Monday, November 22, 2010
"The ongoing efforts to interpret quantum mechanics typically ignore the Feynman path-integral approach, despite the fact that this mathematics most naturally extends to relativistic quantum field theory. While literally interpreting the path-integral mathematics seems untenable, it is notable that this mathematics implies strong symmetries between experiments that are typically assumed to be unrelated. If one adopts the principle that any underlying ontology must respect these same symmetries (the "action duality"), it turns out that quantum interpretations are strongly constrained. Furthermore, one can use this principle to construct new interpretations by considering pairs of experiments related by this symmetry, particularly cases where interpreting one experiment appears straightforward and the other problematic. The results generally support time-symmetric and retrocausal interpretations. (Joint work with Huw Price, David Miller, and Peter Evans.)"
Monday, September 6, 2010
Dr Charles Wolfe, History and Philosophy of Science, Faculty of Science
KEY THINKERS SERIES – 15TH SEPTEMBER 2010
Julien Offray de La Mettrie, a medical doctor and philosopher was born in Saint-Malo (Brittany) in 1709, and died in 1751 in Berlin, where he was an intellectual-in-residence at Frederick II’s court ... of indigestion, food poisoning, or acute peritonitis after having consumed a whole pheasant pasty with truffles. He had been forced to flee from France and then even from Holland because of his writings, and was one of the most scandalous figures of the Enlightenment. I will focus especially on his best-known work, L’Homme-Machine or Man a Machine (1748), one of the greatest examples of materialist philosophy ever written - in which mind and body are explained as belonging to one material substance, which medical and physiological knowledge sheds light on. How is it that a philosopher admired today by all manner of ‘brain scientists’ was also the hero of the Marquis de Sade? Addressing this sort of question gets us to the heart of Enlightenment materialism.
All are welcome to attend this free series.
Venue: Lecture Theatre 101, Sydney Law School Building, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus
Time: 6.00pm to 7.30 (includes Q & A)
Bookings: Free events, no registration or booking required
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Tuesday 28 September 2010, University of Sydney
Evolution is an essential theory for understanding the living world–including our own species. With understanding comes the capacity for improvement. This workshop examines three fields in which the understanding offered by contemporary evolutionary theory may offer practical guidance: conservation, public health, and the urban environment.
The workshop will be led by evolutionary biologist Prof. David Sloan Wilson, SUNY Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at Binghamton University. Prof. Wilson’s recent books include: Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society and Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives
Attendance at the workshop is limited to 50, to ensure that all participants are able to participate in a meaningful way in our discussions. Amongst the key questions to be addressed are:
• Is evolutionary theory genuinely mature enough to guide practical policy formulation on any or all of these three topics?
• What are the steps that evolutionary scientists can take to get their ideas onto the policy agenda?
• What are the potential pitfalls facing evolutionary scientists as they begin to take their ideas out of the academy and into the policy arena?
To lead the discussion alongside Prof Wilson we have four distinguished Australasian scientists, each with expertise on one of our focal topics:
• Rick Shine, Professor of Evolutionary Biology and ARC Federation Fellow, University of Sydney
• Sir Peter Gluckman, Head, Centre for Human Evolution, Adaptation and Disease, Liggins Institute, University of Auckland and New Zealand Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor
• Stephen Simpson, Professor of Biology and ARC Laureate Fellow, University of Sydney
• Roland Fletcher, Professor of Theoretical and World Archaeology, University of Sydney
For more information and to register, visit the conference website.
Organised by the Centre on the Human Aspects of Science and Technology & the Sydney Centre for the Foundations of Science, University of Sydney
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
ALFRED NORTH WHITEHEAD: FROM CAMBRIDGE MATHEMATICIAN TO HARVARD PHILOSOPHER
Peter Farleigh, Physiology, and Centre for Human Aspects of Science and Technology
Venue: Lecture Theatre 101, Sydney Law School Building, Eastern Avenue, Camperdown Campus
Time: 6.00pm to 7.30 (includes Q & A)
What would the consequences be, if rather than substances and structures, we took events and processes to be the primary entities that make up the universe? And what if instead of the traditional mechanistic model we used the concept of the organism, as the key metaphor in our understanding of the world? These are two central questions that Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) wrestled with in his later years. Whitehead of course, was famous for his early collaboration with Bertrand Russell on one of the most important works of mathematics in history—the three volumes of Principia Mathematica. While the two equally shared the work of this heroic attempt to establish a logical foundation for mathematics, it is not commonly known that there had been a fourth volume planned, which Whitehead alone began working on. But what became of the unfinished volume and why was it important for his philosophical development?
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Monday 2 Aug, 1-2.30pm
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
Friday, April 30, 2010
There was general agreement that the increasing specialisation of philosophy of science (hereafter PoS) is a problem. This is in part a consequence of the increased attention to the actual science in recent PoS. Hence work in philosophy of biology, or of economics, now assumes the kind of detailed knowledge of the actual science that philosophy of physics always has. But now, of course, we do not now all share the common background in one science (selected areas of physics) that earlier philosophers of science could draw on.
Jan Sprenger suggested that statistics and probability could act as unifying themes for PoS, given their importance right across the sciences, and their place at the heart of current models of confirmation, explanation, etc in PoS itself. But some participants argued that these formalisms were simply not that important in the sciences with which those participants were concerned. For example, although statistics are very important in bioinformatics, it is unclear that this is an important focus for work in the philosophy of the molecular biosciences, and recent work on that field has certainly not focused on issues in statistical inference.
Michael Friedmann and others pointed to the increasing importance of HOPOS (History of Philosophy of Science) as a part of the discipline of PoS. There was general agreement that this is the case, and, indeed, there were a remarkable number of papers looking at the ideas of Carnap at this conference. I myself wondered if PoS was not starting to work as many areas of philosophy traditionally have, analysing core problems through reading and interpreting earlier philosopher's work on those problems. Carnap in particular might play the role in future PoS that Kant or Hume do to general epistemology. The HOPOS approach has obvious potential to act as a unifying theme for the discipline.
Friedmann also pointed to the ambitions of early 20th century philosophers of science to do much more than offer a specialist philosophy of science, and in fact to reshape the whole of philosophy into a new, 'scientific philosophy'. Philosophy of science would thus be a central topic in philosophy because science matters to philosophy - to all of philosophy.
Another recent 'movement' within PoS had been so-called 'integrated History and Philosophy of Science' or iHPS. As I understand it, the idea is to repair the near-divorce between recent work in history of science and recent work in philosophy of science by encouraging philosophers of science to make historical research on the sciences they study an integral part of their own work. This sort of approach was not much in evidence at the actual meeting, so I asked for a straw poll of people in the room who saw historical research as an integral part of their own work in PoS. About half of the participants thought this was true of themselves.
One more strand of discussion concerned the role - and obligation - of PoS to interpret science for broader audiences. In the conference itself Massimo Pigliucci had outlined a role for PoS as 'science criticism', and there was some support in the room for the idea that PoS should seek to critically expound the significance of science to wider audiences.
Monday, April 19, 2010
The Centre for Values, Ethics and Law in Medicine at University of Sydney is currently looking for a 0.6 FTE senior research fellow to work on a Clinical Ethics project for 2 years. The position would be suitable for someone with extensive experience in qualitative research and project management, from a discipline such as bioethics, health social sciences, medical humanities or other related areas. Details are available here.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Time: Thursdays 6.00pm to 7.00pm
Format: 40 minute lecture followed by 20 minute Q & A
Recording: Audio podcasts will be available three days after the lecture
Cost: This is a free series, and all are welcome. No RSVP or registration is needed, please just turn up.
Kristie Miller (USyd) will be presenting at the University of Wollongong Philosophy Research Seminar series next Tuesday. All are welcome to attend.
Title: "Motion, laws and plenitude: Are there objects to which the laws of nature do not apply?"
When & where: April 20th, 5:30pm in room 19.1003
Abstract: It is a natural to assume that the domain of the concrete objects is coextensive with the domain of the objects to which the natural laws apply, and therefore that if we can find any concrete object that is at rest and does not stay at rest unless acted on by a net force, then we have found something that violates the law of inertia. Recently, however, this assumption has been challenged. The locus of this challenge has come from a number of metaphysicians who sign up for what I will call a plenitudinous ontology. Given a plenitudinous ontology, a great number of entities seem to be ones that violate one or other law of nature.Friends of plenitude have responded by conceding that the entities in question do violate the laws in question, and suggesting that the correct response is to distinguish two different kinds of concrete entity: the ones to which the laws apply, and the ones to which they do not. In this paper I advocate an alternative strategy according to which when the laws are properly understood, no concrete entity in the plenitudinous ontology ever violates those laws.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Seminar with Elliott Sober, "How to Construct an A Priori Causal Model – the Example of Sex Ratio Evolution"
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
University of Sydney Foundations of Physics Seminars (http://bit.ly/SydFoP) Wednesday, 31st March, 11:30am-1pm
Speaker: Pete Evans (University of Sydney)
Title: Sufficient structure for a dynamic view of time
"The traditional metaphysical debate between static and dynamic views in the
philosophy of time is examined in light of considerations concerning the
nature of time in physical theory. A sentiment commonly expressed in the
literature is that both static and dynamic views of time are consistent with
Minkowski's formulation of special relativity (in terms of Minkowski
spacetime). Adapting the formalism of Rovelli (1995, 2004), I set out a
precise framework in which to characterise some of the various
representations of time that we find in both physical theory and philosophy.
This framework is used to provide a new perspective on the argument for the
compatibility of the dynamic view of time and the special theory of
relativity. The origin of this compatibility is the dual representations of
time we find in special relativity. I extend this analysis to the general
theory of relativity with a view to prescribing the sufficiency conditions
that must be met for the dynamic view of time to be consistent with
Philosophy Common Room, Room S413, A14 Main Quad,
University of Sydney
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Philosophy Department, Otago University is hosting a one day workshop on "Composition, constitution, and mereology" to take place on Saturday, 5 June 2010. Invited speakers include former SCFS visiting fellow Patrick Greenough and SCFS researcher Kristie Miller. Abstracts can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 16 April.
Abstract: The credence you assign to a proposition is an important part of your epistemic attitude toward that proposition. But it's not the whole story. Another important factor is the stability of your credence: roughly the extent to which you expect it to change as you acquire new evidence. Expert probability functions -- be they the credences of your trusted weather forecaster, the credences of your future self or the objective chances -- serve to guide your credences to particular values. But they also serve to stabilize your credences, relative to particular types of evidence. By exploring this feature, I think we can better understand the relationship between credence and expert opinion, including the relationship between credence and objective chance.
22 March 1 - 2:30 pm
University of Sydney philosophy common room
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Monday, February 15, 2010
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Monday, February 1, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Level 4, Kerry Packer Education Centre
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital
Johns Hopkins Drive
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Monday, January 4, 2010
Macquarie University, Sydney
Monday 18 January, 2010
David Chalmers (ANU), Susanna Schellenberg (ANU), Jonathan Schaffer (ANU), Laura Schroeter (Melbourne), Dave Ripley (Institut Nicod, Paris), Lionel Shapiro (USyd / UConn), Tama Coutts (Melbourne).
There's titles and a preliminary timetable here. More information will be added to the website nearer the date.
Propositions play a foundational role in many areas of philosophy, but what are they? Is there a single class of things that serve as the objects of belief, the bearers of truth, and the meanings of utterances? How do our utterances express propositions? Under what conditions do two speakers say the same thing, and what (if anything) does this tell us about the nature of propositions?
This workshop, consisting of 7 talks by some of Australia's best philosophers, will address these questions and more. It will cover topics in philosophy of language, perception, and metaphysics.
Registration is free but places are limited, so please email Mark Jago (mark.jago at gmail.com) if you'd like to attend. Coffee, biscuits and cake will be provided. A picnic lunch is available at a small fee (to cover costs) for those who RSVP.
Organized by Rachael Briggs (Centre for Time, University of Sydney), Albert Atkin (Macquarie) and Mark Jago (Macquarie).
Sunday, January 3, 2010
Idan Ben Barak's book The Invisible Kingdom (Australian edition Small Wonders) is recommended in the December 11th issue of Science (p.1485).
Karola Stotz and I were captured by the paparazzi at a human nature workshop and the picture appeared in the December 17th edition of Nature (p.841). But we are only part of the entourage - the caption says 'John Dupre and his team'. The Nature article is an interesting discussion of the results of UKs 21 million pound investment in 'genomics in society' research, including an extended discussion of the value of philosophy in that context.