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The idea, that pos­si­ble states of af­fairs play a cru­cial role in the de­scrip­tion of nat­ural processes is al­ready pre­sent in Aris­to­tle. Yet with the re­nun­ci­a­tion of Aris­totelian nat­ural phi­los­o­phy and the ad­vent of clas­si­cal physics, and clas­si­cal me­chan­ics in par­tic­u­lar, the no­tion of po­ten­tial­ity has lost its im­por­tance al­most en­tirely. Even the ad­vance­ment of clas­si­cal me­chan­ics into rel­a­tivis­tic and quan­tum me­chan­ics did not lead to a re­vival of an on­to­log­i­cally rel­e­vant no­tion of po­ten­tial­ity in sci­ence.

In the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury there were, how­ever, at least two at­tempts to re­vi­talise the con­cept of po­ten­tial­ity: On the one hand, there was Werner Heisen­berg’s sug­ges­tion to in­ter­pret the quan­tum me­chan­i­cal Schroedinger-Equa­tion as a de­scrip­tion of the evo­lu­tion of po­ten­tial phys­i­cal states which be­come ac­tu­al­ized only upon mea­sure­ment; and there was, on the other hand, Al­fred North White­head’s process meta­physics, in which so called “ac­tual oc­ca­sions” are sug­gested as fun­da­men­tal on­to­log­i­cal en­ti­ties. Within this meta­phys­i­cal scheme, the re­la­tional as­pects be­tween oc­ca­sions and, in par­tic­u­lar, the re­la­tion­ships be­tween ac­tual and po­ten­tial oc­ca­sions are of cru­cial im­por­tance.

The aim of this pro­ject is to re­vi­talise an on­to­log­i­cally rel­e­vant no­tion of po­ten­tial­ity, as White­head pro­posed it, and to ap­ply it the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of quan­tum me­chan­ics and com­plex sys­tems in bi­ol­ogy. In this con­text, the dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion be­tween sub­stance- ver­sus process-on­to­log­i­cal de­scrip­tions of na­ture, the re­vi­sion of the clas­si­cal con­cept of ef­fi­cient causal­ity, as well as the ex­plo­ration of a for­mal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of lo­cal-global-re­la­tions by means of cat­e­gory the­ory (sheaf the­ory in par­tic­u­lar) will be ma­jor sys­tem­atic is­sues.

This pro­ject is part of an in­ter­na­tional col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween philoso­phers, math­e­mati­cians and sci­en­tists. (Fur­ther in­for­ma­tion to the pro­ject)

Dr. Karim Bschir
Prof. Dr. Michael Hampe

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Article number: PI922O042-Q11

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