Geneva Summer School in the Philosophy of Physics 2008
July 28 - August

Geneva Summer School in the Philosophy of Physics 2008

Download the poster.

Click here for the programme.

Click here for the general presentation.

Thanks to everyone for a great summerschool! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

Topic: What is the Nature of Space and Time?

What is the nature of space and time? Does time pass, and if so, what does this passage amount to? Or is time static? Is only the present real, or is the past real as well? And what can we say about the future? Does time have an intrinsic direction, or is it just that events in time exhibit a temporal asymmetry? If the latter, how can we find fundamental asymmetries in which to ground the direction of time? Or if the direction is supposed to be intrinsic to time, how can this be established? Is space a substance in its own right, or is it just nothingness? Or is space the complex of spatial relations among material objects? Can these issues be settled by a careful metaphysical analysis, or will empirical results in physics ultimately decide these questions?

As these debates are inextricably linked with developments in fundamental physics, we will try to understand whether, and if so, to what extent, these developments impose constraints on how metaphysical theories of space and time might look like. In particular, we shall consider what statistical physics, the special and general theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and recent developments in quantum gravity imply for our understanding of space and time. The relevant scientific theories consider, among many other topics, the physics of motion, the nature of the continuum, and the geometry of flat and curved spaces.

We will discuss some of the pertinent philosophical literature on these topics. This literature is extensive and quite wide-ranging, encompassing issues in identity, causation, modality, explanation, semantics, and phenomenology. Although the summer school will also consider these philosophical issues, the primary focus will be on the foundations of spacetime as the philosophy of physics is concerned with.

Targeted audience

This summer school is geared to doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in philosophy of physics, philosophically minded physicists as well as in academic and non-academic professionals interested in an advanced level introduction to the main problems of contemporary philosophy of physics.

We aim to bring this group together with leading experts on the foundations of spacetime who will guide us through the current debates in the metaphysics and physics of spacetime. Experts will give lectures on each of these topics. An effort will be made to presuppose little by way of prior exposure to the literature both in physics as well as in philosophy. The lectures should thus be accessible to the talented novice, although we expect the programme to be dense.