Public Lectures | Why Middle-Sized Matters to Science, Theology and Metaphysics

Wednesday 1st May 3.00pm–5.20pm, Public Lectures at Pusey House: How the Science of the Middle-Sized Restores Purpose George Ellis (Cape Town). Professor George Ellis will discuss how the universe can seem a purposeless and amoral place if one looks at it exclusively on very large or small scales. Indeed, many scientific specialists of the very large or very small have claimed that there is no purpose in the universe. Paradoxically, however, they are ignoring the nature of their own lives on the middle-sized scale at which they exist; more specifically, how their existence within the physical world as ‘open systems’ enables purpose, meaning, and ethics to be effective in causing physical outcomes. The middle-sized scale is particularly important for biology where meaning and function are often denied due to focussing on the molecular scale alone.

Is Aristotle’s Philosophy of Nature Scientifically Obsolete? Robert Koons (UT Austin). Aristotle’s philosophy of nature dominated much of the world’s science from late antiquity until the 17th century and beyond. In this Aristotelian world, human beings and the middle-sized objects that we perceive and manipulate were among the first-class citizens of nature, imbued with real causal powers and potentialities. The period of ‘classical’ physics (from Galileo to Rutherford) seemed to eliminate the need for key elements of Aristotle’s scheme, including substantial forms for composite objects, natural powers and potentialities, and teleology. I argue that the Quantum Revolution has altered the epistemic landscape in ways that re-open questions of natural philosophy that have long been taken to be settled, laying the foundation for a neoAristotelian or ‘hylomorphic’ interpretation of quantum theory. This interpretation successfully bridges the gap between the domain of quantum entities and the world of actual experiments and observations, and, as a further bonus, reconciles what Wilfred Sellars called the manifest image of ordinary human life with our best scientific image of nature. Followed by discussion with Jonathan Price and Q&A.

Followed by Choral Evensong at 5:30pm