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