The whole conference was very well organized and boasted a great line-up of other speakers. Without exception, I greatly enjoyed all their talks and find it hard to remember of which other conference I could truly say that!
It was notable, as Adam Caulton put it, that we seem to be witnessing a Renaissance of Nagelian reduction–at least as far as the philosophers of physics are concerned. Jeremy Butterfield, in his signature peacemaking fashion, as well as the conglomerate consisting of Foad Dizadji-Bahmani, Roman Frigg, and Stephan Hartmann presented a total of three papers highlighting the virtues of Nagelian reduction (or contemporary extensions of it).
Eleanor Knox presented her recently developed views on explanatory emergence, drawing a careful distinction between abstraction and explanation to argue for the (existence and) value of a weaker, explanatory, notion of emergence compatible with reduction.
Using Conway’s “Life”, Putnam’s peg problem, and the solar system as examples, David Wallace argued that higher-level objects can avoid being redundant without being irreducible to the fundamental theory and showed how weaker versions of a unity hypothesis (i.e., the idea that all of the structure has at bottom one system) are defensible in a semantic understanding of theories.
Finally, David Papineau argued that causation has a “thermodynamic-like”, and hence non-fundamental, quality because the fundamental dynamical laws do not exhibit asymmetries that would be necessary to underwrite the asymmetric features of causation. Of course, this argument would face a serious challenge, were we to discover that the true fundamental theory does, after all, have the requisite asymmetry.
And all of this in a room of the architecturally remarkable Senate House with all the style and grandeur fit to function as the meeting room of the rectors of the University of London. Cool (although not temperature-wise)!