John Pemberton

John Pemberton is an Associate at the Centre for Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences at the LSE (since 1994), a Research Associate on the Mereology of Potentiality project at Corpus Christi in Oxford, an Associate of the Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS) at Durham University where he is a member of the Knowledge for Use (K4U) programme, and a member of the Society for the Philosophy of Time (SPoT).

Current research:    

My current research is focused on lasting ontology. A lasting entity is one (roughly) which exists for some period of time (not just a single point in time) and is ontologically prior to its temporal parts. This research is inspired by Aristotle's ontology, that I take to be a lasting ontology (i.e. an ontology of lasting entities), and in particular his accounts of change, powers, possibility and mereology. I show how lasting ontology provides a solution to problems associated with change, such as those of instantaneous velocity and no-successors. I explore ontologies of lasting actors, i.e. lasting entities that may bring about changing through time, e.g. by attracting, heating or pushing. I show how lasting actors may compose – and the attractiveness of such ontologies on criteria such as parsimony, fit-with-science and coherence. Lasting ontologies stand in contrast to mosaic ontologies, such as those of Plato, Hume and Lewis.


This ontological research has developed out of long-standing work with Nancy Cartwright focused on nomological machines (i.e. mechanisms), causation, powers, and laws of nature which continues as a major strand of my research. Nomological machines are configurations of features with powers which give rise to characteristic change processes and hence regularities that we record as laws.


Main topics:

Ontology, changing, change, process, powers, causation, configuration, arrangement, mechanism, laws.


Current and recent writings

I am currently drafting a book: Lasting ontology - the following three papers set out arguments and ideas which are central to the development of the book:


        Aristotle's alternative to enduring and perduring: lasting. (2022). Ancient Philosophy Today: Dialogoi.


Powers - the no successor problem. (2021). Journal of the American Philosophical Association.


Individuating processes. (2018). In Individuation across theoretical and experimental sciences, editors:  Otávio Bueno, Ruey-Lin Chen and Melinda Fagan, Oxford University Press.

   Joint papers with Nancy Cartwright:

Mechanisms, laws and explanation (2020). Cartwright, Pemberton & Wieten. European Journal for Philosophy of Science.

Ceteris paribus laws need machines to generate them (2014). Pemberton & Cartwright. Erkenntnis special issue: Semantics and pragmatics of ceteris paribus conditions.

Aristotelian powers: without them, what would modern science do? (2013). Cartwright & Pemberton. In Powers and capacities in philosophy: the new Aristotelianism. Edited by J. Greco and R. Groff. Routledge.

Another recent paper, which will provide the basis for a chapter of the book is Powers license possibilities used in contemporary sciences (originally presented at the Real possibilities, determinism and free will conference in Konstanz, 18-21 March 2015.)

Another less recent paper which is relevant to my current work is: Integrating mechanist and nomological machine ontologies to make sense of what-how-that evidence

Previous papers linking to work in finance and economics:

Why ideals in economics have limited use in Idealization XII: Correcting the model, idealization and abstraction in the sciences. Edited by Martin Jones and Nancy Cartwright. Poznan Studies in the philosophy of the sciences and the humanities.

The methodology of actuarial science. British Actuarial Journal, volume 5, part I, no. 21. April 1999.

(Recent papers are available on my Academia webpage.)