• Wednesday 28 February 2018 at Geneva – Lucy James (Bristol): What does fundamentality mean and what is its relevance for quantum gravity?
Abstract: I begin with giving some motivation for thinking of fundamentality as being relative or comparative, rather than absolute, in philosophy, with particular emphasis on the philosophy of physics. This results in a fundamentality relation which has the logical structure of a strict partial order. I briefly discuss this logical structure and then go on to explain how it applies to some specific cases where the idea of fundamentality is used in the literature. The overall aim is to establish when this relation holds, what its relata are, and which direction the relation points in between a given pair of relata. To this end, I distinguish two categories of relata: theories and things. I also categorise the relation into an epistemic and a formal or semantic fundamentality relation, which do not always agree about which direction to point when holding between the same pair of relata. I present further problems with attempting to define an overarching metaphysical fundamentality relation before finally giving some positive suggestions for how all of this bears on the quantum gravity problem. In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 2/5.