If you have trouble viewing this e-flyer please click here to visit our webpage.

August 2011

 

Luc Bovens

Luc Bovens

Head of Department

 

Rom Harré

Rom Harré

Director of CPNSS

 

Roman Frigg

Roman Frigg

Deputy Director of CPNSS

 

 

Simon Glendinning

Simon Glendinning

Director of the Forum

 

 

Kristina Musholt 

 

Kristina Musholt

Deputy Director

of the Forum

 

 

Juliana Cardinale 

 

Juliana Cardinale

Coordinator &

Programme Adviser

 

 

CONTACT:
philosophy-dept@lse.ac.uk

 

 

Philosophy@LSE comprises the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, the Forum for European Philosophy, and cognate faculty in various departments at the LSE.

The purpose of this Newsletter is to keep our students, alumni and the general public informed of the latest developments in Philosophy@LSE.

 

Chaos, Butterflies and Droplets of Ink

Editorial

 

 

Charlotte WerndlCharlotte Werndl, who joined the Department last year, was awarded the James T. Cushing Memorial Prize in History and Philosophy of Physics for her article 'What Are the New Implications of Chaos for Unpredictability?' (The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 2009). The prize is awarded in memory of James T. Cushing, who was a Professor of Physics and Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

 

All I know about chaos theory is that it has something to do with butterflies flapping their wings and weather predictions. Wiki teaches me that this item of scientific lore goes back to the catchy title of Edward Lorenz's seminal article 'Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?' delivered to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1972. Reading on a bit I notice that the vexing question seems to be how to distinguish chaotic from random systems, and this, Wiki tells me, "has also been discussed in philosophy", with a footnote to Charlotte's paper.


This piqued my interest. I skimmed through the paper, but it is not easy to digest for the uninitiated. There are lots of exotic expressions such as 'Lyapunov exponents', 'KAM-type systems' and 'Devaney chaos'. I asked her whether she could give me a quick 'for the rest of us' version of what the great achievement was all about. She was happy to oblige and what follows is my layman's transcription of scribbles on a few paper napkins.


Think of eight planets twirling around the sun. Tell me about the mass, location and velocity of each body today and I will tell you where the planets will be on New Year's Day.

 

Think of a gambler who agrees to the following deal today. A fair coin will be flipped on New Year's Eve.If it comes up heads, then she will win £100. If it comes up tails, then she will lose £100. Will the gambler be richer or poorer by New Year's Day? I can't tell – there's no way to predict.

 

I can predict how the planets will behave because I have deterministic laws to rely on. I cannot predict how the gambler will fare because there is an element of chance in it. Fair enough. But now here is the catch. There are systems that are governed by deterministic laws and yet I still cannot predict how they will progress. Those are chaotic systems. The links from the butterfly wings flapping in Rio and many other things today to the tornado in Texas on New Year's Day are fully deterministic – and yet there is no way to predict that tornado on New Year's Day.


So why is this the case? Well, I can only measure the features that are relevant to tornado prediction with a certain level of precision. And this level of precision permits me to make some fairly good predictions of tornadoes in the next hour, some halfway good predictions of tornadoes tomorrow, but when it comes to tornadoes on New Year's Day, the level of precision is too low to give me a clue.


One needs to be careful, though. Let's go back to the planets. Also in measuring the location of the planets, the level of precision is finite. And also this lack of precision will affect my predictions – I will not be able to predict where that planet will be on New Year's Day with complete accuracy.

 

The difference, however, is that coming to learn the features about the world today that are relevant to planetary location on New Year's Day puts constraints on where the planets are likely to be on New Year's Day – and pretty severe constraints. However, coming to learn about the features of the world today that are relevant to tornadoes in Texas on New Year's Day does not affect how likely it is that there will be a tornado on New Year's Day. I might as well not bother – it does not make a hoot of difference to my prediction.

 

Here is where the metaphor of 'mixing' comes in. Drop a small amount of ink, consisting of many small molecules, in a glass of water. Half a second from now the molecules will all be concentrated in a small neighbourhood of the point of impact. However, after a few seconds the ink will have uniformly dissolved in the water and a molecule can be anywhere in the glass.

 

This brings me to Charlotte's claim. What sets apart chaotic systems is the following. The molecules of ink put into the glass correspond to the initial state of the system. After very short time periods any molecule will be close to the point of impact, implying that the outcome of the system is predictable. However, after longer time periods, a molecule can be anywhere in the glass because the ink has spread through the water, and hence its location cannot be predicted at all. This means that the initial state did not put any constraints on the outcome of the system and is irrelevant for predictions. So for chaotic systems, knowledge of the initial state is completely irrelevant for predictions which are sufficiently far in the future. 

 

And this, Charlotte claims, is a novel answer to the question, What is the special kind of unpredictability shown by chaotic systems? It is what sets chaotic systems apart from completely random systems and from other deterministic systems like the planets.

 

Luc Bovens
Head of Department

Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

 

WHAT IS NEW IN PHILOSOPHY@LSE?

Visiting Fellows

The Department appointed two new LSE Fellows, Amandine Catala from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Foad Dizadji-Bahmani from the LSE for 2011-12. 

Karin Edvardsson Björnberg (KTH, Stockholm) is a Marie Curie fellow in the Department from 2010-12 on the project Rational Decision-Making in Adaptation to Climate Change.

Adam Caulton is a Jacobsen fellow in the Department from 2010-12 on the project Symmetries and Interpretation in Physics.

Eric Martin holds a three-year LSE fellowship for the God's Order, Man's Order and the Order of Nature Project housed in CPNSS.

 

Books and Journals

 

Chris Brown published Practical judgement in international political theory: selected essays, Routledge (2010).

 

Roman Frigg published Beyond Mimesis and Nominalism: Representation in Art and Science, Springer (2010) (with Matthew Hunter).

 

David Held published Cosmopolitanism: ideals and realities, Polity Press (2010); edited The Cosmopolitan Reader, Polity Press (2010) (with Garett Brown); edited The transformation of the Gulf: politics, economics and the global order, Routledge (2011) (with Kristian Ulrichsen); edited The governance of climate change: science, politics and ethics, Polity Press (2011) (with Marika Theros and Angus Hervey); and edited the Handbook of transnational governance: new institutions and innovations, Polity Press (2011) (with Thomas Hale).

Wulf Gaertner's new book Empirical Social Choice, CUP (jointly with Erik Schokkaert) is coming out in the Fall of 2011.

Simon Glendinning's new book Derrida: A Very Short Introduction, OUP is due to come out shortly. 

Paul Kelly edited John Stuart Mill - thought and influence - the saint of rationalism, Routledge (2010) (with Georgios Varouxakis).

Christian List has published Group Agency: The Possibility, Design and Status of Corporate Agents, OUP (jointly with Philip Pettit).

Miklos Rédei edited EPSA Launch of the European Philosophy of Science Association, Volume 1, Epistemology and Methodology of Science; Volume 2. Philosophical Issues in the Sciences, Springer (2010) (with M. Suárez and M. Dorato).

Lea Ypi's new book Global Justice and Avant-Garde Political Agency, OUP is coming out in the Fall of 2011.

A terrific team of student editors (Jonathan Benn, Grace Fox, Josh Green, Blake Heller, Charlotte Holloway, Tom Pugh, Anneken Swaantje Tappe, Ivanka van der Merwe, and Raha Vaziri-Tabar) published the fourth edition of the BSc and MSc journal Rerum Causae.

A no less terrific team of student editors (Andréana Lefton, Brian Noone, Avi Patchava, Maria Rosala, and Beth Cherryman) published the first volume of Philosoverse. 

 

Fellowships, Prizes and Honors

Students:    

Andreea Achimescu (BSc Philosophy and Economics) received a scholarship from the Evert Will Beth Foundation (Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences) to support her Research Masters in Logic at the Institute for Logic, Language and Computation at the University of Amsterdam.

Chlump Chatkupt was awarded an LSE Research Studentship to study for a PhD at the Department. 

Sarah Alexandra George (BSc Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method) was awarded the 'Cara Giulietta' ('Dear Juliet') prize for her letter to Shakespeare's most romantic heroine. For more info, click here|. To read her prize-winning letter, click here|.  She also received a scholarship from the Thai Government to study Buddhist Ethics and Muay Thai (Thai boxing). 

Jonathon Gunn (BSc Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method) was awarded the Andrea Mannu Prize for best performance in our undergraduate degrees.

Andréana Lefton (MSc Philosophy and Public Policy) received an honourable mention for The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics (2010) and high commendation for the Bernard Levin Award for Journalism (2011).  

 

Agnes Neher (MSc Philosophy of the Social Sciences) received a Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Scholarship to study for a PhD at the department of Catholic Theology and Business Ethics in the University of Hohenheim/Stuttgart.

 

Ben Ferguson and Esha Senchaudhuri (PhD students) received LSE Teaching Awards.

 

Staff:

Luc Bovens received a fellowship from the British Academy for his project on fairness and responsibility sharing in asylum policy in the EU. 

Richard Bradley received an AHRC fellowship to complete his book Decision Making with a Human Face.

Roman Frigg was a visiting scholar at the Descartes Centre for the History and Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities at Utrecht University in the Fall of 2010.

Christian List and Luc Bovens will be fellows at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in the Fall of 2011.

Charlotte Werndl was awarded the James T. Cushing Memorial Prize in History and Philosophy of Physics for her article 'What Are the New Implications of Chaos for Unpredictability?' (The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 2009).

John Worrall received a Wagner Fellowship in the Philosophy of Risk at the Center for Philosophy of Science/HPS Department at the University of Pittsburgh in the Winter of 2011.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

The 2011 Auguste Comte Memorial Lectures titled 'The Prospect of Harm to Civilians in the Ethics of War' were delivered by Professor Frances Kamm (Harvard University).

The 2010 Lakatos Prize recipient is Professor Peter Godfrey-Smith (Harvard University) for his book Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection , OUP (2009).

 

UPCOMING EVENTS

We are all madly planning for an exciting new academic year. The calendar is slowly falling into place. Here is a sneak preview.    

The Department will be hosting the Popper Memorial Lecture and the Lakatos Prize lectures. Next year's Auguste Comte lectures will be given by Joshua Cohen (Stanford). We will be conducting a hire for a lecturer in Business Ethics jointly with the Management Department. And we will be starting off with a new undergraduate course, viz. Philosophy and Public Policy, which will be the new capstone course for the BSc degree Politics and Philosophy. To keep informed about the Department's activities, click here.

The Forum is putting the final touches on its programme for Michaelmas term 2011-12. On the schedule is a discussion led by J. McKenzie Alexander on the Evolution of Morality, a dialogue on Love with Simon Mays and David Bell (the President of the British Psychoanalytical Society), an event on Architecture and Happiness with Roger Scruton and Ben Rogers, an event on The Philosophy of Flavour/Wine with Barry Smith, a discussion of Chaos Theory with Charlotte Werndl and Paul Glendinning, and an event on Workplace Democracy with Axel Gosseries and Paul Loach. In the "probably forthcoming" category is a discussion on Photography: Art versus Document, a book launch of Simon Glendinning's Derrida: A Very Short Introduction and a discussion of Free Speech on Campus. To keep informed about the Forum's activities, click here.      

The Centre will start the academic year with a new Director, Roman Frigg. We thank the outgoing director Rom Harré for his dedicated service over the last three years. We have started a Friends of the Centre initiative. Public Lectures in the upcoming academic year will include Evelyn Fox-Keller, Paul Nurse and Quentin Skinner. To keep informed about the Centre's activities, click here.

 

WHAT'S NEW?

LSE Fellow

(2011-12):

Amandine Catala

Amandine Catala

(Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Public Policy)

 

LSE Fellow

(2011-12):

Foad Dizadji-Bahmani

Foad Dizadji-Bahmani

(Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Physics, 20th Century Analytic)

 

Jacobsen Fellow

(2010-12):


Adam Caulton

Adam Caulton (Philosophy of Language, Feminist Philosophy, Philosophy of  Physics, Philosophy of Science, Logic)

Marie Curie Fellow

(2010-12):

 

Karin Edvardsson Bjőrnberg


Karin Edvardsson Bjőrnberg

(Environmental Philosophy)

 

LSE Fellow

CPNSS

(2010-13):

 

Eric Martin

 

Eric Martin

(Environmental Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Religion)

 

SUPPORT SCHEMES

The Department has been fortunate to be the recipient of support from members of the community who identify with and wish to support the kind of interdisciplinary philosophy that the Department is renowned for.

We are currently looking for charitable giving to support the following projects:

£50,000

PhD Scholarship though LSE partnership. A donor contribution of £12,500 per year with a commitment of four years will be matched by the School.

£15,000-£25,000

One-year MSc Scholarship. It has been particularly difficult to attract students from non-OECD countries to our MSc programmes. We invite donors to target regions and topics of interest.

£5,000

Conference funding. The LSE Philosophy community welcomes suggestions from donors for areas of interest.

£5,000

Miscellaneous: Contributions will support invited speakers, travel funding for students presenting at conferences and provide support to students for our yearly Philosophy retreat in Cumberland Lodge.

< £5,000

Gifts below £5,000 can be made to the LSE Annual Fund which supports scholarship, student services and facilities across the School.

Note: UK tax payers pay 80% of the above amounts and the School can claim the remainder through Gift Aid.

We are grateful to all of our donors. If you wish to become a donor, please contact Helen Green at h.r.green@lse.ac.uk. Depending on your desire for involvement with the LSE Philosophy community, we will keep you updated of recent events, welcome you to our conferences, events and social occasions.