive kinds (or “psychological predicates”) in mechanistic explanation of mind.


::: Theory Reduction in Physics: A Model-Based, Dynamical Systems Approach
Josh Rosaler, CPS Postdoctoral Fellow
Pembroke College, Oxford
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
12:05 pm, 817R CL

Abstract: In 1973, Nickles identified two senses in which the term `reduction' is used to describe the relationship between physical theories: first, the sense associated with Ernest Nagel's seminal account of reduction in science as a whole, and with modifications of this account proposed by Nagel and Schaffner; second, the sense often used by physicists, in which one theory is purportedly extracted as a mathematical limit of another. These two accounts of reduction have since dominated the literature on inter-theoretic reduction in physics, as evidenced, for example, by the recent work of Batterman and Butterfield.
In this talk, I will discuss a third sense in which one physical theory may be said to reduce to another. The core insight around which this approach is based has been anticipated, with significant variations, in the work of or in conversation with numerous authors, including Albert, Butterfield, Giunti, Lanford, Wallace and Yoshimi. In this talk, I attempt to further develop and expand this basic insight into a more comprehensive framework for reduction in physics, and to illustrate its application with a number of examples. Importantly, this approach concerns the reduction of individual models of physical theories rather than the wholesale reduction of entire theories. Moreover, it specifically concerns the reduction of models that can be formulated as dynamical systems (i.e., in terms of some deterministic evolution map on some mathematical state space). The range of theories to which this constraint applies includes Newtonian mechanics, special relativity, quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, general relativity, and numerous models in statistical mechanics such as the Boltzmann equation and the Liouville equation.
I then discuss the relationship of this account of reduction to the Nagelian and limit-based accounts that Nickles discusses, arguing that it is distinct from both, but exhibits strong parallels with Schaffner's revision of Nagel's account (dubbed the Generalised Nagel-Schaffner (GNS) account by Dizadji-Bahmani, Frigg and Hartmann). Finally, I consider some limitations of the account of reduction that I propose, and suggest ways in which it might be generalised.


::: The Ecological Niche Concept: History & Recent Controversies

Arnaud Pocheville, CPS Postdoctoral Fellow
Ecole Normale Superieure
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
12:05 pm, 817R CL

Abstract: In this talk, I will trace the history of the ecological niche concept and show how its meanings have oscillated with the search for a theory of ecological phenomena. We will see how the concept is rooted in a Darwinian view of ecosystems being structured by the struggle for survival and how, originally, the ecological niche was seen as an invariant place in the ecosystem, that preexisted ecosystem's assembling. We will then see how the concept has shifted to a sense where the niche is no longer a preexisting invariant ecosystem structure, but eventually becomes a variable whose dynamics is explained by the principle of competitive exclusion and the co-evolution of species. We will see how this niche concept, though more operational than its predecessor from an empirical point of view, nevertheless suffers from an ill-founded definition.
In parallel, we will discuss the contribution of neutralist models of ecology, which, succeeding in explaining certain patterns without resorting to explanations in terms of niche, have challenged the explanatory virtues of the niche concept.
I will conclude on the difficulties for ecology to deliver a theory that would be both predictive and explanatory.



Revised 10/1/13 - Copyright 2009