General Information

This group is a forum for philosophers (faculty members and graduate students) in Southern California to meet and discuss their own research and other recent articles in philosophy of physics. We intend to meet 2-3 times per quarter, with topics determined by the interests of the group.

Unless otherwise noted, meetings will be hosted by the LPS department at UC Irvine, in the LPS seminar room (777 Social Science Tower) [campus map]. For instructions regarding parking and to reserve a permit, contact Patty Jones, LPS Department Manager.

Please contact me (james.owen.weatherall [AT] uci [DOT] edu) if you would like to join the group.


Upcoming talks

11 February 2023

Laura Ruetsche (Michigan), “Unborn Again: Probability in Bohmian Mechanics”

Why are quantum probabilities encoded in measures corresponding to wave functions, rather than by a more general class of measures? Call this question  Why Born?. Orthodox quantum mechanics has a compelling answer to Why Born?,  I argue, but Bohmian mechanics might not. I trace Bohmian difficulties with Why Born?  to its antistructuralism, its denial of physical significance to the algebraic structure of quantum observables, and propose other cases where Bohmian antistructuralism might have an explanatory cost.

If you would like to read more in advance, there are short and long versions of the manuscript available.

Past talks

14 January 2023

Alex Franklin (Kings College London), “Incoherent? No, Just Decoherent: How Quantum Many Worlds Emerge

The modern Everett interpretation of quantum mechanics describes an emergent multiverse. The goal of this talk is to offer a perspicuous characterisation of how the multiverse emerges making use of a recent account of (weak) ontological emergence. This will be cashed out with a case study that identifies decoherence as the mechanism for emergence. The greater metaphysical clarity enables the rebuttal of a critique by Dawid and Thébault (2015) that casts the emergent multiverse ontology as incoherent; responses are also offered to challenges to the Everettian approach from Maudlin (2010) and Monton (2013).

3 December 2022:

Ricardo Karam (Copenhagen), “Historical episodes of the complexification of physics

Complex numbers were invented (or discovered?) byItalian mathematicians in the 16th century as pragmatic tools to solve cubicequations, and not much attention was given to questions related to their “existence”.However, this changed significantly in the end of the 18th century, whencomplex numbers were given a geometrical interpretation. Such concretizationmotivated physicists to use these numbers to model all kinds of phenomena, aprocess that has been called “complexification of physics” by Salomon Bochner.The talk will present different historical episodes of the complexification, highlighting, in each case, how and why complex numbers became useful to physicists.

29 October 2022:

Jingyi Wu (UC Irvine), “Explaining Universality: Infinite Limit Systems in the Renormalization Group Method”

I analyze the role of infinite idealizations used in the renormalization group (RG hereafter) method in explaining universality across microscopically different physical systems in critical phenomena. I argue that despite the reference to infinite limit systems such as systems with infinite correlation lengths during the RG process, the key to explaining universality in critical phenomena need not involve infinite limit systems. I develop my argument by introducing what I regard as the explanatorily relevant property in RG explanations: the linearization* property; I then motivate and prove a proposition about the linearization property in support of my view. As a result, infinite limit systems in RG explanations are dispensable.

If you would like to read Jingyi’s paper in advance, it is available here.