Dasgupta speaks at UIC

After the Philosophy of Science Association meeting break, we are back for the final talks of the year, starting with Shamik Dasgupta (University of California, Berkeley) at UIC on Wednesday November 16th at 11am in Chicago. Please join us – more information above.

Physical Salience and Autonomy: Could Spacetime be an Emergent Phenomenon?

Abstract: There has recently been much interest in the question of whether space could be derivative from some kind of non-spatial structure. But what conditions must be satisfied if the resulting space is to be, to use Tim Maudlin’s phrase, “physically salient”? Some suggest that there is an epistemic constraint to the effect that it must be “fully transparent” or “immediately intelligible” how space emerges out of the non-spatial structure. In particular, David Chalmers develops this constraint in terms of apriori entailment. But is there really an epistemic constraint like this? If so, why? What is it about something being “derivative from” something else that requires this epistemic connection between the two? I will explore an answer to this latter question, thereby defending epistemic constraints like these from some recent objections. In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 1/5  1

Castellani to Speak This Week

Live from/in Geneva (more details above):

Elena Castellani (University of Florence): Duality and emergence: the case of weak/strong duality

Abstract: The two notions of duality and emergence seem to be in an intriguing relation: on the one side, they seem to be closely connected, on the other side, they are clearly distinct —- perhaps even mutually exclusive? The key feature, in the case of duality, is the kind of equivalence that is entailed between the two theories (or the two descriptions of the same theory, in case of self-duality). In the case of emergence, the focus is rather on the aspect of novelty that the notion entails, and thus, apparently, on a lack of equivalence between the two theoretical descriptions. The dualities which are of great relevance in field and string theory, however, seem to be related to emergence: in many cases, the dual correspondence seems to give a form of emergence (new particles or new phenomena). How to combine these apparently contrasting features?

This talk is directly connected to the preceding talk by Sebastian de Haro discussing the relation between duality and emergence in the case of gauge/gravity duality (Geneva, 14.01.2016). Here, the same issue is discussed in another relevant duality case, that is, weak-strong duality or S-duality (as is usual to call it in the context of string theory) — a duality which has become a basic ingredient in field and string theories especially since the 1990s. In particular, the focus will be on the meaning of the dual correspondence between ‘elementary’ and ‘composite’ particles that this kind of duality apparently implies. At first sight, the correspondence could be interpreted as giving rise to new objects or a new way of looking at the same objects. The question is then how to intend this novelty feature given the symmetric character of the dual correspondence. The general aim is to explore whether and in which sense comparing duality and emergence can be a helpful exercise for the philosophical reflection on their meaning.

In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 3/5

Talk on Wednesday October 19th

• Wednesday 19 October 2016 at Geneva – Marko Vojinovic (University of Belgrade): Quantum gravity, metaphysics, spacetime emergence and locality

Abstract: We will present a brief overview of the various approaches to quantum gravity, with the emphasis on the following questions: (1) why quantize gravity, (2) how to quantize gravity, (3) what is spacetime emergence, and (4) the role of metaphysics in all the above. We will also touch upon the foundational issues of diffeomorphism-symmetric quantum mechanics, and the interplay between locality, the measurement problem, the Schrodinger’s cat paradox and quantum cosmology, leading to some open questions at the foundation of both gravity and quantum mechanics.

In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 4/5 4

Prize winning talk on Wednesday

The second of our prize winners will be speaking in Geneva on Wednesday – and via video at UIC and on YouTube. Please join us!

Ko Sanders (University of Leipzig): What can (mathematical) categories tell us about space-time?

Abstract: It is widely believed that in quantum theories of gravity, the classical description of space-time as a manifold is no longer viable as a fundamental concept. Instead, space-time emerges as a suitable approximation. In order to understand what is required to explain this emergence, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the classical structure of space-time.

In this presentation I will focus on the concept of space-time as it appears in locally covariant quantum field theory (LCQFT), an axiomatic framework for describing quantum field theories in the presence of gravitational background fields. A key aspect of LCQFT is the way in which it formulates locality and general covariance, using the language of category theory.

I will argue that the use of category theory gives a precise and explicit statement of how space-time acts as an organizing principle in a systems view of the world. Along the way I will indicate how categories turn physical theories into a kind of models for modal logic, and how the categorical view of space-time shifts the emphasis away from the manifold structure. The latter point suggests that the view of space-time as an organizing principle may persist, even in a quantum theory of gravity, but it may raise new questions.

First talk of the year

We have a number of speakers lined up (with more to come) – the first will be at Geneva next week, and simulcast to UIC .

Wednesday 21 September 2016 at Geneva – Joshua Norton (American University Beirut): Incubating a future metaphysics: quantum gravity

Abstract: In this talk, I will argue that metaphysicians ought to utilize quantum theories of gravity (QG) as incubators for a future metaphysics. In §1, I will argue why this ought to be done. In §2, I will present case studies from the history of science where physical theories have challenged both the dogmatic and speculative metaphysician. In §3, I will present two theories of QG and demonstrate the challenge they pose to certain aspects of our current metaphysics; in particular, how they challenge our understanding of the abstract-concrete distinction. In this section I demonstrate how five different accounts of the distinction each fail to hold under the received interpretations of loop quantum gravity and string theory. The central goal of this talk is to encourage metaphysicians to look to physical theories, especially those involving cosmology such as string theory and loop quantum gravity, when doing metaphysics.

Speakers this Fall at UIC and Geneva announced

We have put together the program with talks at UIC and Geneva this fall semester. More details, including titles and abstracts for the talks, will follow shortly and will be updated, as always, on the speaker page, where you will also find more information:


Looking forward to seeing many of you there. For those who will have to miss the talks, we will make the videos available as soon as they are ready!