•  125
    Whose Devil? Which Details?
    Philosophy of Science 72 (1): 128-153. 2005.
    Batterman has recently argued that fundamental theories are typically explanatorily inadequate, in that there exist physical phenomena whose explanation requires that the conceptual apparatus of a fundamental theory be supplemented by that of a less fundamental theory. This paper is an extended critical commentary on that argument: situating its importance, describing its structure, and developing a line of objection to it. The objection is that in the examples Batterman considers, the mathemati…Read more
  •  101
    Why general relativity does need an interpretation
    Philosophy of Science 63 (3): 88. 1996.
    There is a widespread impression that General Relativity, unlike Quantum Mechanics, is in no need of an interpretation. I present two reasons for thinking that this is a mistake. The first is the familiar hole argument. I argue that certain skeptical responses to this argument are too hasty in dismissing it as being irrelevant to the interpretative enterprise. My second reason is that interpretative questions about General Relativity are central to the search for a quantum theory of gravity. I i…Read more
  •  95
    The Hawking Information Loss Paradox: The Anatomy of a Controversy
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (2): 189-229. 1999.
    Stephen Hawking has argued that universes containing evaporating black holes can evolve from pure initial states to mixed final ones. Such evolution is non-unitary and so contravenes fundamental quantum principles on which Hawking's analysis was based. It disables the retrodiction of the universe's initial state from its final one, and portends the time-asymmetry of quantum gravity. Small wonder that Hawking's paradox has met with considerable resistance. Here we use a simple result for C*-algeb…Read more
  •  89
    Theory and truth: Philosophical critique within foundational science Lawrence Sklar (review)
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 52 (3): 647-650. 2001.
    This short and engaging book, based upon Sklar’s 1998 Locke Lectures, addresses three sorts of considerations which have been thought to undercut any claim physics has, or could have, to be getting at the truth. The overarching theme is that these considerations gain their plausibility from being deployed in arguments concerning the representational fidelity of particular physical theories, and that much is lost in the philosophical process of globalisation which converts them into doubts about …Read more
  •  88
    Substantivalists claim that spacetime enjoys an existence analogous to that of material bodies, while relationalists seek to reduce spacetime to sets of possible spatiotemporal relations. The resulting debate has been central to the philosophy of space and time since the Scientific Revolution. Recently, many philosophers of physics have turned away from the debate, claiming that it is no longer of any relevance to physics. At the same time, there has been renewed interest in the debate among phy…Read more
  •  85
    That Does Not Compute: David Lewis on Credence and Chance
    Philosophy of Science. forthcoming.
    Like Lewis, many philosophers hold reductionist accounts of chance (on which claims about chance are to be understood as claims that certain patterns of events are instantiated) and maintain that rationality requires that credence should defer to chance (in the sense that under certain circumstances one's credence in an event must coincide with the chance of that event). It is a shortcoming of an account of chance if it implies that this norm of rationality is unsatisfiable by computable agent…Read more
  •  82
    Chaos and fundamentalism
    Philosophy of Science 67 (3): 465. 2000.
    1. It is natural to wonder what our multitude of successful physical theories tell us about the world—singly, and as a body. What are we to think when one theory tells us about a flat Newtonian spacetime, the next about a curved Lorentzian geometry, and we have hints of others, portraying discrete or higher-dimensional structures which look something like more familiar spacetimes in appropriate limits?
  •  81
    Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time (review)
    Philosophical Review 107 (3): 477. 1998.
    A review of Huw Price's Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point
  •  80
    Remarks on the geometry of visibles
    Philosophical Quarterly 53 (213). 2003.
    An explication is offered of Reid’s claim (discussed recently by Yaffe and others) that the geometry of the visual field is spherical geometry. It is shown that the sphere is the only surface whose geometry coincides, in a certain strong sense, with the geometry of visibles.
  •  77
    Determinism and ontology
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 9 (1). 1995.
    Abstract In the philosophical literature, there are two common criteria for a physical theory to be deterministic. The older one is due to the logical empiricists, and is a purely formal criterion. The newer one can be found in the work of John Earman and David Lewis and depends on the intended interpretation of the theory. In this paper I argue that the former must be rejected, and something like the latter adopted. I then discuss the relevance of these points to the current debate over the hol…Read more
  •  75
    Geometric Possibility
    Oxford University Press UK. 2011.
    Gordon Belot investigates the distinctive notion of geometric possibility that relationalists rely upon. He examines the prospects for adapting to the geometric case the standard philosophical accounts of the related notion of physical possibility, with particular emphasis on Humean, primitivist, and necessitarian accounts of physical and geometric possibility. This contribution to the debate concerning the nature of space will be of interest not only to philosophers and metaphysicians concerned…Read more
  •  75
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94 (4): 781-791. 2016.
    ABSTRACTA popular strategy for understanding the probabilities that arise in physics is to interpret them via reductionist accounts of chance—indeed, it is sometimes claimed that such accounts are uniquely well-suited to make sense of the probabilities in classical statistical mechanics. Here it is argued that reductionist accounts of chance carry a steep but unappreciated cost: when applied to physical theories of the relevant type, they inevitably distort the relations of probability that they…Read more
  •  68
    Conservation principles
    In D. Borchert (ed.), Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Macmillan. 2006.
    A conservation principles tell us that some quantity, quality, or aspect remains constant through change. Such principles appear already in ancient and medieval natural philosophy. In one important strand of Greek cosmology, the rotatory motion of the celestial orbs is eternal and immutable. In optics, from at least the time of Euclid, the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence when a ray of light is reflected. According to some versions of the medieval impetus theory of motion, …Read more
  •  58
    From metaphysics to physics
    In Jeremy Butterfield & Constantine Pagonis (eds.), From Physics to Philosophy, Cambridge University Press. pp. 166--86. 1999.
    We discuss the relationship between the interpretative problems of quantum gravity and those of general relativity. We argue that classical and quantum theories of gravity resuscitate venerable philosophical questions about the nature of space, time, and change; and that the resolution of some of the difficulties facing physicists working on quantum theories of gravity would appear to require philosophical as well as scientific creativity.
  •  53
    Notes on symmetries
    In Katherine A. Brading & Elena Castellani (eds.), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections, Cambridge University Press. pp. 393--412. 2003.
    These notes discuss some aspects of the sort of symmetry considerations that arise in philosophy of physics. They describe and provide illustration of: (i) one common sort of symmetry argument; and (ii) a construction that allows one to eliminate symmetries from a given structure.
  •  21
    Curve-Fitting for Bayesians?
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. 2016.
    Bayesians often assume, suppose, or conjecture that for any reasonable explication of the notion of simplicity a prior can be designed that will enforce a preference for hypotheses simpler in just that sense. Further, it is often claimed that the Bayesian framework automatically implements Occam's razor—that conditionalizing on data consistent with both a simple theory and a complex theory more or less inevitably favours the simpler theory. But it is shown here that there are simplicity-driven …Read more
  •  19
    An Automatic Ockham’s Razor for Bayesians?
    Erkenntnis 84 (6): 1361-1367. 2019.
    It is sometimes claimed that the Bayesian framework automatically implements Ockham’s razor—that conditionalizing on data consistent with both a simple theory and a complex theory more or less inevitably favours the simpler theory. It is shown here that the automatic razor doesn’t in fact cut it for certain mundane curve-fitting problems.
  •  18
    Bangs, crunches, wimps, and geeks (review)
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 29 (2): 273-275. 1998.
    A review of John Earman's Bangs, Crunches, Whimpers, and Shrieks
  •  17
    Book reviews (review)
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 11 (3): 305-313. 1997.
    A review of Rob Clifton (ed.), Perspectives on Quantum Reality: Non-Relativistic, Relativistic, and Field-Theoretic
  •  10
    I survey the options for understanding the nature of the wave-function in the setting of the relativistic collapse models recently developed by Tumulka. Some of the options involve surprising features, such as backwards causation or locality.
  •  6
    Review of Symbolic Logic. forthcoming.
    It is widely thought that chance should be understood in reductionist terms: claims about chance should be understood as claims that certain patterns of events are instantiated. There are many possible reductionist theories of chance, differing as to which possible pattern of events they take to be chance-making. It is also widely taken to be a norm of rationality that credence should defer to chance: special cases aside, rationality requires that one's credence function, when conditionalized o…Read more
  •  5
    Spacetime (edited book)
    Dartmouth Pub. Co.. 1996.
    This collection of articles on the theme of space and time covers such broad topics as the philosophy of spacetime, spacetime structure, spacetime ontology, the epistemology of geometry, and general relativity.
  •  2
    Book Review (review)
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 41 (1): 81-83. 2010.
  • Geometry and Motion
    In Peter Clark & Katherine Hawley (eds.), Philosophy of Science Today, Clarendon Press. 2003.