My main interest is in the interpretation of space-time physics. I work on a number of topics that fall under this broad heading, including (i) the substantivalist--relationalist debate, (ii) the status of general covariance, (iii) Machian approaches to general relativity, especially Julian Barbour's approach, (iv) dynamical approaches to spacetime structure, and (v) the interpretation of parity violation.
My interests extend to a number of other related topics. These
include (i) philosophical issues that arise in the context of quantum
gravity, especially those that concern the interpretation of classical
theories, and (ii) the metaphysics of time, modality and identity.
- `Relativistic Persistence' (with Ian Gibson), Philosophical Perspectives 20, Metaphysics (2006): 157--98. [ Journal link | Preprint ]
- `A hole revolution, or are we back we started?', Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 37 (2006): 372--380. [ Journal link | Preprint ]
- `Points, particles and structural realism', to appear in D. Rickles, S. French & J. Saatsi (eds), The Structural Foundations of Quantum Gravity (OUP, 2006), pp. 83--120. [ Preprint ]
- `Minkowski space-time: a glorious non-entity' (with H.R. Brown) in Dieks (ed.), The Ontology of Spacetime (Elsevier, 2006), pp. 67--89. [ Preprint ]
- `Comments on Sklar's ``Barbour's Relationist Metric of Time'' ', Chronos (Proceedings of the Philosophy of Time Society) 6 (2003--4): 77--86. [ Postprint ]
- `Handedness, parity violation, and the reality of space' in K. Brading & E. Castellani (eds), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections (CUP, 2003), pp. 250--80. [ Preprint ]
- `Relationalism Rehabilitated? II: Relativity' [ PhilSci ]
- `Relationalism Rehabilitated? I: Classical Mechanics' (with H.R. Brown), British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (2002): 183--204. [ Journal link | Preprint ]
- `The origin of the spacetime metric' in C. Callender and N. Huggett (eds), Physics meets Philosophy at the Planck Scale (CUP, 2001), pp. 256--72. [ PhilSci | arXiv ] (with Harvey R. Brown)
- `The Problem of Induction from the perspective of physics', (with H.R. Brown) Manuscrito 22 (1999): 29--35.
Talks and conference papers
- 2 November 2006, PSA, Vancouver.
- 2/3 December 2006, Structuralism about Physics and Mathematics Conference, Bristol.
- 23--28 April 2007, Conference on philosophical and formal foundations of modern physics, Les Treilles, France.
- 11 June 2006, `Background Independence: what's special about general relativity?', Second International Conference on the Ontology of Spacetime, Concordia University, Montreal. [ PDF slides ]
- 13 April 2006, `Relativistic Persistence', 33rd Annual Philosophy of Science Conference in Dubrovnik.
- 16 February 2006, `General Covariance', Philosophy of Physics Seminar, Oxford University.
- 10 June 2005, `What's So Special About General Relativity?', PPP Seminar, University of Konstanz.
- 13 May 2005, `Identity through time in a block universe', Philosophical Society (Oxford).
- 26 April 2005, `Left and Right', Postdoctoral Fellowship Symposium, the British Academy.
- 16 April 2005, `What's So Special About General Relativity?', Space, Time and Ontology workshop, Centre for Metaphysics and Mind, Leeds University.
- 7 February 2005, `Haecceitism: physics versus metaphysics', British Society for the Philosophy of Science, LSE
- 27 January 2005, `Haecceitism: physics versus metaphysics', Philosophy of Physics Seminar, Oxford University.
- May 2004, `Special Relativity as a ``constructive'' theory', International Conference on the Ontology of Spacetime, Concordia University, Montreal [ PDF slides ]
- April 2004, `Reply to Sklar', Philosophy of Time Society, Central Division APA meeting, Chicago.
- April 2004, `Against a structural realist understanding of spacetime: the disanalogy between points and particles', University of Illinois at Chicago [ PDF slides ]
- March 2004, `What's Observable in Special and General Relativity?', ESF Conference on Philosophical and Foundational Issues in Spacetime Theories, Oxford University [ PDF slides ]
- January 2004, `Against structural spacetime realist: the disanalogy between points and particles', Sigma Club, Centre for Philosophy of the Natural and Social Sciences, LSE.
- November 2003, `Against structural spacetime realist: the disanalogy between points and particles', Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona
- September 2003, `What's so special about GR? Some sceptical remarks about the status of general convariance', 12th UK Conference on the Foundations of Physics, University of Leeds
- May 2003, `Descartes and Newton on Space and Motion', Philosophy of Physics Seminar, Oxford University
- November 2002, `Structuralism and the interpretation of spacetime physics', History and Philosophy of Science Seminar, University of Leeds
- September 2002, `The philosophical significance of parity violation', 11th UK Conference on the Foundations of Physics, Oxford University
- June 2002, `Should we be `sophisticated' substantivalists?', Sigma Club, LSE
- May 2001, `Parity Violation and the Nature of Space', Philosophy of Physics Seminar, University of Bristol
- June 2000, `Spacetime Realism and Quantum Gravity', BSPS Annual Conference, Sheffield [ PDF slides ]
Work in progress
- `Background Independence: What's so special about general relativity?'
- Physical Symmetries
- Fibre bundles: an alleged solution to the hole dilemma unravelled
I am completing a book on spacetime. The question it addresses—the question at the heart of the so-called `substantivalist–relationalist debate'—is whether space or spacetime is an entity in its own right.
The book defends a variety of anti-haecceitist substantivalism: the substantivalist should deny that two qualitatively identical possible worlds can nonetheless differ solely in terms of a permutation of some of the individuals (in this case, spacetime points) common to both worlds.
Table of contents:
- The origins of the debate
- Leibniz and sophisticated substantivalism
- Dynamical spacetime
- The hole argument
- Machian relationalism
- Parity violation
- Space and time in quantum gravity
My D.Phil. thesis, The reality of spacetime, was supervised by Harvey Brown and Simon Saunders. It can be accessed from within the .ox.ac.uk domain, either as html or as a PDF file (1.58 MB). It will be superseded by a book version. In the meantime, if you would like to get a copy, contact me.