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The metaphysics of physics: natural philosophy

English title The metaphysics of physics: natural philosophy
Applicant Esfeld Michael
Number 149650
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Section de Philosophie Faculté des Lettres Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.11.2013 - 30.11.2016
Approved amount 569'723.00
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Keywords (6)

interpretation of quantum physics; Natural philosophy; Philosophy of physics; philosophy of time; Metaphysics of science; naturalized metaphysics

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Die Metaphysik der Physik: Naturphilosophie
Lay summary

Das Projekt gehört zur Grundlagenforschung in der Philosophie. Es setzt sich ein für eine Naturphilosophie, die – wie zur Zeit von Descartes, Leibniz und Newton – Physik und Philosophie als untrennbar betrachtet, im Gegensatz sowohl zu einer positivistischen Metaphysik, die metaphysische Aussagen direkt aus den Formalismen physikalischer Theorien abzuleiten versucht, als auch einer rationalistischen Metaphysik, die metaphysische Aussagen a priori allein durch Reflexion zu begründen versucht. Wie eine solche Naturphilosophie heute konkret aussehen kann, soll anhand von drei Fallstudien gezeigt werden: (1) dem Verhältnis von Relativitätsphysik, Quanten-Nicht-Lokalität und der Metaphysik des Blockuniversums, (2) der Ontologie der Quantenphysik, (3) methodologischen Richtlinien für eine Ontologie der Quantengravitation.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.09.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
How to account for quantum non-locality: ontic structural realism and the primitive ontology of quantum physics
Esfeld Michael (2017), How to account for quantum non-locality: ontic structural realism and the primitive ontology of quantum physics, in Synthese, 194, 2329-2344.
Relationalism about mechanics based on a minimalist ontology of matter
Vassallo Antonio, Deckert Dirk-André, Esfeld Michael (2017), Relationalism about mechanics based on a minimalist ontology of matter, in European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 7, 299-318.
From the universe to subsystems: Why quantum mechanics appears more stochastic than classical mechanics
Oldofredi Andrea, Lazarovici Dustin, Esfeld Michael, Deckert Dirk-André (2016), From the universe to subsystems: Why quantum mechanics appears more stochastic than classical mechanics, in Fluctuations and Noise Letters , 15, 164002.
Leibnizian relationalism for general relativistic physics
Vassallo Antonio, Esfeld Michael (2016), Leibnizian relationalism for general relativistic physics, in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 55, 101-107.
On the conceptual issues surrounding the notion of relational Bohmian dynamics
Vassallo Antonio, Ip Pui Him (2016), On the conceptual issues surrounding the notion of relational Bohmian dynamics, in Foundations of Physics, 46, 943-972.
Bell’s theorem and the issue of determinism and indeterminism
Esfeld Michael (2015), Bell’s theorem and the issue of determinism and indeterminism, in Foundations of Physics, 45, 471-482.
Can Bohmian mechanics be made background independent?
Vassallo Antonio (2015), Can Bohmian mechanics be made background independent?, in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 52, 242-250.
General covariance, diffeomorphism invariance, and background independence in 5 dimensions
Vassallo Antonio (2015), General covariance, diffeomorphism invariance, and background independence in 5 dimensions, in Bigaj Tomasz (ed.), Brill-Rodopi, Leiden, 237-258.
On the importance of interpretation in quantum physics. A reply to Elise Crull
Esfeld Michael, Vassallo Antonio (2015), On the importance of interpretation in quantum physics. A reply to Elise Crull, in Foundations of Physics, 45, 1533-1536.
The GRW flash theory: a relativistic quantum ontology of matter in space-time?
Esfeld Michael, Gisin Nicolas (2014), The GRW flash theory: a relativistic quantum ontology of matter in space-time?, in Philosophy of Science, 81, 248-264.
A persistent particle ontology for QFT in terms of the Dirac sea
Deckert Dirk-André, Esfeld Michael, Oldofredi Andrea, A persistent particle ontology for QFT in terms of the Dirac sea, in British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 1.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Center for Philosophy and the Sciences, Rutgers University, Prof. B. Loewer, Prof. S. Goldstein United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Institut d’histoire et philosophie des sciences, Paris I, Prof. J. Dubucs, Prof. M. Kistler France (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Universität Bern, Institut für Philosophie, Prof. C. Beisbart Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Department of Philosophy, Uni. of California, San Diego, Prof. C. Callender, Prof. C. Wüthrich United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, University of Leeds, Prof. S. French Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel
Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, Prof. S. Hartmann, Prof. H. Leitgeb Germany (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel

Scientific events



Self-organised

Title Date Place
Metaphysics and physics: methodological links 17.11.2016 Lausanne, Switzerland

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
132389 Causal properties and laws of nature in the philosophy of science 01.10.2010 ProDoc

Abstract

The present research project belongs to foundational work in philosophy. Its aim is to establish a methodology in the metaphysics of science that treats physics and metaphysics as inseparable, in contrast to both a neo-positivist naturalized metaphysics that seeks to read metaphysical consequences directly off from the formalism of a physical theory and a neo-rationalist a priori metaphysics based on conceptual analysis. The project thereby intends to reanimate natural philosophy as it was practised in the 17th and the 18th centuries, when the physical enquiry into nature and the metaphysics of nature were considered to constitute a seamless whole.This general aim shall be achieved by means of three concrete case studies, involving one postdoctoral researcher and two PhD students respectively. The first PhD thesis critically assesses what is widely considered to be a paradigmatic example of a physical theory directly having a metaphysical consequence, namely the inference from the special theory of relativity to the metaphysics of the block universe. Our main argument will be that the fact of quantum non-locality (Bell’s theorem and the subsequent experiences) calls this inference into question, since it is by no means evident how quantum non-locality can be accommodated within the framework of the block universe metaphysics. More precisely, we shall show how the options for integrating quantum non-locality into the space-time of relativity physics involve metaphysical considerations up to and including the metaphysical stance that one takes with respect to objective modality (Humeanism or anti-Humeanism).The second PhD thesis consists in developing a detailed argument leading to the conclusion that the very mathematical formulation of a consistent quantum theory (that is, a quantum theory which avoids the measurement problem) implies metaphysical considerations, depending among other things on how one assesses the relationship between scientific realism and common sense realism including experimental realism. We will examine the main proposals for an ontology of quantum mechanics, focus on what is known as primitive ontology approaches and show how each of them engages both physics and metaphysics.The third, postdoctoral, investigation shall illustrate that metaphysics comes not only into play once the work in physics is done (that is, once there is an established physical theory), but can also proceed in tandem with the physical research itself. We aim at setting out guidelines for an ontology of quantum gravity, concentrating on non-perturbative approaches in general and loop quantum gravity in particular. These guidelines will constrain, in the first place, acceptable answers to the questions of what the referent of the formalism is and how this referent is related to observable phenomena. We will explain how metaphysical considerations, up to and including in particular the stance that one takes with respect to objective modality, on the one hand shape the options for an ontology of quantum gravity and how on the other hand the physics of quantum gravity has an impact on the assessment of these metaphysical stances.
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