The following are three presentations of mine in the USA and in Chile. A forthcoming post will details the works-in-progress about the principle of least action and its broader, umbrella project on the Aristotelian-Thomistic foundations of classical and modern physics. Part of this will be an annotated bibliography on the philosophy and physics of the least action principle. Numerous persons are to be thanked for their helpful comments on drafts of these papers (they are mentioned in the hopefully forthcoming publications); all of these papers form a parts of my postdoctoral project, FONDECYT Postdoctorado Proj. Nº 3170446.
(1) “The Action and Power of the Universe” (Part 1)
Abstract: Part 1 of this series of papers outlines the basics of the principle of least action (PLA), its history, and then proposes, in outline, an Aristotelian interpretation of the PLA in terms of the definition of motion, Aristotle’s theoretical physics of the mobile continuum, interpretations of the Lagrangian and the energy functions, and the scholastic notion of virtual quantity. A previous entry in this series was presented at the IV Congreso Internacional de Filosofía Tomista, under the title “Operari sequitur esse y el principio de acción mínima,” a final draft of which is available here. Together with Part 2 (see below), these three papers are parts of an overall major project on least action, symmetry, and conservation principles which I hope to finish by the end of this calendar year.
(2) “Is Personal Dignity Possible Only If We Live in a Cosmos?”
Abstract: The Catholic Church has increasingly invoked the principle of human dignity as a way to communicate the message of the Gospel. Catholic philosophers must therefore defend this principle in service to Catholic theology. One aspect of this defense is how the human person relates to the universe. Is human dignity of a piece with the material universe in which we find ourselves? Or is the part’s dignity alien in kind to such a whole? Or does the truth lie somewhere in between? The metaphysics of creation properly locates the human being in the universe as a part, ordered to the universe’s common good of order and ultimately to God. Human dignity is possible only in a cosmos; that this is concordant with modern scientific cosmology is briefly defended in conclusion.
Both of the above papers will be presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Catholic Philosophical Association.
(3) “The Action and Power of the Universe: The Principle of Least Action and Our Knowledge of Nature” (Part 2) — to be presented at the First Chilean Conference on the Philosophy of Physics (program here)
Abstract: This second part of the series on the PLA outlines a dispositionalist ontology of the PLA. This contributes to and advances a discussion begun by John Bigelow et al., as well as Brian Ellis, whose dispositionalist interpretation of global symmetries has been debated by Joel Katzav, Benjamin Smart and Karim Thébault, Vladislav Terekhovich, and Vassilis Livanios. We proceed in three steps. First, we review the theoretical and empirical content of the PLA. Second, we survey the objections against the dispositionalist interpretation of the PLA. Third, we propose an Aristotelian account of energy, action, and conservation in the universe. Aristotelian dispositionalist hylomorphism can consistently interpret the PLA insofar as it models mutable, continuous physical systems behaving according to their natural motions. Arguments are suggested for the sufficiency of this account in opposition to Leibnizian, Humean, Platonic, or modal metaphysical interpretations.
These presentations were produced as part of my postdoctoral research project.
FONDECYT Postdoctorado, Proj. Nº 3170446