Many folks share the popular view that physics is in the business of discovering the fundamental features of reality. But what is the nature of these properties? Physics does not reveal much. My current research, funded by a FONDECYT bursary of the Chilean government (FONDECYT de Iniciación en Investigación 2022 No. 112200300) aims to illuminate this question by giving us a better understanding of the metaphysics of fundamental physical properties.
I argue for the adoption of a conception of fundamental properties having two kinds of aspects: one dispositional, and the other qualitative. I argue that this view is the best conception for the putative fundamental properties identified by physicists. It captures how putative fundamental properties such as charge and mass determine the behaviour of things. But it also accommodates the highly mathematical, structural, and non-dispositional character of these, such as the features that these are conserved quantities and have determinate magnitudes.
More generally, work focuses primarily on the metaphysics of science. I am interested in the basic concepts and categories that we invoke to describe the world as we find it in scientific investigation such as those of a cause, property, law, and dependence. It is my belief that an insightful metaphysical theory must be scientifically-informed. As such, philosophical inquiry should go in hand with scientific theorizing. However, I also believe that metaphysics does not garner its value from being at the service of science.
In print and in my PhD thesis, I defend a novel version of fundamental powerful qualities. These are properties that simultaneously endow their bearers with distinctive dispositions and contribute to their characteristic appearance. I argue that my own version of powerful qualities gives us an account of fundamental properties which is metaphysically satisfactory and yet befitting of current science.
At present, in addition to carrying out my FONDECYT project, I am pursuing a number of publications projects on the metaphysics of powerful qualities. I am also exploring the philosophical ramifications of dispositional essentialism—the view that the fundamental properties of our world are essentially dispositional or powerful.
Another important strand of my research is the topic of fundamentality. Metaphorically speaking, the fundamental is everything that God would have to create in order to bring into existence everything else that exists. Currently, I am investigating two related questions: (1) Can we analyse adequately the fundamental in terms of other metaphysical notions such as grounding or ontological dependence? (2) What is the most adequate conception of fundamentality to make sense of the scientific picture of the world?
In recent times, I’ve become convinced that the notion of metaphysical grounding is key to acquiring a better understanding of the physical as well as metaphysical structure of reality. I am working on several projects exploring the theoretical fruitfulness of applying this concept to solve various metaphysical puzzles.
If you want to know more about my research and what I think about philosophy, here’s a recent interview I did: https://www.thehumanfront.com/grounders-gonna-ground-an-interview-with-joaquim-giannotti/