2 November 2017
The Bing room | The Warburg Institute | University of London | School of Advanced Study | Woburn Square | London WC1H 0AB
11:30-13:00 William Simpson (University of Cambridge)
’What’s the matter? Power, entanglement and the dappled world’
Commentator: Daniel De Haan (University of Cambridge)
13:00-14:15 Lunch break
14:15-15:15 Giovanni Catapano (University of Padua)
‘Augustine on the existence of ideas of individuals’
15:15-16:15 Andreea-Maria Carrez (Université Paris-Sorbonne )
‘From immaterial essences to material cosmos: the case of planetary gods in Iamblichus's metaphysics’
16:15-16:45 Coffee/Tea break
16:45-17:45 Jonathan Morton (King’s College London)
'Why should philosophers care about allegory? The Romance of the Rose as philosophical poetry'
17:45 Conference ends
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What's the matter? Power, entanglement and the dappled world.
By William Simpson
In this paper I am seeking to provide an empirically adequate neo-Aristotelian ontology of powers that is compatible with quantum mechanics, whilst challenging two assumptions commonly held by contemporary philosophers.
In the first part of the discussion, I pose a 'problem of nonlocal powers', which is raised by quantum phenomena like superpositions and entanglement. I claim that this problem can be overcome by abandoning the assumption of *primitive physicalism*, which reifies physical properties like mass, spin and charge, and by adopting an ontology of power-atoms with primitive powers of motion, in which the wave function used to predict nonlocal phenomena is grounded in a global structural power. This structural power determines the motions of the power-atoms and is encoded within the network of ontological dependencies that exists between their primitive powers.
In the second part of this paper, I pose a 'problem of perceptual holism', which is raised by the holistic character of quantum physics.
By dissolving local connections between the perceptual beliefs of scientists and the behaviours of their measuring devices, quantum holism undermines any empirical reasons for believing that quantum mechanics describes reality. I suggest that this problem may be averted by abandoning the assumption of *physical fundamentalism* and upgrading the ontology to include a variety of local structural powers.
I consider some problems that arise for an ontology seeking to hold together both local and global structural powers, and suggest solutions that appeal to the nature of causal powers.
Augustine on the Existence of Ideas of Individuals
By Giovanni Catapano
Abstract: The Letter 14 to his friend Nebridius is the only place in all his writings where Augustine tackles the problem of the existence of ideas of individuals. In the divine Word, he argues, there is just one idea of the human being as such, but at the same time there are the ideas of many human individuals, insofar as these individuals are parts of a whole. Likewise, in the human mind there is one idea of the angle as such, but at the same time there are the ideas of the four angles that make up a square.
From immaterial essences to material cosmos:
the case of planetary gods in Iamblichus's metaphysics
By Andreea-Maria Carrez
Iamblichus, the head of the Neoplatonician school of Apamea, faces the questions of Porphyry about the divinity of planets as corporeal beings in his De Mysteriis. In opposition to the plotinian dualistic paradigm of matter and bodies as threats to the unity of the soul, Iamblichus (and Proclos after him) intends to rehabilitate the notion of corporeality in a way that would both assert immateriality's superiority over materiality and offer a relevant theory to theurgy. This dispute of the uttermost importance takes place in a critical philosophical, theological and historical context (the christianization of the IIIth and IVth centuries' Empire) to which Iamblichus responds with a concordist attitude, insisting on symphonia between all philosophical traditions and pagan cults. As a result, the questioning of the limits between the divine and the non-divine and the definition of their respective characteristics appear as a demanding task for « the savior of the entire Greek world », as Julian the Emperor called him. Facing Porphyry's interrogations and doubts, emphasizing what he considers as an internal contradiction, Iamblichus intends to demonstrate in his De Mysteriis that the concept of divine body is no oxymoron.
But how can the planets be gods, if gods are supposed to be strictly incorporeal? How does it affect Iamblichus's concept of divinity? Are celestial bodies actualized potencies, results of ousiai and noemata according to him? To what extent can they be both gods and living beings, if all divine beings are immortal, eternal, invisible and immune to corruption and pathos, and if bodies are necessarily bound to a beginning and an end, corruptible and visible? Do immaterial gods and the cosmos share the same nature according to Iamblichus? Are they considered as the One's germinative ennoiai, but if so, how can he avoid to identify the One with the Intellect? Does the gods' immateriality involve their transcendance of the material world, or are they considered to be immanent, which would suggest a monist turnover in Iambichus's thought? Can the influence of these planetary gods be both benevolent and malevolent, and if so, does it imply that evil would be part of divinity?
'Why should philosophers care about allegory?
The Romance of the Rose as philosophical poetry'
By Jonathan Morton
The Romance of the Rose is one of the great literary monuments of thirteenth-century Europe. While its affinities to medieval philosophy, especially which of the University of Paris, have long been noted, that recently scholars have been paying closer attention to the specifics of the French poem's philosophy. But how can a work of allegory, by definition polysemous, be philosophical? Looking at the poem's style in relation to medieval dialectic and thinking about the intellectual context of the 1270s when Jean de Meun wrote his vast section of the Rose, this paper will suggest ways in which the work can convey meaning and consider the question of whether and how it makes sense to talk of poetry as philosophical.