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.


To begin with…

Few days ago I decided to start my second blog. On the first one, which I write in Polish (zapiski amerykańskie), I share the experience of my spiritual journey, my life in the united States among my Dominican brothers, and my friends. It is addressed to all those whom I left for some time back in Poland. However, I know that some of my American friends use Google translator and read it as well.

This second blog will be dedicated entirely to my studies and all my scientific, philosophical and theological interests. I decided that the time has come for me to share some of my discoveries. I’m excited and I have a hope that my blog will find its audience. I begin from scratch, everything will develop in time.

I am aware of the fact, that some of you who found me here, do not know me yet. That is why, my first post will be about myself, my studies and interests.

So, to begin with…

I am a Polish Dominican brother, ordained to the priesthood back in 2008 in Cracow, Poland. After I had spent three years working in a Polish Dominican Publishing House in Poznan, specifically in a monthly magazine “W drodze” (On the Way), and in the campus ministry, I moved to Berkeley, California, where I started my PhD studies at the Graduate Theological Union.

I am interested in the dialogue between science and theology. I believe more and more that philosophy of science, philosophy of nature, and metaphysics, provide a bridge where to meet these two supposedly opposite disciplines of human knowledge. In my studies I am concentrated on metaphysical aspects of the theory of emergence and complexity in biology, and possible use of these theories in the theology of divine action. As a Dominican I am supporting Aristotelian metaphysics and Aquinas’s theological position. However, I want to bring them into a conversation with the entire historical tradition and contemporary thinkers. For this reason, my research goes to topics such as: causation in the history of philosophy, causation in the scientific explanation, philosophy of science, and analytic tradition, philosophy of chance, and various problems in philosophy of biology. I have made a research on the major contemporary themes in the theology of divine action, based on: determinism, quantum indeterminacy, chaos theory, emergence, evolution and intelligent design. I try to bring these positions into a conversation with the classical Aristotelian-Thomistic stance. I have also spent some time on the contemporary versions of philosophical and theological panentheism and process philosophy and theology. I have lots of ideas in my mind, a whole list of books to be read, and never enough time for all that. 🙂

My advisor is professor Michael Dodds, O.P. who is a faculty member of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, and of the GTU in Berkeley, CA. I am also a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS) in Berkeley, CA. I work with professors Robert John Russel, and Ted Peters. I also stay in touch with professor Terrence Deacon from the UC Berkeley, who is the author of the new and original version of the concept of emergence in biology. My contact with professor Deacon is based on my little background in natural sciences (I studied biotechnology, but never earned a degree in it). I have MA degree in theology from the University of St. John Paul II in Cracow, and the STL in dogmatic theology from the University of Poznan, Poland.

Because of my studies, my pastoral ministry is limited to the minimum. I help in the Dominican parishes in Benicia, CA, and in San Francisco. I do ministry in English and in Spanish.

I love God, and the Catholic Church. I’m trying to work on my spiritual life, and grow more mature in my Dominican vocation among my brothers. I live in St. Albert’s priory in Oakland, CA. I commute to Berkeley on my bicycle. Biking, swimming, classical concerts, music in general (classical, alternative, trip-hop, and many other genera), sea food, and long walks – they all bring some rest when I feel tired with my studies.

I have a loving family back in Poland (my parents, and my sister Joanna, who is engaged with David), and in Dublin, Ireland (my brother Arthur, with his wife Barbara and two daughters: Sophia and Emily).

Like I said, I want to share my discoveries and my scientific, philosophical, and theological interests, and I plan to do it here on my new blog!!! Let’s search for Truth together!!! 🙂