“Naturalism, Functionalism and the Metaphysics of Science”

Alison Fernandes – Trinity College Dublin

Wednesday, February 22, 2023
1:00pm–3:00pm (East Coast time)

[Registration Form] (Abstract and Video Below)

• The Foundations of Physics @Harvard series is co-sponsored by the Department of Philosophy
• This is a free Zoom event (no registration fee)
• The meeting ID and password will be shared with those who register
• Each talk will be 1 hour, followed by a 5-minute break and then 55 minutes for questions
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• You can visit the YouTube channel here

Questions or comments: Jacob Barandes, <lastname>(at)g.harvard.edu (organizer)

Slides (PDF)
Video (YouTube)


Open Discussion and Q&A


Methodological naturalism is a plausible approach to the metaphysics of science: we should adopt the standards and resources of science when giving accounts of what science says there is. Given naturalism, I’ll argue that there are certain explanatory demands that metaphysical theories must meet. Theories must be able to explain, in naturalistic terms, why we reason using the posits of that theory and the role that the posited entities play. The surprising result is that, even when doing the metaphysics of relatively fundamental physics, and without giving up realism, we need to consider how fundamental entities are relevant for our lives. This naturalistic functionalist approach has consequences for current debates in the foundations of physics: favouring attempts to explain the temporal asymmetry of relations such as causation in broadly statistical-mechanical terms and disfavouring Humean attempts to reduce modal relations to the non-modal.