Workshop #7: Powers, Processes and Persistence (July 2024)

Date: 4-5 July 2024
Venue: University of Siegen, Campus Unteres Schloss, Hörsaalzentrum US-C (Kölner Str. 41, 57072 Siegen, Ger), Room 101

Powers, Processes and Persistence is the final manifestation of the DFG-Network on Change and Change-Makers (CCM). The goal of CCM was to enable a dialogue about the future of the debate about persistence. In contrast to the standard debate about persistence, where change is simply presupposed, CCM looks closer at how changes come about and how they are mitigated through time. The working hypotheses was that powers are the change makers bringing about change, which unfold as processes over time. These, in turn, are the basis for persistence. Powers, Processes and Persistence is thus not just a random sequence of words, but a blueprint for a deeper understanding of the ontological connections between these three fields. These connections will be illuminated from various sides by contributions from experts of all three fields.

Daniel Deasy (Dublin)
Heather Demarest (Boulder)
Catharine Diehl (Leiden)
Kristina Engelhard (Trier)
Florian Fischer (Siegen)
Dirk Franken (Münster/Mainz)
Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (Helsinki)
Anne Sophie Meincke (Vienna)
Walter Mesch (Münster)
Ulrich Meyer (Colgate)
John Pemberton (Durham)
Antje Rumberg (Tübingen)
Thomas Sattig (Tübingen)
Niko Strobach (Münster)
Federico Viglione (Milano)


If you would like to participate, please send an e-mail to Change and Change-Makers <>.

Dirk Franken, Florian Fischer

Provisional program

Thursday, July 4, 2024

10:00-10:15 Florian Fischer & Dirk Franken: Introduction
10:15-11:00 Daniel Deasy: Propositional Temporalism and Change
11:15-12:00 Federico Viglione: Persisting through the Most Dynamic Time
12:15-13:00 Ulrich Meyer: Infinitesimal Action
13:00-14:30 lunch break
14:30-15:15 Niko Strobach: Is the fact (if any) that time is always passing just the fact that time is topologically infinite in both directions?
15:30-16:15 Kristina Engelhard: What are potentials?
16:15-17:00 coffee break
17:00-17:45 Florian Fischer & Antje Rumberg: The Dynamicity of Powers
18:00-18:45 Heather Demarest: Potency Best Systems and the Generation of New Powers
19:30- workshop dinner (for speakers and network members)

Friday, July 5, 2024

10:15-11:00 John Pemberton: Lasting – powers, processes and persistence
11:15-12:00 Walter Mesch: Aristotle on the Persistence of Substances. A Reconsideration
12:15-13:00 Dirk Franken: Essence Originalism, and the Categorical Distinction between Objects, Events, and Processes
13:00-14:30 lunch break
14:30-15:15 Anne Sophie Meincke: Continuant Processes or Processual Continuants? Towards an Analytic Process Metaphysics
15:30-16:15 Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson: Substances as Enduring Powerful Processes
16:15-17:00 coffee break
17:00-17:45 Catharine Diehl: tba
18:00-18:45 Thomas Sattig: Persistence and Perception
18:45- closing & informal get-together

Abstracts (in alphabetical order)

Daniel Deasy: Propositional Temporalism and Change

Frege and Russell both defended the view that the facts do not really change; for instance, Frege writes that ‘complete thoughts’ are ‘true not only today or tomorrow but timelessly’. However, some contemporary philosophers are attracted to the view that the facts really do change, or in other words, that some truths are only temporarily true. But how exactly should we understand the view that the facts really change? Is that view compatible with relativism about the present (the ‘B-theory’)? And, is it compatible with ‘reductionism about tense’? In this paper, I try to address these questions.

Heather Demarest: Potency Best Systems and the Generation of New Powers

I examine two extant potency best systems, one by myself (2017) and one by Kimpton-Nye (2018). I argue that neither can account for the possibility of the generation of novel potencies. This points to the need for a new potency best system that makes a crucial distinction between initial distributions of potencies and subsequent distributions of potencies. I articulate and defend such a view.

Catharine Diehl: TBA
Kristina Engelhard: What are potentials? 

In my talk I am concerned with the metaphysical issue whether there are distinguishing features of potentials understood as a certain kind of property such as the potential of an acorn to turn into an oak tree or the potential of a girl to become a professional chess player. However, the concept “potential” is a vague concept; this is why in the first part of the talk I analyse it according to Carnap’s method of explication before giving s metaphysical analysis. Many philosophers equate potentials with common dispositions (Vetter 2015) – this is for grounding modality in dispositional properties – sometimes they are determined as higher order dispositions – mainly in the debate in applied ethics on the argument from potential. My theses however are first that there are different models of potentials to be spelled out in a metaphysics of potentials. My second thesis is that all these models have in common that potentials differ from common dispositions; this is evident if the bearer of the property and the manifestation process is taken into account. A potential is a disposition the manifestation of which consists in a transformative change of its bearer. This feature gives rise to questions concerning persistence.

Florian Fischer & Antje Rumberg: The Dynamicity of Powers

Since the rise of neo-Aristotelianism, it is generally believed that powers are dynamic properties. But what exactly makes powers dynamic, and where is the alleged dynamicity to be located? In the relation between the power and its manifestation or in the manifestation itself? While representatives of the former view often allude to the notion of directionality, representatives of the latter view often draw on processes. But this, in itself, just shifts the question. In this talk, we aim to get to the bottom of dynamicity and clarify its interrelation with directionality and processes.

Dirk Franken: Essence Originalism, and the Categorical Distinction between Objects, Events, and Processes 

I introduce a new conceptual tool for drawing the distinctions between different categories of concrete entities. What I call essence originalism is true of a kind of entities iff the following holds for any entity of this kind: If t is the first time at which the relevant entity exists, the fact that this entity exists at all is fully determined by things going on at or before t. First, I explain and motivate essence originalism by reference to the category of objects. Then, I try to show that this conceptual tool can also help us to draw the elusive distinction between events and processes. The assumption that essence originalism applies to processes, but not to events, allows us to account for some of the characteristic differences between both kinds of entities without resorting to the implausible assumption that processes lack temporal parts.

Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson: Substances as Enduring Powerful Processes

Substance and process ontologies are assumed to be contrary and incompatible to each other. The former representing reality as “an assembly of static individuals whose dynamic features are either taken to be mere appearances or ontologically secondary and derivative”, the latter insisting on dynamicity as a fundamental characteristic (Seibt 2020). However, the only characterisations of substance that strike me as plausibly static are the now extinct Parmenidean view that everything is one and all diversity and change is illusory, and the static block view depiction of everything made up of temporal parts bearing properties at specific space-time points. The latter view allows diversity/variation across space and through time, but many find it difficult to see that it can accommodate ‘genuine change’, i.e. something remaining numerically the same though variation of properties over time.
Admittedly, dynamic conceptions of substance (e.g. hylomorphism) do not explicitly state that substances are continuously changing, only that they essentially can change, but that arguably means that hylomorphism is compatible with the postulation of continuous change. It has been argued that Aristotle was moving towards a conception of substance as essentially changing entities (Sentesy 2020), but I think it is agreed that no hylomorphic account has so far been developed that explicitly entails that substances continuously change. Nevertheless, if it is assumed that substances not only can change but continuously do so, they would count as processes in so far as these are only understood as entities for which change is essential. Unfortunately, processes are not always characterised in such a minimalist sense, but often in a manner that arguably secures a contrast even to characterisations of substance as continuously changing. I have here in mind the stage view of process, which Rescher sketches in the form of six characteristics: processes are homeomerous entities constituted by a series of temporally ordered stages, each of which goes through becoming, are ontologically distinct and yet causally and generically linked (Rescher 2000: 5–6).
In this talk I will, first, give an outline of which conceptions of substance vs. process are genuinely incompatible even given the minimalist sense of ‘process’. Second, argue that of the six criteria Rescher mentions, only the distinctness of stages is incompatible with a conception of substance. Third, argue that the distinctness of stages entails several very unpalatable consequences: (i) the traditional conception of change—one and the same thing having different properties at different times—does not apply to processes; they either change, like perduring entities, by different stages having different properties, or by every part going through absolute becoming, (ii) there can be no efficient causation only correlation of stages undergoing absolute becoming, and (iii) there can be no generic link of any familiar kind; distinctness rules out any common element between stages. In other words, the stage view makes substance and process ontologies genuinely incompatible, but on the cost of a highly problematic conception of process. Fourth, I will argue that my powerful particulars view of causation (Ingthorsson 2021) may offer a way to develop an hylomorphism that explicitly characterises substances as continuously changing.

Anne Sophie Meincke: Continuant Processes or Processual Continuants? Towards an Analytic Process Metaphysics

According to a widely accepted view, entities may be either so-called continuants, i.e., three-dimensional entities, such as substances or objects, or so-called occurrents, i.e., four-dimensional entities, such as events and processes. This consensus is currently being challenged as part of ongoing ventures to distinguish processes as an ontological category in its own right from events. Processes, it is claimed, bear characteristics that set them apart from events, and these characteristics either make processes qualify as continuants, as notably Rowland Stout has argued, or at least make processes very much like continuants, which is Helen Steward’s more moderate view. In my paper, I review the arguments put forward by Stout and Steward for their respective positions and argue that there are good reasons to think that processes indeed are continuants rather than merely resembling them, but that this is not enough. Instead, the same reasons that lead us to accept continuant processes ought also to convince us that there are no non-occurrent continuants in addition to occurrent ones. All existing concrete continuants are processual continuants.

Walter Mesch: Aristotle on the Persistence of Substances. A Reconsideration

According to Aristotle, the persistence of substances is their most distinctive characteristic. As he puts it in the Categories, neither numerically one and the same colour can be white and black nor numerically one and the same action good or bad. An individual substance, however, can receive contraries without perishing or disappearing itself. How this is possible, is left unexplained in the Categories. Aristotle here simply points to the example of a human being which at one time is white and at another black, at one time warm and at another cold or at one time good and at another bad, and seems to regard these changes as obvious cases of alteration. Scholars agree that Aristotle´s explanation presupposes his hylomorphic model developed in the Physics and that this model is crucial for his treatment of substances in the Metaphysics, but disagree on how it should be understood concerning persistence. In my paper, I want to reconsider the controversial topic.

Ulrich Meyer: Infinitesimal Action

This paper makes a case for infinitesimal action, in which the state of the world at a single time or at a single point imposes necessary constraints on what is happening in its infinitesimal neighborhood, but not on what is happening at a finite temporal or spatial distance.

John Pemberton: Lasting – powers, processes and persistence

There are two main options for the basic ontology of the physical world: (1) it comprises entities which exist for a single point in time or (2) it does not, rather it comprises entities which exist for some period of time. Most contemporary ontologies, including mosaic ontologies of neo-Humeans such as Russel and Lewis, explicitly or implicitly opt for (1). Although Aristotle opted for (2), this view has received little attention in more recent philosophy. I dub ontologies in (2) ‘lasting and set out some arguments in their favour. And I show how this position underwrites distinctive and compelling accounts of powers, processes and persistence.

Thomas Sattig: Persistence and Perception

We visually perceive objects as being temporally extended in a way that is very different from how we visually perceive objects as being spatially extended. What does the non-spacelike temporal extension of visual objects consist in? Philosophers of persistence have proposed several alternative conceptions of non-spacelike temporal extension. But none of these conceptions works for the persistence of visual objects. The aim of this talk is to present a conception of non-spacelike temporal extension that does capture the persistence of visual objects. The proposed approach will be framed by a reconceptualization of the distinction between endurantism/three-dimensionalism and perdurantism/four-dimensionalism.

Niko Strobach: Is the fact (if any) that time is always passing just the fact that time is topologically infinite in both directions?
Federico Vigilone: Persisting through the Most Dynamic Time

Philosophers of time usually distinguish between static and dynamic theories of temporal reality. However, it is not yet well understood why some theories should be described as dynamic, as opposed to static (Tallant & Ingram 2023, 207). Furthermore, it remains an open question whether some theories are more dynamic than others, and if so, why. In this talk, I argue that dynamicity comes in degrees: the more variation in metrical properties related to reality’s boundaries a theory allows, the more dynamic it is. Given this, I argue the most dynamic theory of time possible should not assume temporal atomism–i.e., that time is composed of (either extended or durationless) temporal atoms. In the final part of the talk, I consider the relevance of the rejection of temporal atomism for Lewis’ problem of temporary intrinsics, outlining what it could mean to persist through the most dynamic time.