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.
Senior Lecturer, University of St Andrews
Metaphysics, Philosophical Logic, Philosophy of Religion
Frederick Copleston Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy and Theology, University of Oxford
Philosophical Anthropology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Medieval Philosophy and Theology
Stuart Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University
Mathematical Logic, Philosophy of Physics
Senior Faculty Researcher, University of Navarra
Philosophy of Mind/Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Physics, Complex Systems, Philosophy of Cosmology
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.