CALL FOR PAPERS: Reduction and Elimination in Philosophy and the Sciences

[Got this interesting email; just look at the shortlisted speakers, this is some pretty sick lineup]

31st International Wittgenstein Symposium 2008 on

  Reduction and Elimination in Philosophy and the Sciences

Kirchberg am Wechsel, Austria, 10-16 August 2008

William Bechtel, Ansgar Beckermann, Johan van Benthem, Alexander Bird, Elke
Brendel, Otavio Bueno, John P. Burgess, David Chalmers, Igor Douven, Hartry
Field, Jerry Fodor, Kenneth Gemes, Volker Halbach, Stephan Hartmann, Alison
Hills, Leon Horsten, Jaegwon Kim, James Ladyman, Oystein Linnebo, Bernard
Linsky, Thomas Mormann, Carlos Moulines, Thomas Mueller, Karl-Georg
Niebergall, Joelle Proust, Stathis Psillos, Sahotra Sarkar, Gerhard Schurz,
Patrick Suppes, Crispin Wright, Edward N. Zalta, Albert Anglberger, Elena
Castellani, Philip Ebert, Paul Egre, Ludwig Fahrbach, Simon Huttegger,
Christian Kanzian, Jeff Ketland, Marcus Rossberg, Holger Sturm, Charlotte

Alexander Hieke (Salzburg) & Hannes Leitgeb (Bristol),
on behalf of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society.

1. Wittgenstein
2. Logical Analysis
3. Theory Reduction
4. Nominalism
5. Naturalism &Physicalism
6. Supervenience
– Ontological Reduction & Dependence
– Neologicism

More detailed information on the contents of the sections and workshops can
be found in the “BACKGROUND” part further down.

Instructions for authors will soon be available at <>.
All contributions will be peer-reviewed. All submitted papers accepted for
presentation at the symposium will appear in the Contributions of the ALWS
Series. Since 1993, successive volumes in this series have appeared each
August immediately prior to the symposium.

Further information on registration forms and information on travel and
accommodation will be posted at <>.

The symposium will take place in Kirchberg am Wechsel (Austria) from 10-16
August 2008. Sunday, 10th of August 2008 is supposed to be the day on which
speakers and conference participants are going to arrive and when they
register in the conference office. In the evening, we plan on having an
informal get together. On the next day (11 August, 10:00am) the first
official session of presentations will start with Professor Jerry Fodor’s
opening lecture of the symposium. The symposium will end officially in the
afternoon of 16 August 2008.

Philosophers often have tried to either reduce “disagreeable” entities or
concepts to (more) acceptable entities or concepts, or to eliminate the
former altogether. Reduction and elimination, of course, very often have to
do with the question of “What is really there?”, and thus these notions
belong to the most fundamental ones in philosophy. But the topic is not
merely restricted to metaphysics or ontology. Indeed, there are a variety
of attempts at reduction and elimination to be found in all areas (and
periods) of philosophy and science.

The symposium is intended to deal with the following topics (among others):

– Logical Analysis: The logical analysis of language has long been regarded
as the dominating paradigm for philosophy in the modern analytic tradition.
Although the importance of projects such as Frege’s logicist construction
of mathematics, Russell’s paraphrasis of definite descriptions, and
Carnap’s logical reconstruction and explicatory definition of empirical
concepts is still acknowledged, many philosophers now doubt the viability
of the programme of logical analysis as it was originally conceived.
Notorious problems such as those affecting the definitions of knowledge or
truth have led to the revival of “non-analysing” approaches to
philosophical concepts and problems (see e.g. Williamson’s account of
knowledge as a primitive notion and the deflationary criticism of Tarski’s
definition of truth). What role will — and should — logical analysis play
in philosophy in the future?

– Theory Reduction: Paradigm cases of theory reduction, such as the
reduction of Kepler’s laws of planetary motion to Newtonian mechanics or
the reduction of thermodynamics to the kinetic theory of gases, prompted
philosophers of science to study the notions of reduction and reducibility
in science. Nagel’s analysis of reduction in terms of bridge laws is the
classical example of such an attempt. However, those early accounts of
theory reduction were soon found to be too naive and their underlying
treatment of scientific theories unrealistic. What are the state-of-the-art
proposals on how to understand the reduction of a scientific theory to
another? What is the purpose of such a reduction? In which cases should we
NOT attempt to reduce a theory to another one?

– Nominalism: Traditionally, nominalism is concerned with denying the
existence of universals. Modern versions of nominalism object to abstract
entities altogether; in particular they attack the assumption that the
success of scientific theories, especially their mathematical components,
commit us to the existence of abstract objects. As a consequence,
nominalists have to show how the alleged reference to abstract entities can
be eliminated or is merely apparent (Field’s Science without Numbers is
prototypical in this respect). What types of “Constructive Nominalism” (a
la Goodman & Quine) are there? Are there any principal obstacles for
nominalistic programmes in general? What could nominalistic accounts of
quantum theory or of set theory look like?

– Naturalism & Physicalism: Naturalism and physicalism both want to
eliminate the part of language that does not refer to the “natural facts”
that science — or indeed physics — describes. Metaphysical Naturalism
often goes hand in hand with (or even entails) an epistemological
naturalism (Quine) as well as an ethical naturalism (mainly defined by its
critics), so that also these two main disciplines of philosophy should
restrict their investigations to the world of natural facts. Physicalist
theses, of course, play a particularly important role in the philosophy of
mind, since neuroscientific findings seem to support the view that,
ultimately, the realm of the mental is but a part of the physical world.
Which forms of naturalism and physicalism can be maintained within
metaphysics, philosophy of science, epistemology and ethics? What are the
consequences for philosophy when such views are accepted? Is philosophy a
scientific discipline? If naturalism or physicalism is right, can we still
see ourselves as autonomous beings with morality and a free will?

– Supervenience: Mental, moral, aesthetical, and even “epistemological”
properties have been said to supervene on properties of particular kind,
e.g., physical properties. Supervenience is claimed to be neither reduction
nor elimination but rather something different, but all these notions still
belong to the same family, and sometimes it is even assumed that reduction
is a borderline case of supervenience. What are the most abstract laws that
govern supervenience relations? Which contemporary applications of the
notion of supervenience are philosophically successful in the sense that
they have more explanatory power than “reductive theories” without leading
to unwanted semantical or ontological commitments? What are the logical
relations between the concepts of supervenience, reduction, elimination,
and ontological dependence?

The symposium will also include two workshops on:

– Ontological Reduction & Dependence: Reducing a class of entities to
another one has always been regarded attractive by those who subscribe to
an ideal of ontological parsimony. On the other hand, what it is that gets
reduced ontologically (objects or linguistic items?), what it means to be
reduced ontologically, and which methods of reduction there are, is
controversial (to say the least). Apart from reducing entities to further
entities, metaphysicians sometimes aim to show that entities depend
ontologically on other entities; e.g., a colour sensation instance would
not exist if the person having the sensation did not exist. In other
philosophical contexts, entities are rather said to depend ontologically on
other entities if the individuation of the former involves the latter; in
this sense, sets might be regarded to depend on their members, and
mathematical objects would depend on the mathematical structures they are
part of. Is there a general formal framework in which such notions of
ontological reduction and dependency can be studied more systematically? Is
ontological reduction really theory reduction in disguise? How shall we
understand ontological dependency of objects which exist necessarily? How
do reduction and dependence relate to Quine’s notion of ontological

– Neologicism: Classical Logicism aimed at deriving every true mathematical
statement from purely logical truths by reducing all mathematical concepts
to logical ones. As Frege’s formal system proved to be inconsistent, and
modern set theory seemed to require strong principles of a genuinely
mathematical character, the programme of Logicism was long regarded as
dead. However, in the last twenty years neologicist and neo-Fregean
approaches in the philosophy of mathematics have experienced an amazing
revival (Wright, Boolos, Hale). Abstraction principles, such as Hume’s
principle, have been suggested to support a logicist reconstruction of
mathematics in view of their quasi-analytical status. Do we have to
reconceive the notion of reducibility in order to understand in what sense
Neologicism is able to reduce mathematics to logic (as Linsky & Zalta have
suggested recently)? What are the abstraction principles that govern
mathematical theories apart from arithmetic (in particular: calculus and
set theory)? How can Neo-Fregeanism avoid the logical and philosophical
problems that affected Frege’s original system — cf. the problems of
impredicativity and Bad Company?

If you know philosophers or scientists, especially excellent graduate
students, who might be interested in the topic of Reduction and Elimination
in Philosophy and the Sciences, we would be very grateful if you could
point them to the symposium.

With best wishes,

Alexander Hieke and Hannes Leitgeb

Hannes Leitgeb
Professor of Mathematical Logic and Philosophy of Mathematics
Departments of Philosophy and Mathematics
University of Bristol
9 Woodland Road
Bristol BS8 1TB, UK
Tel: (+44)(0)117 928 8890
Fax: (+44)(0)117 928 8626


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