New Publications – Ready & Upcoming

Lots of things going on in my work and research. The first semester at the Notre Dame institute for Advance Science is almost over. In few days I’m gonna fly to Oakland CA for the Christmas break. I will spend there the whole winter break (1 month). I presented twice this semester at seminars at the institute and I am planning a series of seminars for students in the next semester, plus my regular engagement in the Institute. I met many interesting people here at Notre Dame.

I spent a considerable amount of time studying contemporary metaphysics, theories of properties, causation, and contemporary versions of hylomorphism. I also spent some time on the new meachanical philosophy – a theory about methodology and related to it ontology in philosophy of biology. All this goes to my first book, which I have accomplished few weeks ago. The project entitled Metaphysics of Emergence: Causes, Absences, and Dispositions is now under the review of the Notre Dame Press. 🙂

I started working on another book project which I hope to accomplish in the next semester of my fellowship here at the ND. The tentative title is: Divine Action and Emergentism: A Thomistic Alternative to Panentheism in Science/Theology Dialogue. Similar to my first project, this one also is based on my doctoral dissertation, which needs to be re-thought and expanded.

In the meantime, my paper from the conference on the emergent project of Terrence Deacon organized by the CTNS in Berkeley, CA in april 2016 – has been published HERE. 🙂

Also – a51vvnu3lel-_sx329_bo1204203200_ publication of long awaited (at least by me :)) new edition of Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction, with the chapters that I co-authored (17: Catholic Church Since Trent, and 25: Causation) has been announced: MARCH 2017. 🙂

Aristotle, Aquinas & Emergence

I was asked to write an article relating the teaching of Aquinas to contemporary science for the journal Scientia et Fides. I decided to use and further develop the material contained in my doctoral dissertation. I expanded my reinterpretation of the classical notion of emergence, with its emphasis on the role of downward causation, in terms of the fourfold notion of causation in Aristotle and Aquinas, and the theory of divine action offered by the latter. The PDF version of the article is available HERE.

Abstract of the article:

One of the main challenges of the nonreductionist approach to complex structures and phenomena in philosophy of biology is its defense of the plausibility of the theory of emergence and downward causation. The tension between remaining faithful to the rules of physicalism and physical causal closure, while defending the novelty and distinctiveness of emergents from their basal constituents, makes the argumentation of many proponents of emergentism lacking in coherency and precision. In this article I aim at answering the suggestion of several thinkers to redefine emergence and downward causation in terms of the broader Aristotelian view of causation. In addition, I further develop this interdisciplinary conversation to include theological implications of emergentism, analyzed in reference to Aquinas’ understanding of divine action in terms of the same fourfold division of causes—bringing thus natural science, philosophy, and theology into creative and fruitful dialogue.

Keywords: emergence; downward causation; hylomorphism; teleology; Aristotle; Aquinas.


Cooperation on the New Edition of an Important Book


I was invited to update and revise two articles for the new edition of the book on the history of the relation between science and religion, edited by Gary B. Ferngren. Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction was first published in 2002 and is a selection of articles from the larger volume entitled The History of Science and Religion in the Western Tradition. The book became popular and has been used as a textbook for classes on theology and science in many colleges. It’s an honor for me to be a part of the team working on the new edition which is expected to be published at the end of this year (2015).

I was asked to work on the chapter on Roman Catholicism after Trent, which was originally written by Steven J. Harris, and on the chapter on Causation, written by John Henry. I am currently working on the chapter about the Catholic Church after Trent.

Other than this, my paper on Thomas Aquinas and evolution is coming in August. I have finished the first draft of the 9th chapter of my dissertation. Three more chapters to be written… So, the reason that new entries appear on my blog rather seldom is basically that I’m really busy with all these projects. 🙂

Innsbruck – Paper

The conference in Innsbruck was very successful. But I must acknowledge that presenting my stuff in front of the audience trained mainly in analytic metaphysics, theoretical physics, and philosophy of physics, is a tough thing to do. The Q&A session was a challenge. I’ve established some good relations with the people form the theological faculty at the university of Innsbruck. I have just uploaded the full version of my paper online. You can find it HERE.

Metaphysics of Downward Causation

I have just finished writing my presentation for the conference on Agency and Quantum Physics in Innsbruck. I’m excited about it. This is the first time that I’m invited to give an hour long talk at the major session of an international conference. The conference begins on March 30th and ends on April 2nd. Here is the abstract of my paper:

Metaphysics of Downward Causation:
Nonreductionist Physicalism versus New Aristotelianism

Mariusz Tabaczek, O.P.

Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, CA


Many proponents of methodological nonreductionism in contemporary science find the notion of downward causation (DC) a sine qua non of the strong (ontological) version of emergence (EM), which strives to give an account of the irreducible character of the complex levels of the organization of matter. But what for many is the essence of nonreductionist physicalism, carries with it quite a bevy of problematic issues, and becomes a stumbling block and an obstacle for those, who acknowledge the metaphysical and logical inconsistencies of the emergent theory based on the idea of DC. For how can physicalism be non-reductionist? How can DC be reconciled with the causal closure of physics? What do “higher” and “lower” levels refer to? What is causal in DC? What is being caused (acted upon)? What is the very nature of DC?

I will argue that the defense of DC requires from us a broader notion of causation, which goes beyond the efficient causes accepted and described in modern science. I want to argue in favor of the retrieval of formal causation in particular. Its acceptance not only makes EM and DC plausible, but also helps to overcome and replace Humean causation of events with the causation of living and non-living beings, explained in terms of their causal powers and dispositions. I hope to show, in the course of my presentation, that true non-reductionism needs to be philosophically grounded. Yet it can still remain compatible with science provided it values and is open to the reflection offered by philosophy of nature. My position follows new Aristotelianism developed within the analytic tradition, although an explicit reintroduction of formal cause goes beyond it to the original thought of Aristotle.

Dissertation Proposal

Emergence and Divine Action:
Exploring the Dispositional View of Causation
as a New Philosophical Foundation

My dissertation proposal was accepted at the GTU systematic and philosophical theology area meeting on Oct 15. All I have to do is to have it approved by the GTU doctoral council (sometime in November) and then write it. 🙂 Few words of explanation concerning my current research that I wrote in an email sent to a scholar that I am corresponding with online, will serve as a good introduction to the topic of my work.

The reason I got interested in the dispositional metaphysics is its rejection of Humean view of causation and re-connecting with Aristotelian metaphysics and philosophy of causation. But there is not an easy connection that one can establish between the two I’m afraid. Although some thinkers like Brian Ellis argue in favor of essentialism (see his Scientific Essentialism), they are not ready, nor willing to accept hylomorphism. The other problem is teleology. Molnar speaks about the natural “physical intentionality” of powers to manifest themselves, but hardcore Aristotelians are not satisfied. For them Aristotle’s distinction between active and passive potencies is crucial. They emphasize the character of the active potencies which are causal grounds of certain effects but without being determined to those effects by nature or without requiring any stimulus condition to obtain. (See for instance the paper by Errin Clark, which will be published soon in proceedings of the ACPA conference that took place a week ago in D.C and was dedicated to dispositional metaphysics) But this whole argumentation sounds like another criticism of conditional view of causation which is criticized by several dispositionalists – so they can defend themselves here. But the question remains: how Aristotelian is dispositional metaphysics???

Complex systems approach, emergence and systems theory are fascinating in terms of their re-discovery of complex structures and their holistic approach to reality. But they are stuck with the Humean view of causation which is based on his atomistic ontology of events and his dismissal of the ontology of objects. But one ontology cannot do without the other. Objects have properties (smell, age, physical construction) which cannot be ascribed to events. But acknowledging this requires from us a step beyond efficient causation which is the only one accepted in modern science. But scientists are very suspicious about making this move and buying into formal and final causes. They want to eat the cake and have it. That is, they argue in favor of irreducible complexity in systems theory, while saying – at the same time – that after all everything is explainable at the level of physical particles. They call themselves “non-reductionist physicalists” which I think brings a logical contradiction. If they are willing to buy into formal and final causes they claim – as Deacon does – that they emerge on the way of the growing complexity of the organization of matter, whereas for Aristotle these causes are simply out there all the time and ground all structures and processes not only bottom-up or top-down, but – as my advisor Michael Dodds OP says – inside-out.

My project would be to try to propose dispositional metaphysics as a philosophical base and ontology for Deacon’s emergentism and suggest that accepting a sort of essentialism (not necessarily hylomorphic essentialism) does not contradict science but opens it to philosophy of nature which can help to overcome the causal closure imposed by modern philosophy and science. In the second part of my dissertation I will work on the theory of divine action based on emergentism. I will show that dispositional metaphysics opens the way back to the Aristotelian-Thomistic view of causation and divine action, and God/world relation, which I want to propose as an alternative to the panentheistic theology of divine action based on emergence developed by Arthur Peacocke, Philip Clayton, and Niels Gregersen.