Project

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All Things Must Pass: Ordinary Objects in a Relativistic World

Applicant Neeser Benjamin
Number 181493
Funding scheme Doc.Mobility
Research institution Department of Philosophy School of Arts and Sciences Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.09.2018 - 30.06.2019
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Keywords (11)

ordinary objects; similarity; metaphysics; identity; persistence; time; relativity theory; philosophy of physics; philosophy; tense; counterpart theory

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
La persistance des objets à travers le temps désigne le fait que les objets matériels qui nous entourent -artefacts, personnes, éléments naturels- existent pendant une période temporelle plus ou moins étendue. Ce phénomène en apparence trivial constitue une des principales sources d’étonnement pour les philosophes du temps car il met en jeux certaines des notions les plus fondamentales de notre appareil conceptuel : l’existence, l’identité, et le changement. La physique relativiste offre un nouveau regard sur cette question.
Lay summary
Contenu et objectifs

Le temps et les objets qui l’occupent sont aussi au cœur de notre meilleure théorie physique de l’espace-temps : la théorie de la relativité. Et la physique relativiste semble soutenir une vision de la persistance bien différente de nos intuitions préthéoriques, plus proche de la physique classique.
La persistance des objets à travers le temps désigne le fait que les objets matériels qui nous entourent —artefacts, personnes, éléments naturels— existent pendant une période temporelle plus ou moins étendue. Ce phénomène en apparence trivial constitue une des principales sources d’étonnement pour les philosophes du temps car il met en jeux certaines des notions les plus fondamentales de notre appareil conceptuel : l’existence, l’identité, et le changement. La physique relativiste offre un nouveau regard sur cette question.
Ce projet ambitionne de se placer à l’intersection de la métaphysique et des sciences, et d’évaluer la portée de ces considérations pour nos théories philosophiques de la persistance. Son objectif principal est de développer une nouvelle théorie de la persistance qui parvienne à un équilibre optimal entre l’ « image scientifique » que nous fournit la relativité, et l’ « image manifeste » du monde quotidien. Selon cette théorie, les objets ordinaires sont constitués de phases temporaires, reliées entre-elles par des relations de similarité dont nous sommes les principaux juges.

Contexte scientifique et social

Une des taches centrales de la philosophie est de fournir une théorie du rapport entre le discours scientifique et l’expérience quotidienne. Ce projet de rechercher poursuit ce but et illustre son importance. L’identité à travers le temps a des applications en éthique, en droit et en philosophie de l’action.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 18.07.2018

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Publications

Publication
Les incantatifs. Actes de langage, évaluations collectives et groupes sociaux
BonardConstant, NeeserBenjamin (2019), Les incantatifs. Actes de langage, évaluations collectives et groupes sociaux, in Implications Philosophiques, 1.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
6th International Philosophy of Time Conference Talk given at a conference Stages in Spacetime 24.06.2019 Boulder, Colorado, United States of America Neeser Benjamin;
5th Annual UConn Philosophy Graduate Student Conference Talk given at a conference Stages in Spacetime 30.04.2019 Storrs, CT, United States of America Neeser Benjamin;


Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
157792 The Metaphysics of Time and its Occupants: Reconciling the Manifest Image and Contemporary Science 01.08.2015 Temporary Backup Schemes

Abstract

You existed yesterday and will hopefully exist tomorrow. You will be the same you no matter the changes you undergo, until comes the change that is your undoing. The same is true of all material objects. A burning candle might change shape under the effect of heat but it will continue to exist until it melts completely. When one and the same thing exists at different times, we say that it persists. In the philosophy of time, persistence theories study the underlying structure of this mundane feat of existence and identity over time.Taken at face value, our beliefs about temporal existence, identity and change stand in stark disagreement. Philosophers offer two competing theories of persistence, striving to balance the conservation of our manifest image with a sound explanation. The first, endurantism, claims that objects are just the three-dimensional spatial things they appear to be, carried as such over time. The second, perdurantism, views objects as extended in time like they are extended in space: four-dimensional ‘spacetime worms’, having different parts at different times.In unifying space and time into one spacetime with a non-classical geometry, Relativity Theory (RT) has brought about a tremendous paradigm shift in our conception of time. If RT is correct, time does not exist as an independent and absolute dimension. The consequence for the metaphysics of persistence is threefold. First, the debate has become more intricate, because most classical notions are no longer applicable, and must be redefined or approximated. Second, it has become more urgent, since compatibility and engagement with science is now becoming a hallmark of good metaphysics. Finally, it has attracted renewed attention, for it assumes a greater significance. Bringing together relativity and persistence theories, relativistic persistence is asking: what becomes of our ordinary conception of objects in a universe described by relativistic physics? In my research project-and my dissertation-I attempt to answer this question.RT has been thought to straightforwardly support perdurantism, and thus to provide a decisive empirical argument against the allegedly more commonsensical endurantism. The hypothesis of my project is that the impact of RT is less direct, and more drastic. Prior to assessing the compatibility of persistence theories with a relativistic spacetime, RT urges us to reformulate the entire debate by means of new and more adequate formal tools. This essential task might leave the classical views and their proximity to common sense substantially altered. This research agenda is still under way; my project aims at advancing it.My central aim is to elaborate and defend a theory of ordinary objects in a relativistic world that has not yet been investigated and promises to be a serious contender: the relativistic stage view of persistence. It combines a four-dimensional, relativity-proof metaphysics with powerful representational resources making it able to vindicate our ordinary conception of objects, their identity and the way they change across time.This project endeavours to alter the way we think about persistence in the context of relativity. The problem is no longer simply to provide a metaphysical foundation for otherwise agreed-upon facts of temporal identity, but to investigate how the nature of ordinary objects in spacetime helps determining these facts.
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