•  338
    The principle of sufficient reason
    Journal of Philosophy 98 (2): 55-74. 2001.
    The paper is about the physical theories which result when one identifies points in phase space related by symmetries; with applications to problems concerning gauge freedom and the structure of spacetime in classical mechanics
  •  298
    In Ockham's Razors: A User's Guide, Elliott Sober argues that parsimony considerations are epistemically relevant on the grounds that certain methods of model selection, such as the Akaike Information Criterion, exhibit good asymptotic behaviour and take the number of adjustable parameters in a model into account. I raise some worries about this form of argument.
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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
  •  1404
    Time in Classical and Relativistic Physics
    In Adrian Bardon & Heather Dyke (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Time, Blackwell. pp. 185-200. 2013.
    This is a short, nontechnical introduction to features of time in classical and relativistic physics and their representation in the four-dimensional geometry of spacetime. Topics discussed include: the relativity of simultaneity in special and general relativity; the ‘twin paradox’ and differential aging effects in special and general relativity; and time travel in general relativity.
  •  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
  •  535
    Quantum states for primitive ontologists: A case study
    European Journal for Philosophy of Science 2 (1): 67-83. 2012.
    Under so-called primitive ontology approaches, in fully describing the history of a quantum system, one thereby attributes interesting properties to regions of spacetime. Primitive ontology approaches, which include some varieties of Bohmian mechanics and spontaneous collapse theories, are interesting in part because they hold out the hope that it should not be too difficult to make a connection between models of quantum mechanics and descriptions of histories of ordinary macroscopic bodies. But…Read more
  •  210
    Dust, Time and Symmetry
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56 (2): 255-291. 2005.
    Two symmetry arguments are discussed, each purporting to show that there is no more room for a preferred division of spacetime into instants of time in general relativistic cosmology than in Minkowski spacetime. The first argument is due to Gödel, and concerns the symmetries of his famous rotating cosmologies. The second turns upon the symmetries of a certain space of relativistic possibilities. Both arguments are found wanting.
  •  227
    General Relativity and Gravitation 43 2865-2884. 2011.
    Intuitively, a classical field theory is background-in- dependent if the structure required to make sense of its equations is itself subject to dynamical evolution, rather than being imposed ab initio. The aim of this paper is to provide an explication of this intuitive notion. Background-independence is not a not formal property of theories: the question whether a theory is background-independent depends upon how the theory is interpreted. Under the approach proposed here, a theory is fully bac…Read more
  •  216
    The representation of time and change in mechanics
    In John Earman & Jeremy Butterfield (eds.), Philosophy of Physics, Elsevier. pp. 133--227. 2005.
    This chapter is concerned with the representation of time and change in classical (i.e., non-quantum) physical theories. One of the main goals of the chapter is to attempt to clarify the nature and scope of the so-called problem of time: a knot of technical and interpretative problems that appear to stand in the way of attempts to quantize general relativity, and which have their roots in the general covariance of that theory. The most natural approach to these questions is via a consideration o…Read more
  •  432
    Curve-Fitting for Bayesians?
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (3): 689-702. 2017.
    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. But it is shown here that there are simplicity-driven approaches to curve-fitting problems that cannot be captured within the orthodox Bayesian framework.
  •  544
    Symmetry and Equivalence
    In Robert Batterman (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics, Oxford University Press. pp. 318-339. 2013.
    This paper is concerned with the relation between two notions: that of two solutions or models of a theory being related by a symmetry of the theory and that of solutions or models being physically equivalent. A number of authors have recently discussed this relation, some taking an optimistic view, on which there is a suitable concept of the symmetry of a theory relative to which these two notions coincide, others taking a pessimistic view, on which there is no such concept. The present paper a…Read more
  •  219
    Is classical electrodynamics an inconsistent theory?
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (2): 263-282. 2007.
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 37: 263–282. [preprint] This paper is a critical discussion of Mathias Frisch’s book Inconsistency, Asymmetry, and Nonlocality
  •  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?
  •  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
  •  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
  •  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.
  •  445
    Down to Earth Underdetermination
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (2): 456-464. 2015.
    There are many parts of science in which a certain sort of underdetermination of theory by evidence is known to be common. It is argued that reflection on this fact should serve to shift the burden of proof from scientific anti-realists to scientific realists at a crucial point in the debate between them.
  •  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
  •  496
    Understanding electromagnetism
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49 (4): 531-555. 1998.
    It is often said that the Aharonov-Bohm effect shows that the vector potential enjoys more ontological significance than we previously realized. But how can a quantum-mechanical effect teach us something about the interpretation of Maxwell's theory—let alone about the ontological structure of the world—when both theories are false? I present a rational reconstruction of the interpretative repercussions of the Aharonov-Bohm effect, and suggest some morals for our conception of the interpretative …Read more
  •  250
    Failure of Calibration is Typical
    Statistics and Probability Letters 83 2316--2318. 2013.
    Schervish (1985b) showed that every forecasting system is noncalibrated for uncountably many data sequences that it might see. This result is strengthened here: from a topological point of view, failure of calibration is typical and calibration rare. Meanwhile, Bayesian forecasters are certain that they are calibrated---this invites worries about the connection between Bayesianism and rationality.
  •  275
    Symmetry and gauge freedom
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 34 (2): 189-225. 2002.
    The classical field theories that underlie the quantum treatments of the electromagnetic, weak, and strong forces share a peculiar feature: specifying the initial state of the field determines the evolution of some degrees of freedom of the theory while leaving the evolution of some others wholly arbitrary. This strongly suggests that some of the variables of the standard state space lack physical content-intuitively, the space of states of such a theory is of higher dimension than the correspon…Read more
  •  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.
  •  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