Over $1m for the Philosophy of Quantum Gravity


Nick Huggett (UIC) and Christian Wüthrich (Geneva) have won a $1.1 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation to support their project, “Space and Time after Quantum Gravity,” on the philosophical implications of theories of quantum gravity (a continuation of their “Beyond Spacetime” project).

Professor Wüthrich writes:

The premise of the project is that scientific research programs in quantum gravity simultaneously demand philosophical, conceptual investigation for their progress, and raise profound questions about fundamental philosophical assumptions resting on a non-quantum understanding of space and time. How physics thus ‘meets philosophy at the Planck scale’ has been explored so far in the various publications and meetings coming out of the project. The new grant, supplemented with funds from UIC and Geneva, will fund postdocs and predocs in the research groups at both institutions; regular speakers and visitors to the groups; essay competitions; a summer school at Chicago in 2016; a conference at Geneva in 2017; edited volumes; and a course of video lectures for non-specialists. Many of these activities will be made publicly available on video. For more information please subscribe to the project blog at beyondspacetime.net, or look out for calls for participation.

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Chris
Chris
6 years ago

I think this means the next crash course should be philosophy of physics.Report

AnonGrad
AnonGrad
6 years ago

This is a very real obstacle for aspirants to philosophy of physics that a crash course would not remedy: http://www.princeton.edu/~hhalvors/teaching/math_core.htmlReport

David Wallace
David Wallace
6 years ago

Well, different topics, and different styles, of philosophy of physics require different levels of mathematics; Hans’ requirements are at the high end. But the general point is true: a crash course in (a given topic in) philosophy of physics would be perfectly possible, but it would assume you already knew the bit of physics to be philosophised about, and a crash course in *physics* is another matter.Report

Nick Huggett
6 years ago

In addition to what David said, I would add that I do not see philosophy of physics as some hyperspecialization off on its own with no contact with the rest of philosophy, as this thread might (unintentionally?) suggest. Sure, like any branch of philosophy, there is specialist work on the inside of the kind mentioned (and even if you don’t notice it about your field, trust me, it looks specialist to those on the outside). But what the specialists learn has significance for philosophy more generally, and philosophers of physics (as a group) have a responsibility (which many discharge) to engage with the wider community. Indeed, I would say that the work of Friedman, for example, demonstrates the importance of physics for philosophy (and vv). And as Ladyman and Ross, for example, (delicately) pointed out, many of our starting assumptions are at least in tension with the kinds of things discussed in Hans’ list. Some engagement is needed.

With that in mind, I point out for the first commenter that our project aims equally to engage physics, and philosophy more generally – a specific goal is to articulate how quantum gravity may affect broader issues in philosophy. For instance, what if fundamentally there is no space or time? (No off the cuff answers please!) For that, we will need to engage with non-philosophers of physics – and those with a foot on both sides. In short, we certainly intend to include those without extensive training in philosophy of physics – as speakers, visitors, participants, and potentially as post- and pre- docs. So don’t think of Hans’ reading list as a prerequisite for involvement in the project. It should be of much more general interest, and scope.Report