The Department of Logic & Philosophy of Science presents

"Hume’s Dictum as a Guide to Physical Ontology"
with Adam Caulton, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

Monday, April 14, 2014
5:00-7:00 p.m.
Social Science Tower, Room 777 (LPS conference room)

Hume's dictum, that there are no necessary connections between distinct existents, has well known echoes in twentieth-century combinatorial accounts of possibility. Less well known is Carnap’s tacit appeal to Hume’s dictum in his /Aufbau/ project of “quasi-analysis”, in which a collection of objects (“quasi-constituents”) are abstracted from a base set of elementary experiences structured by the relation of recollected similarity. What is remarkable about Carnap’s application of Hume’s dictum is that it works /backwards/: the quasi-constituents are characterised by the fact that independently recombining them generates (a simulacrum of) the full variety of elementary experiences. In his talk, Caulton will argue that an analogue of Carnap’s backwards deployment of Hume’s dictum can be helpful in a variety of interpretative projects in the philosophy of physics — particularly those in which we have a better idea of a theory’s possibility space than of its generating ontology. He will give two concrete examples of its application: (1) in the non-relativistic quantum mechanics of so-called “indistinguishable” systems; and (2) in the classical U(1) gauge theory of the complex scalar field. In both cases, we will see that the appropriate ontologies have been overlooked, despite being preferable.

For further information, please contact Patty Jones, or 949-824-1520.

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