Causal Perspectivalism and Physics Workshop – 22 Sep 2021

On Wednesday 22 September 2021, the FraMEPhys project at the University of Birmingham is hosting a free one-day workshop entitled ‘Causal Perspectivalism and Physics’ via Zoom. Registration details will appear here shortly.

If you have any queries about this event, please email f.longworth@bham.ac.uk

SPEAKERS

Alison Fernandes (Trinity College Dublin)
“How Agency Features in Explaining the Direction of Causation”

Jenann Ismael (Columbia University)
“It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see”

Peter Evans (University of Queensland) – (Joint work with Gerard J. Milburn and Sally Shrapnel)
“Causal asymmetry from the perspective of a causal agent”

SCHEDULE (Times BST)

Wednesday 22 September

1400-1510: TBC

15-minute break

1525-1635: TBC

15-minute break

1650-1800: TBC


ABSTRACTS

Jenann Ismael (Columbia University)
“It’s not what you look at, it’s what you see”
Many writers have pointed out that the apparent direction of causation depends on a coarse-graining that carves phase space into macrostates in a radically uneven way. I will look at the complex set of ways in which agency depends on and exploits the thermodynamic gradient and assess what that means for the senses in which agency (and the causal ideas that agents deploy in navigating the world) are a matter of perspective

Peter Evans (University of Queensland). (Joint work with Gerard J. Milburn and Sally Shrapnel)
“Causal asymmetry from the perspective of a causal agent”
Agency accounts of causation are often criticised as being unacceptably subjective or anthropocentric. According to such criticisms, if there were no human agents then there would be no causal relations, or, at the very least, if humans had been different then so too would causal relations. Here we describe a model of a causal agent that is not human with a view to exploring this latter claim. This model obeys the known laws of physics, and we claim that it endows the causal agent with a “causal viewpoint: a distinctive mix of knowledge, ignorance and practical ability that a creature must apparently exemplify, if it is to be capable of employing causal concepts” (Price, 2007, p.255). We argue that this model of a causal agent provides a clear illustration of the epistemic constraints that define such a ‘causal perspective’, and we employ the model to demonstrate how shared constraints lead to a shared perspective. Furthermore, we use this model to scrutinise the alignment of three familiar asymmetries with the causal asymmetry: the thermodynamic arrow, the arrow of time, and the arrow of deliberation and action.