Event Detail

Thu Sep 24, 2009
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
George Myro Memorial Lecture
Mark Wilson (University of Pittsburgh)
From the Bending of Beams to the Problem of Free Will

This talk combines philosophy of science and history of philosophy concerns. We shall examine a basic example of mixed level modeling within science, wherein macroscopic data is combined with smaller scale considerations to provide a predictive framework that is generally far more trustworthy than any straightforward “bottom up” modeling (our discussion will center, quite literally, on how beams bend). Leibniz had a keen appreciation of the merits of such modeling (he wrote the first important scientific paper on the subject) and seems to have based his understanding of the phrase “the best of all possible worlds” upon the kind of optimization appropriate to mixed level schemes. Oddly enough, a surprising story of free will emerges naturally from this way of thinking.