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Lena Zuchowski: Poincare's conventionalism

No advocacy of choice but a call for epistemic scepticism

Lecture by Lena Zuchowski (Salzburg), organized by the Dept. of Theoretical Philosophy

I will present a novel interpretation of Poincare's geometry conventionalism, which differs from the current received view by denying the empirical underdeterminancy of geometry and therefore the ability of a single protagonist to choose freely between geometries.

Instead, I will argue that perceptual-empirical adequacy prescribes the adoption of an Euclidean geometry to a given protagonist. However, the perceptions underlying this observer’s notion of empirical adequacy might be fallible, which can be made apparent by comparing them to those of a hypothetical, ontologically privileged observer. Recognizing this fallibility should induce any observer to be sceptical about the ontological veracity of perceptual-empirically derived concepts. I will argue that Poincare's conventionalism should be interpreted as a call for such epistemic scepticism. I will also show that Poincare's heated-disk world thought experiment is an illustration of precisely this interpretation of conventionalism.

When & where?

Thursday November 11, 3.15-5pm
Faculty of Philosophy, room Omega

Last modified:24 September 2015 1.53 p.m.