The University of Texas at Austin - Civitas Institute

Oxford Colloquium

Why Middle-Sized Matters to Science, Theology and Metaphysics

May 1 – 3, 2024

The Centre for Theology, Law, and Culture in Oxford will bring together theologians, scientists and philosophers in a Colloquium to reflect on:

• The reality of Middle-Sized Things, such as plants, animals and people.

• Why the reality of Middle-Sized Things matters for science, theology and metaphysics.

• What metaphysics best supports the reality, autonomy and significance of Middle-Sized Things.

Papers will cover topics such as:

Science: open system approaches to physics, emergence, contextualism, teleology.

Theology: the incarnation, theology of the body, free will, ensoulment, normativity.

Metaphysics: hylomorphic metaphysics, participatory metaphysics, process metaphysics. 


This Colloquium is being supported by a grant from The Civitas Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, in addition to the financial support of The Centre for Theology, Law, and Culture at Oxford.


Our speakers include: physicists and philosophers of physics; metaphysicians and philosophers of mind; theologians and philosophers of religion.

Aaron Cotnoir

Senior Lecturer, University of St Andrews

Metaphysics, Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of Religion

Daniel De Haan

Frederick Copleston Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy and Theology, University of Oxford

Philosophical Anthropology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Medieval Philosophy and Theology

George Ellis

George Ellis

Emeritus Distinguished Professor of Complex Systems in the Department of Mathematics and Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town.

Philip Goff

Professor of Philosophy, Durham University

Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Religion

Hans Halvorson

Stuart Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University

Mathematical Logic, Philosophy of Physics

Mark Harris

Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford

Theology and the Physical Sciences, Modern views of the Bible, Miracles, Divine Action, The Environmental Crisis.


Vera Hoffmann-Kolss

Professor of Philosophy, University of Bern

Metaphysics, Philosophy of science, and Philosophy of Mind

Rob Koons

Robert Koons

Professor of Philosophy, UT Austin

Philosophical logic, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Religion


Alyssa Ney

Professor of Philosophy, UC Davis

Metaphysics, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Mind, General Philosophy of Science

Timothy O’Connor

Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University

Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind, and Philosophy of Religion


Christopher Oldfield

Research Associate, Faraday Institute for Science and Religion

Logic, Mereology, Scientific Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion


John Pemberton

Research Associate, LSE

Metaphysics, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Space and Time, Philosophy of Social Science

Jonathan Price

Barry Fellow of Pusey House and Pusey Fellow of St Cross, University of Oxford

Philosophy of Law

Emily Qureshi-Hurst

Junior Research Fellow and Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Oxford

Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Religion

Javier Sanchez

Senior Faculty Researcher, University of Navarra

Philosophy of Mind/Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Physics, Complex Systems, Philosophy of Cosmology


William Simpson

Civitas Research Fellow in Philosophy, UT Austin & Visiting Scholar in Philosophy, University of Oxford

Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Physics, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind

Robert Verrill

Prior of Blackfriars, Cambridge and Lector at Blackfriars, Oxford

Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Religion

Public Lectures and a Discussion        

Pusey House & St Cross College, St Giles, Oxford

Wednesday May 1, 2024   

Cosmologist George Ellis and the philosopher Robert Koons will outline their ‘big pictures’ of the natural world to a general audience and discuss the place of ‘middle-sized things’ (such as animals and human beings) within it. These talks will be followed by an open conversation as well as Q&A from the audience.

  • Professor George Ellis is a leading cosmologist and an outspoken advocate of ‘strong emergence’ in physics, chemistry and biology. He opposes the (micro)physical reductionism which has characterised much of philosophy of physics, as well as the infamous “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics. George will be discussing how the Universe seems purposeless if one looks at it on either very large or very small scales, but how an ‘open systems’ approach to physics allows middle-sized things to make a causal difference, restoring purpose and meaning to our view of the cosmos.
  • Professor Robert Koons is a philosopher and a prominent proponent of Aristotle’s doctrine of hylomorphism, which conceives the world as containing different, irreducible substances which have causal powers to act in the world according to their natures (including chemical and biological substances). Recently, he has been applying hylomorphism to the philosophy of mind and the interpretation of quantum physics. Rob will be arguing that the Aristotelianism of the scholastic period provides an attractive foundation for human values, and that a re-thinking of the philosophy of the natural sciences in Aristotelian terms is not only desirable but feasible.


Two-Day Academic Workshop  

Thursday and Friday May 2-3, 2024

A collection of academic papers about the reality of middle-sized things, such as plants, animals and people, why middle-sized things matter for science, theology and metaphysics, and what metaphysics best supports the reality and significance of middle-sized things.