Sebastián Briceño and Stephen Mumford: "Relations All the Way Down?"

Sebastián Briceño and Stephen Mumford: "Relations All the Way Down?". Listen to the talk here.


According to Ontic Structural Realism (OSR), there are no such things as individuals and intrinsic natures but only relatively invariant patterns in a web of relations. It says, in a reductive slogan, that the world is structure all the way down. Central to OSR is the idea that relations are fundamental beings that make the world not a mere aggregate but an interconnected whole which cannot be understood as merely supervenient on local properties of its parts plus their spatiotemporal arrangement. OSR is committed to an irreducible relational holism. 

We will argue here against the extreme version of OSR defended by Ladyman and Ross (2007). We will focus on three main objections that have been discussed by them: 1. the ‘missing relata’ objection; 2. that OSR collapses the distinction between structure and non-structure; 3. that structural components of theories are also lost in theory change. As we will argue, none of these objections have been successfully answered. Based on Bradleyan suspicions against relations, we will end suggesting that the holistic picture of nature to which OSR is committed is desirable and well-motivated, but that relations are not the adequate means to obtain it. A holistic ontology is not necessary an ontology of relations.