•  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.
  •  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
  •  144
    Ratbag Idealism
    In Yemima Ben-Menahem (ed.), Rethinking the Concept of Laws of Nature, . forthcoming.
    A discussion of the sense in which reality is mind-dependent for Kant and for David Lewis. Plus a lot about space-aliens (and a bit about pimple-worms).
  •  169
    Gravity and Grace
    Philosophers' Imprint 22 (1). 2022.
    This paper revisits the bearing of underdetermination arguments on scientific realism. First it argues that underdetermination considerations provide good reason to doubt that science is objective in the strong sense that anyone following the its methods will be led closer and closer to the truth about any given question within the purview of those methods, as more relevant data are considered. Then it argues that scientific realism is difficult to maintain in the absence of this sort of objecti…Read more
  •  202
    Absolutely No Free Lunches!
    Theoretical Computer Science. forthcoming.
    This paper is concerned with learners who aim to learn patterns in infinite binary sequences: shown longer and longer initial segments of a binary sequence, they either attempt to predict whether the next bit will be a 0 or will be a 1 or they issue forecast probabilities for these events. Several variants of this problem are considered. In each case, a no-free-lunch result of the following form is established: the problem of learning is a formidably difficult one, in that no matter what method …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.
  •  330
    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.
  • Geometry and Motion
    In Peter Clark & Katherine Hawley (eds.), Philosophy of Science Today, Clarendon Press. 2003.
  •  20
    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
  •  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.
  •  184
    Chaos out of order: Quantum mechanics, the correspondence principle and chaos
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 28 (2): 147-182. 1997.
    A vast amount of ink has been spilled in both the physics and the philosophy literature on the measurement problem in quantum mechanics. Important as it is, this problem is but one aspect of the more general issue of how, if at all, classical properties can emerge from the quantum descriptions of physical systems. In this paper we will study another aspect of the more general issue-the emergence of classical chaos-which has been receiving increasing attention from physicists but which has largel…Read more
  •  351
    Synopsis and discussion: Philosophy of gauge theory
    with John Earman, Richard Healey, Tim Maudlin, Antigone Nounou, and Ward Struyve
    This document records the discussion between participants at the workshop "Philosophy of Gauge Theory," Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, 18-19 April 2009.
  •  210
    Pre-socratic quantum gravity
    In Craig Callender & Nick Huggett (eds.), Physics Meets Philosophy at the Planck Scale, Cambridge University Press. pp. 213--55. 2001.
    Physicists who work on canonical quantum gravity will sometimes remark that the general covariance of general relativity is responsible for many of the thorniest technical and conceptual problems in their field.1 In particular, it is sometimes alleged that one can trace to this single source a variety of deep puzzles about the nature of time in quantum gravity, deep disagreements surrounding the notion of ‘observable’ in classical and quantum gravity, and deep questions about the nature of the e…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.
  •  94
    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
  •  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
  •  177
    Rehabilitating relationalism
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 13 (1). 1999.
    I argue that the conviction, widespread among philosophers, that substantivalism enjoys a clear superiority over relationalism in both Newtonian and relativistic physics is ill-founded. There are viable relationalist approaches to understanding these theories, and the substantival-relational debate should be of interest to philosophers and physicists alike, because of its connection with questions about the correct space of states for various physical theories.
  •  202
    Geometry and motion
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (4): 561--95. 2000.
    I will discuss only one of the several entwined strands of the philosophy of space and time, the question of the relation between the nature of motion and the geometrical structure of the world.1 This topic has many of the virtues of the best philosophy of science. It is of long-standing philosophical interest and has a rich history of connections to problems of physics. It has loomed large in discussions of space and time among contemporary philosophers of science. Furthermore, there is, I thin…Read more
  •  296
    Bayesian Orgulity
    Philosophy of Science 80 (4): 483-503. 2013.
    A piece of folklore enjoys some currency among philosophical Bayesians, according to which Bayesian agents that, intuitively speaking, spread their credence over the entire space of available hypotheses are certain to converge to the truth. The goals of the present discussion are to show that kernel of truth in this folklore is in some ways fairly small and to argue that Bayesian convergence-to-the-truth results are a liability for Bayesianism as an account of rationality, since they render a ce…Read more
  •  979
    Objectivity and Bias
    Mind 126 (503): 655-695. 2017.
    The twin goals of this essay are: to investigate a family of cases in which the goal of guaranteed convergence to the truth is beyond our reach; and to argue that each of three strands prominent in contemporary epistemological thought has undesirable consequences when confronted with the existence of such problems. Approaches that follow Reichenbach in taking guaranteed convergence to the truth to be the characteristic virtue of good methods face a vicious closure problem. Approaches on which th…Read more
  •  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
  •  140
    Some notes discussing some of the ancient and medieval background to the absolute-relational debate. Final version appears as Appendix C in my book, Geometric Possibility
  •  191
    New work for counterpart theorists: Determinism
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 46 (2): 185-195. 1995.
    Recently Carolyn Brighouse and Jeremy Butterfield have argued that David Lewis's counterpart theory makes it possible both to believe in the reality of spacetime points and to consider general relativity to be a deterministic theory, thus avoiding the ‘hole argument’ of John Earman and John Norton. Butterfield's argument relies on Lewis's own counterpart-theoretic analysis of determinism. In this paper, I argue that this analysis is inadequate. This leaves a gap in the Butterfield–Brighouse defe…Read more
  •  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
  •  150
    An elementary notion of gauge equivalence
    General Relativity and Gravitation 40 (1). 2008.
    An elementary notion of gauge equivalence is introduced that does not require any Lagrangian or Hamiltonian apparatus. It is shown that in the special case of theories, such as general relativity, whose symmetries can be identified with spacetime diffeomorphisms this elementary notion has many of the same features as the usual notion. In particular, it performs well in the presence of asymptotic boundary conditions.
  •  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
  •  1393
    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.