New videos: Dowker and Palmer

Two recent talks are now available on our YouTube channel – follow the links above (or look at the speakers page. Enjoy!

Fay Dowker: Being and Becoming in Quantum Gravity (or The Birth of a Baby is not a Baby)

Tim Palmer: What physics needs is not a quantum theory of gravity – but rather a gravitational theory of the quantum



We are pleased to announce that the first of our planned mini-courses is now available. BST 101: Introduction to Space and Time in Quantum Gravity. In this two lecture course a short non-technical introduction to research in quantum gravity is presented by Keizo Matsubara. It will be followed by more mini-courses at different levels, intended for students, and researchers with and without more technical backgrounds, wishing to learn more about the philosophy of quantum gravity, and its implications for metaphysics, epistemology, and foundations. More information about this element of our project can be found above, or at

2017 Speaker Series Starts!

Our first two talks of the year are coming up! Please join us.

• Wednesday 1 March 2017 at Geneva – Philipp Berghofer (Graz): Ontic structural realism and quantum field theory: are there intrinsic properties at the most fundamental level of Reality?

• Wednesday 8 March 2017 at Geneva – Fay Dowker (Imperial College London): Being and Becoming in Quantum Gravity (or The Birth of a Baby is not a Baby)

Details above or at:

2017 News

Happy new year! A couple of items of news:

First, we are very happy to welcome John Dougherty (UCSD) to UIC as a Predoctoral Research Fellow for the semester.

Second, talks will start in a few weeks – we have 11 lined up so far: Philipp Berghofer, Fay Dowker, Tiziana Vistarini, Tim Palmer, Laurent Freidel, Laura Ruetsche, Michael Miller, Karim Thébault, Samuel Fletcher, Alexei Grinbaum, and Nic Teh. Please join us (details above).


Hosted by the University of Geneva-University of Illinois at Chicago Space and Time After Quantum Gravity project

Château de Bossey, near Geneva, 27-30 June 2017

Keynote speakers will be announced shortly

The investigation of quantum gravity has been central to theoretical physics for at least two decades, but philosophy has only begun to systematically engage with this field in the past few years. The purpose of this meeting is bring together people with research agendas in the philosophy of quantum gravity, to provide a venue to review and develop a common understanding of the state of the field: questions, approaches, solutions and, especially, novel insights and avenues of investigation. We intend that some talks will engage directly with philosophy and philosophers thus-far outside of quantum gravity.

We solicit papers on any topic in the philosophical foundations of quantum gravity. We are particularly (but not exclusively) interested in work that addresses the foci of the ‘Space and Time After Quantum Gravity’ project: Does quantum gravity eliminate spacetime as fundamental structure? How does quantum gravity explain the appearance of spacetime? What are the broader implications of quantum gravity for metaphysical (and other) accounts of the world.

Paper presentations should be suitable for presentations in 30 minutes (not including discussion period). Please submit an extended abstract of up to 500 words, together with the title of the talk. The abstract should be anonymized for blind refereeing. Advanced PhD students or recent PhDs are particularly invited to submit abstracts, as are women and underrepresented minorities. All sessions will be videoed for public distribution after the meeting.

Deadline: 31 January 2017 (we aim to communicate decisions end of February 2017)

Abstracts should be submitted to

Organizing Committee:

Nick Huggett
Baptiste Le Bihan
Keizo Matsubara
Christian Wuthrich

All selected participants will have board and lodging (but no travel) paid for by the conference.

Please direct correspondence to:

Support for this conference is provided by the John Templeton Foundation.

Talk this week – David Yates

Wednesday 23 November 2016 at Geneva – David Yates (University of Lisbon): Spacetime functionalism and empirical coherence

Abstract: Quantum gravity research seems to suggest that spacetime is not fundamental, but this in turn threatens the existence of the “local beables”—meters, pointers, dials—we observe to gain evidence for fundamental physical theories. How can a physical theory be justified if there are no local beables in its ontology? Spacetime functionalism promises a conservative truthmaking theory for empirical truths, which explains how it is that statements such as ‘the pointer moved to position 5 on the dial’ come out true even though the fundamental ontology is not straightforwardly spatiotemporal. There are several different functionalist positions available—depending on which concepts we take to be functional, and what roles we take to define them—and it isn’t always clear how they interact. Spacetime functionalists (Knox) argue that the concept of a spacetime is the concept of whatever it is that occupies a certain set of roles within physical theory. Because the concept of spacetime is topic-neutral, even if the fundamental quantum ontology turns out to be very unlike the spacetime of the manifest image, we should not conclude on that basis that there is no spacetime for local beables to occupy. The occupant of the spacetime roles may or may not be fundamental, and it may or may not be recognisable spatiotemporal. This theory shows us how a necessary condition on the truth of empirical statements is consistent with a non-spatiotemporal fundamental ontology, but stops short of a truthmaking theory for such statements. Spacetime occupant-functionalism (Wallace, Ney) and spacetime property-functionalism (Chalmers) offer topic-neutral analyses of our concepts of ordinary objects and spatiotemporal properties respectively, and jointly offer the promise of such a theory. In this talk I argue that property-functionalism fails, and that there is therefore no topic-neutral analysis of our ordinary empirical claims about local beables. I argue further that at least some spatiotemporal property concepts fail to have topic-neutral analyses because they are directly referring concepts that are at least partially transparent with respect to their referents. It follows, I suggest, that either the fundamental quantum ontology is spatiotemporal after all, or local beables inhabit a grounded spacetime. I suggest the latter, and conclude by considering whether a grounded spacetime might also be fundamental, hence ontologically emergent.  In terms of technical difficulty, this talk rates 1/5 1

More details above.