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Monday, 4 July 2011

Schaffer and Latour

In our take of the internal relatedness of things, Manuel and me are considering the case of physical intentionality. We think we can show that an all-pervasive internal relatedness of things entail no priority monism - the thesis that there is an object on what any other depend but that itself depends on nothing, according to Schaffer. There is at least one way to understand the internal relatedness of things that entails no internal relation between things but only between things and types. In any case, we have to show that physical intentionality amounts to a genuine case of internal relatedness of things in Schaffer's sense. His take here is that internal relatedness requires some kind of constrain on modal freedom.

Now, we name the claim that there is an internal relatedness of all things World Holism (which affords the catchy contrast between holism and wholism, the latter being something akin to Schaffer's priority monism). Hpwever, I would also see occasionalists like I take Latour as world holists since in any connection between two things, the rest of the world intervenes. The trouble is that occasionalism is actualist (skeptical about modality) and requires no kind of internal relation (or internal relatedness). It is maybe the reverse image of a modal connection. Take the dispositional link between sugar and a solvent, say water. On the modal take, there is an internal relation (that could be a necessary connection) and things that can block it (like temperature and pressure, or more sophisticated scenarios). The space opens then to talk on finks, antidotes etc. On the occasionalist take, there is no internal relation but it is only due to all the other elements around (temperature, pressure etc) that water affects sugar, it is only by means of these media that a connection is established, there is nothing internal, nothing that survives its surroundings. As a consequence, there is no room for essences.

Occasionalists would have nothing like the internal relatedness of things if that requires constraining relations. But I think there is something substantial in common between them and the thesis of internal relatedness of all things. Occasionalism entails the following:

(1) No two things relate independently of their surroundings.

While modally informed world holism entails this:

(2) No two things relate independently of their modal constraints.

Both (1) and (2) entail this:

(3) No two things can relate in full independence.

I believe (3) is substantial: it is enough to exorcise some sort of atomist conception of contingent relations. Occasionalism postulates contingent, external relations, but they are not atomic. In this sense it is in the same boat as modal world holism.

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