Alastair Wilson: Emergent Contingency
26 February 2016, 10:30 am - 12:00 pm EST
I begin by distinguishing between two conceptions of what needs explaining in modal metaphysics – necessity or contingency – and arguing that we should take seriously the neglected ‘necessity-first’ perspective. Then I illustrate how this perspective might work by offering a radical new theory of modality based on Everettian quantum mechanics (EQM), otherwise known as the Many Worlds Interpretation. The version of EQM to which I appeal is a diverging, or parallel-worlds, approach, as opposed to the more familiar overlapping, or splitting-worlds, approach. With diverging EQM in hand, I show how we can formulate a naturalistic form of modal realism, and I offer a reductive analysis of ordinary and scientific modal discourse including claims about possibility, necessity, chance, counterfactuals, and abilities. According to my proposed view, contingency is an emergent phenomenon: at the fundamental level, reality is non-contingent. I trace anticipations of this idea by philosophers including Parmenides, Spinoza and Lewis, and discuss some distinctive features of its Everettian implementation.
Alastair Wilson is a metaphysician and philosopher of science at the University of Birmingham. He has research interests in the metaphysics of modality, Everettian quantum mechanics, chance and laws of nature. Before taking up his position at Birmingham, did a B.Phil and D.Phil at Oxford, and held a postdoc at Monash University.
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