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Lucy James (Lancaster) Sigma Club, Naturalised Metaphysics: The Case of Separability

24 October 2022, 2:00 pm3:30 pm

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This will be a hybrid lecture: you can attend in person in our usual LAK 2.06 seminar room, or on Zoom:

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Meeting ID: 852 3006 9457
Passcode: 297258

Abstract: This talk begins with a review of the central tenets of the naturalised metaphysics of Ladyman and Ross, with particular emphasis on the negative role of intuition, and their Principle of Naturalistic Closure. Their general methodology is applied to the issue of separability, a metaphysical principle which maintains that distinct regions of space or spacetime have fully independent properties. First, I assess whether our current best understanding indicates that the physical world is separable, and second, whether some formal definition of separability ought to constrain developing physics. I argue that separability is an example of precisely the sort of “everyday” or “common sense” intuition subject to revision in response to physical theory. Some physical phenomena, especially the Aharonov-Bohm effect, are best explained with recourse to some non-separable mathematical entity. This provides some evidence that future physics need not adhere to a formalisation of the “everyday” intuition of separability. Finally, I raise some open questions regarding precisely which formal definitions of separability, applied to which kind of space, could be useful in the foundations of quantum gravity.

Lucy James completed her PhD in Philosophy at the University of Bristol in 2022, and now lectures at Lancaster University.


24 October 2022
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm
Event Category:


Bryan W. Roberts


LAK 2.06
Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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