Associate Professor of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
University of Notre Dame
100 Malloy Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Phone: (574) 631-6112
Office Hours :
Structuralism Workshop, November 17-20, 2010, University of Notre Dame
Descriptions and suggested reading materials
French, 'The interdependence of structures, objects, and dependence', Synthese 175(11).
Kantorovich, 'The priority of internal symmetries in particle physics'. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1355-2198(03)00067-4
Castellani, 'Galilean particles: an example of the constitution of objects' in her edited volume 'Interpreting Bodies'.
French, 'Models and mathematics in physics: the role of group theory', in the Butterfield/Pagonis volume. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=2450723801831455271
Ladyman sketches an answer to this question in his 1998 paper (see Ladyman, ‘What is structural realism?’, /Studies in History and Philosophy of Science/ 29(3), 1998, pp. 409-424.
Steven's article, "Models and Mathematics in Physics: The Role of Group Theory" in the Butterfield/Pagonis volume: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?cluster=2450723801831455271
Antigone will push questions relating to this in the context of group theory, continuing the discussion from Session 2.
Susan Sterrett: French writes "The Presentation of objects and the representation of structure" (in the section called "Presentation of Objects and Properties via Shared Structure")] that the structuralist offers a "top down" picture in which "we start with the laws and principles 'presented' by the theory, interpret these, at least minimally, in terms of relations and properties. . ." Now, I want to suggest that being careful at just this step is important. Relations between what? I wonder if philosophers of science are sometimes too quick to move to talk of properties. Then, it is presumed that the properties are properties of objects. But why? Often we are relating (measurable, quantitative) quantities, and they are not especially identified with particles. There is a general account of physical science in which the similarity mappings between physical situations are in terms of physical systems, where the systems are not thought of in terms of a network of particles related to each other, but in terms of quantities that characterize their states. There is a great deal of flexibility about which quantities one may choose. So I would like us to explore thinking about this step in the "top down" picture in terms of similarity mappings between physical systems, and their associated invariants, which are dimensionless parameters.
What does OSR and structuralism in general have to say about the kinds of issues current metaphysicians are concerned with, eg fundamentalism, emergence, monism etc. Proceeding the other way, what can we learn or take from the methods and concerns of metaphysicians? Or is some kind of ultra-naturalism the way to go, a la Ladyman and Ross? Is it enough to just look to the science or can metaphysics help provide some form of understanding, as Anjan holds for example. He of course ties in his semi-realism to a dispositionalist account and one of the things I've been trying to get clear about these past 6 months is just where I disagree with such accounts - one area has to do with their treatment of symmetry, or lack of consideration thereof, and relatedly, dispositionalist views of laws.
Elise: I have serious doubts whether French's brand of OSR (or any brand, for that matter) can manage causation. E.g., can a world with just structure get me causes and effects? French is pressed on this point in particular by Anjan (The Structuralist Conception of Objects, 2003, Philosophy of Science 70, pp. 867-878.) and by Psillos (2006). French responds to this objection in "Structure as a Weapon..." but it strikes me as rather unsatisfactory.
Otavio: My focus is on the connection between structuralism and representation. In particular, is it possible to develop a purely structural account of representation, employing an ontic structuralist conception? It seems that the answer is negative. In order to provide a purely structural account of representation, the (ontic) structuralist needs to show that (i) informational issues concerning the content of representation, (ii) pragmatic features related to the use of representation, and (iii) phenomenal issues about qualitative aspects of experience (when the contents of experience are involved in representation) can all be characterized in purely structural terms. It is unclear, however, that this can be done.
Elaine: The problem I would like Steve to take up is what work Steven’s meta-framework is doing and just where his use of NMA is made; is it made at this meta-level or at the object level.Landry (2007), Shared structure need not be set structure, Synthese. Landry: shared structure
Bryan Roberts, "Group Structural Realism" http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00004733/
Don Howard: I want to press Steven on the implications for structural realism of the fact that, in algebraic quantum field theory, there necessarily exist unitarily inequivalent representations. See (a) the Metascience special issue where, in my contribution, I raise this problem Howard: unitary inequivalence, and (b) Steven’s first attempt at a response French: unitary inequivalence.
“Physics”, Cassirer wrote at the end of the third volume of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, “cannot jump over its own shadow”. That is to say, its characterization of objects cannot dispense with the protean representative function of mathematical concepts and structures. For physical theory, mathematics is an abstract and a priori organon of knowledge (H. Stein) pertaining to conceptual possibilities; as such, it is indispensible for formulating hypotheses or theories, some few of which may be highly confirmed by observation and experiment. OSR’s leap from the epistemological function of certain structures (groups, algebras, topological spaces) in facilitating our understanding of the world to the ontological question “which structures in the physical world are we to be realists about?” (S. French, 2010) is precisely what Cassirer taught us to recognize and critique as a metabasis eis allo genos.
The epistemic form of structural realism asserts that our knowledge of the world is restricted to its structural features. Several proponents of this view assume that the world possesses non-structural features; features which, according to their view, cannot be known. In other words, they assume that there is, or, there ought to be (on the basis of normative arguments in epistemology), always a gap between our epistemological and ontological commitments. The ontic form of structural realism denies that this is, or ought to be, the case. Proponents of this view argue that the perfect alignment of epistemological and ontological commitments is a highly desirable meta-theoretical feature. They argue this on the basis of the prima facie sensible principle that our ontological commitments ought never to overreach our epistemic ones. Naturally the issue of alignment transcends the debate between the epistemic and the ontic structural realists. Is it in principle impossible for there to be circumstances under which we ought to subscribe to the misalignment of epistemological and ontological commitments? What do the different answers to this question entail for ontic structural realism?
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