My natural mode of thought is exploratory, and I often struggle to get my papers wrapped into tight little well-organized packages that seem to fit into journals. So here are stray papers, not (up)-tightly written, and descriptions of work in progress. Comments and correspondence are always welcome.
- Free Will for the Physicalist
- From Physical Time to Human Time and back
- Metaphysics by Mathematical Means: Simplicity, and Symmetry and Science
- Could Statistical Mechanical Probabilities Have a Quantum Mechanical Grounding? Assessing Albert’s Proposal
In volume on David Albert’s Time and Chance, forthcoming.
- The Logic of the Temporally Evolving Point of View
- What Entanglement Might Be Telling Us
- Why Causal Structure is More Basic than Global Laws
Experimentation and the Philosophy of Science, Bas van Fraassen and Isabelle Peschard (eds.), forthcoming
The main focus of my work in the coming years are books. The first is well under way and I hope to finish this year. The others hopefully will come in the years that follow.
Free Will for the Physicalist
This is a book manuscript that starts from the most basic and naïve form of the argument that determinism is incompatible with free will and moves steadily away from naïve ideas about freedom, on the one hand, and what it means that our actions come under the scope of physical laws, on the other. The goal is to look at free will through the eyes of a physicist and clear away philosophical misunderstandings both in everyday ideas about freedom and about what physics tells us about the place of human action in nature.
From Physical Time to Human Time and back
This book is mostly in my head. It explores disputes about the nature and role of time in contemporary physics and its relation to the content of temporal experience. I argue that current metaphysical disputes about the nature of time don’t appreciate how much interesting structure is imposed by the complex cycle of representation and re-representation that generates experience. And I explore how the explicit representation of time from different perspectives over the course of a life pervades every aspect of our experience and shapes the constitution of self.
Metaphysics by Mathematical Means: Simplicity, and Symmetry and Science
This is a book that explores the mathematical tools that physicists deploy in forming metaphysical hypotheses, and the reasons for the success (such as it is) that physics has had. Symmetry, again, will figure prominently, as will closely allied notions of unity and simplicity. Quantum mechanics presents an especially interesting example in this context, because the mathematical tools have led in that case in the direction of a formalism that has all the right formal characteristics, but doesn’t permit an imaginatively intelligible ontological interpretation.
Could Statistical Mechanical Probabilities Have a Quantum Mechanical Grounding? Assessing Albert’s ProposalIn volume on David Albert’s Time and Chance, forthcoming.
In the last chapter of Time and Chance, Albert suggests that the spontaneous collapse interpretation of quantum mechanics due to Ghirardi, Rimini and Weber (GRW) might provide a grounding for the statistical probabilities of thermodynamics. The proposal is that the dynamical laws of GRW provide general transition probabilities that generate the micro canonical distribution of statistical mechanics. In an otherwise favorable review of the book, Huw Price criticized the proposal arguing that it adds nothing to the Boltzmannian story. In this paper, I argue to the contrary that there are explanatory lacuna in the Boltzmannian story that GRW proposal fill.
I try to inject a little formal precision into the discussion of passage. Instead of talking about the quality of temporal experience, I’m going to talk about the content. And I argue that we can resolve a good many of the issues with an examination of the logic of temporal perspectives.
Following a suggestion of David Bohm’s, I will explore the possibility that phenomena associated with entanglement and complementarity in quantum mechanics intimate a fundamentally non-spatiotemporal ordering to reality. I will lead with examples that reproduce the relevant features of quantum phenomena. I hope the examples will be sufficiently intriguing to make you want to understand the quantum analogue, but the philosophical points can be grasped by just focusing on the examples. The proposal raises challenging questions about the status of space and practices of individuation.
Why Causal Structure is More Basic than Global LawsExperimentation and the Philosophy of Science, Bas van Fraassen and Isabelle Peschard (eds.), forthcoming
There was a time when science was thought of as wholly devoted to the investigation of the causal structure of the world. With the mathematicization of science and the triumph of Newtonian theory, causal vocabulary disappeared from the most fundamental level of physical description. It became the norm to present a fundamental theory as a set of mathematical equations describing global laws of temporal evolution. Since then philosophers of science have struggled to understand how and where causal ideas enter into the description of Nature. The most developed research programs assume that global laws of temporal evolution are the most fundamental nomic generalizations, and try to derive causal facts from these together with initial conditions. This orthodoxy has been challenged by philosophers that dispute the descriptive completeness of fundamental physics. I now think that even fundamentalists about physics should recognize causal structure as more basic than global laws. I will say why, and assess the philosophical impact of this reversal in the order of priority.