Prof. Jacob Schmutz (Paris-Sorbonne; Sorbonne Abu Dhabi University)
Date: 24th October 2017 (Tuesday)
Venue: : Government Innovation Lab (Crescent Building)
Contemporary societies are obsessed with controlling the future: predicting climate change, anticipating the shortage of natural resources, avoiding terrorist threats, or just the all too common home-jacking – ‘detect an intrusion, before it happens’, as a famous advertisement from Verisure® aptly puts it. However, controling the futures goes against philosophical common sense, expressed in a famous formula of Aristotle: whereas the past and the present are necessary, the future remains contingent and the realm of indetermination – we don’t know yet whether there is going to be a sea-battle tomorrow. In this talk, I will recall that the first authors to show discontent with this Aristotelian time logic were medieval theologians, both in Christianity and Islam, who needed to square the idea of divine predetermination and predestination (praedestinatio, qadar) with human freewill. I will present a typology of the various medieval solutions, and then show how a specific model eventually developped in the seventeenth century European scholastic tradition, associating temporal discussions (about the future) with modal discussions (about possible worlds), which allowed to create the new concept of futurible (futuribile in Latin), defined as ‘what could be future if there was a certain condition’. This allowed philosophers to develop a model safeguarding both the prediction of the future with the freedom of human agency – a sort of rational choice model whose structure still governs most of our contemporary representations.
Jacob Schmutz is Associate Professor in Philosophy at the University of Paris-Sorbonne (France). He was trained as a philosopher and historian at the universities of Brussels, Cambridge and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris). He is a former fellow of the French School of Hispanic Studies (Madrid) and has directed the Department of Philosophy and Sociology of Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi from 2010 to 2014. His research is mainly dedicated to the continuities between medieval and early-modern philosophy on topics such as modal metaphysics, theory of knowledge and theories of moral obligation, with a particular focus on the tradition of school formations (Thomism, Scotism, Nominalism).
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