References to WWW
Philosophy Papers with Abstracts
Chronological list of papers (etc.) by Ian J. Thompson (www.ianthompson.org)
See also list without Abstracts.
List at philpapers
Journals & Book Chapters
- Two Ways of Looking at Time, Cogito 1 (Jan 1987) 4-6,
- The Nature of Substance, Cogito, 2 (1988) 17-19,
Modern physics has cast doubt on Newton's idea
of particles with definite properties. Do we have to go back to Aristotle for
a new understanding of the ultimate nature of substance?
- Swedenborg and Modern Science, Network, 36 (1988) 3-8,
This year is the 300th anniversary of the birth
of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 - 1772). Although he worked in the eighteenth
century, his investigations into the nature of physical, physiological and
spiritual processes are still relevant today, although they are not as widely
known as they deserve. In this article, I will briefly describe the stages in
Swedenborg's life, and outline his mature teachings with particular relevance
to what is relevant to the concerns of contemporary science, and to the
concerns of those wishing to extend that science.
- Real Dispositions in the Physical World, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 39
jstor, pdf and
The role of dispositions in the physical world
is considered. It is shown that not only can classical physics be reasonably
construed as the discovery of real dispositions, but also quantum physics.
This approach moreover allows a realistic understanding of quantum processes.
- The Consistency Of Physical Law With Divine Immanence, Science &
Christian Belief 5 (1993) 19-36,
A model is presented to show how the existence
of physical law could be a reasonable consequence of Divine Immanence in the
world of natural phenomena. Divine Immanence is seen as the continual
production of the principal causes or dispositions which enable created things
to act and change. It is argued that this model is physically consistent,
philosophically coherent, and theologically sound.
- Are Quantum
Physics and Spirituality related?, New Philosophy, 107 (2002) 333-355,
Discussing questions concerning quantum physics
and spirituality together is particularly valuable in order to see the
connection between them from a New Church standpoint. An urgent reason for
discussing this link is that some people want to identify these things. The
feeling is widespread that somehow they are connected, but some "new age"
people want to say that quantum physics tells us about spirituality. We know
from Swedenborg that the connection is not quite so simple, so we need to
understand in more detail what is going on.
- Discrete Degrees Within and Between Nature and Mind, 2008,
Examining the role of dispositions (potentials and propensities) in both
physics and psychology reveals that they are commonly derivative
dispositions, so called because they derive from other dispositions.
Furthermore, when they act, they produce further propensities. Together,
therefore, they appear to form discrete degrees within a structure of
multiple generative levels. It is then constructively hypothesized that
minds and physical nature are themselves discrete degrees within some more
universal structure. This gives rise to an effective dualism of mind and
nature, but one according to which they are still constantly related by
causal connections. I suggest a few of the unified principles of operation
of this more complicated but universal structure.
- Derivative Dispositions and Multiple Generative Levels, 2011,
in M. Suárez (ed.),
Probabilities, Causes, and Propensities
in Physics, Synthese Library, Springer,
The analysis of dispositions is used to consider
cases where the effect of one disposition operating is the existence of
another disposition. This may arise from rearrangements within aggregated
structures of dispositional parts, or, it is argued, also as stages of
derivative dispositions within a set of multiple generative levels. Inspection
of examples in both classical and quantum physics suggests a general principle
of 'Conditional Forward Causation': that dispositions act 'forwards' in a way
conditional on certain circumstances or occasions already existing at the
- Process Theory and the Concept of Substance,
Since the failure of both pure corpuscular and
pure wave philosophies of nature, process theories assume that only events
need to exist in order to have a physics. Starting from an ontology of actual
events, a dispositional analysis is shown here to lead to a new idea of
substance, that of a `distribution of potentiality or propensity'. This begins
to provide a useful foundation for quantum physics. A model is presented to
show how the existence of physical substances could be a reasonable
consequence of a theory of processes.
- Layered Cognitive Networks,
An architecture is proposed in which
connectionist links and pattern-directed rules are combined in a unified
framework, involving the combination of distinct networks in layers. Piaget's
developmental psychology is used to suggest specific semantic contents for the
- Quantum Mechanics and Consciousness: A Causal Correspondence Theory,
We may suspect that quantum mechanics and
consciousness are related, but the details are not at all clear. In this
paper, I suggest how the mind and brain might fit together intimately while
still maintaining distinct identities. The connection is based on the
correspondence of similar functions in both the mind and the
- Dualism in Descartes and Swedenborg, 2004, draft
Swedenborg used Descartes as a symbol of his
desired resolution of the mind-body problem in favour of ‘spiritual influx’,
but we see that Descartes’ position was substantially different in a number of
ways. We consider a number of modern objections and puzzles about dualism, and
how Descartes and Swedenborg each might respond.
- Pragmatic Ontology: Identifying Propensity as Substance, 2004, draft
In a pragmatic approach to ontology, what is
necessary and sufficient for the dispositional causation of events is
interpreted realistically, and postulated to exist. This leads to a general
concept of `substance', Aristotle's underlying `matter', as being constituted
by dispositions, and not just being the 'bare subject' for those dispositions.
If we describe the forms of objects according their spatiotemporal range, then
this form is best viewed as a field, and substances themselves are best
conceived as `fields of propensity'. With the help of such a concepts, we can
try to understand some of the more mysterious quantum features of nature, such
as the nature of 'measurements' and the reasonableness of `non-localities',
not to mention the duality of wave and particle descriptions.
- Power and Substance, 2009, draft
extension of dispositional essentialism is proposed, whereby what is necessary
and sufficient for the dispositional causation of events is interpreted
realistically, and postulated to exist. This ‘generative realism’ leads to a
general concept of ‘substance’ as constituted by its more fundamental powers or
propensities appearing in the form of some structure or field. This neo-Aristotlean
view is reviewed historically, and in respect to quantum physics.
of Nature and Quantum Reality,
The development a first-principles ontology
for processes with only one generative level, and hence very simple compared
with the multilevel structures here. It does, however, include a detailed
description of the relations between potentiality and actuality,
extensiveness and space, and how `being' remains constant during changes.
- Starting Science From God, 2011.
Website for the book.
Many of us these days sense there is something
real beyond the scope of naturalistic science. But what? Must mental and
religious lives always remain a mystery and never become part of scientific
knowledge? In this well-argued book, physicist Ian Thompson makes a case for
a 'scientific theism'. He shows how a following of core postulates of theism
leads to novel and useful predictions about the psychology of minds and the
physics of materials which should appear in the universe. These predictions
constitute a kind of 'theistic science'. It meshes surprisingly well with
the structure of reality already revealed by modern quantum field theory and
by theories of developmental stages in human minds. The result is a serious
look at a promising new rational structure encompassing theology, psychology
alongside (of course) many publications in
theoretical nuclear physics.