BBLOC Philosophy of Physics Seminar Series

A termly research seminar on philosophy of physics, hosted at King’s College London. 

All are welcome to all events! If you plan to come to any of the events or would like more information, email Alex Franklin.

(Spacetime) Functionalism Mini-Workshop

Friday 16th June 2023

King’s Building K0.18, King’s College London, Strand


Dr Eleanor Knox

Dr Henrique Gomes

Prof Nick Huggett


Graduate Philosophy of Physics Workshop

Wednesday 14th December 2022
King’s Building S2.49, King’s College London, Strand

Booking link:

Programme (subject to change):

10.30-11.00 – Arrivals and Welcome 

11.00-11.50 – Johannes Frankhauser (Oxford) – The Empirical Completeness Problem of Quantum Mechanics 

11.50-12.40 – Dominic Ryder (LSE) – Directed Temporal Asymmetry from Scale Invariant Dynamics: Is the Problem of Time’s Arrow Solved? 

12.40-14.00 – Lunch 

14.00-14.50 – Nadia Blackshaw (Bristol) – The Decay of Quantum Mechanics: the case of radioactivity 

14.50-13.40 – Rami Jreige (Ecole Normale Supériure) – Model Use in the Search for Cold Dark Matter

15.40-16.00 – Break 

16.00-16.50 – Jonathan Fay (Bristol) – In Defence of Flat Space

16.50-17.40 – Nick Ormrod (Oxford) – Explaining the Bell correlations with quantum causal models 

After – Drinks and Dinner

Sam Fletcher – The Representation and Determinable Structure of Quantum Properties

Thursday 1st December 2022, 5pm

Bush House (SE) 1.01, 30 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BG

Booking link:

Abstract: Orthodox quantum theory tells us that properties of quantum systems are represented by self-adjoint operators, and that two properties are incompatible just in case their respective operators do not commute. We present a puzzle for this orthodoxy, pinpointing the exact assumptions at play. Our solution to the puzzle specifically challenges the assumption that non-commuting operators represent incompatible properties. Instead, they represent incompatible levels of specification of determinates for a single determinable. This solution yields insight into the nature of so-called quantum indeterminacy and demonstrates a new and fruitful application of the determinable-determinate relation in quantum theory.

Neil Dewar – Equivalence and Convention
Thursday 17th March 2022, 4:30pm

K2.40, King’s College London Strand Campus, Strand, WC2R 2LS
Please register here


In this paper, I discuss the relationship between theoretical equivalence and convention. After reviewing the idea that when we disagree over a (mere) convention, we are advocating theoretically equivalent descriptions, I consider the possibility of conventions about equivalence – i.e., conventions as to what standard of theoretical equivalence should be adopted. I argue that Carnap’s Principle of Tolerance illuminates what to say about such cases, despite initial impressions to the contrary.


Emily Adlam – Spooky Action at a Temporal Distance
19th November 2020

Abstract: Since the discovery of Bell’s theorem, the physics community has come to take seriously the possibility that the universe might contain physical processes which are spatially nonlocal, but there has been no such revolution with regard to the possibility of temporally nonlocal processes. In this talk, I argue that the assumption of temporal locality is actively limiting progress in the field of quantum foundations. I investigate the origins of the assumption, arguing that it has arisen for historical and pragmatic reasons rather than good scientific ones, then explain why temporal locality is in tension with relativity and review some recent results which cast doubt on its validity.

James Read – Newtonian Equivalence Principles
21st May 2019

 Abstract: I present a unified framework for understanding equivalence principles in spacetime theories, applicable to both relativistic and Newtonian contexts. This builds on prior work by Knox (2014) and Lehmkuhl (forthcoming).

Knox, E. (2014). Newtonian spacetime structure in light of the equivalence principle. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science65(4), 863-880.

Lehmkuhl, D. The Equivalence Principle(s). Forthcoming in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Physics, edited by E. Knox and A. Wilson.

Tushar Menon | Faculty of Philosophy

Tushar Menon – Metaphysical Indeterminacy in Noncommutative Geometry
18th March 2021

Abstract: In this talk, I introduce a family of approaches to quantum geometry that collectively go under the name of `noncommutative geometries’ (NCGs), expressed in the formalism of spectral triples, developed by Alain Connes and collaborators. I will discuss an interesting interpretative puzzle to which spectral triples give rise: what we might call the `indeterminacy of location’ puzzle.

‘Indeterminacy of location’ applies to situations in which, for whatever reason, according to the theory, nature does not ascribe to an entity a determinate a matter of fact about its spatial location below a particular scale. The puzzle, accordingly, is to characterise this particular brand of indeterminacy and understand the consequent metaphysical commitments of NCGs regarding space. I demonstrate how we can marshal some standard metaphysical and semantic resources to solve this puzzle.

[This talk is based on work done in collaboration with Nick Huggett and Fedele Lizzi]

Katie Robertson – On the status of thermodynamics: the village witch’s trial
Thursday 9th December 2021, 4:30pm, King’s College London, Bush House (SE) 1.05, 30 Aldwych, WC2B 4BG

Please register here!

Abstract: Thermodynamics is an unusual physical theory; del Rio et al. describe thermodynamics as the `village witch’ of physics and say that “The other theories find her somewhat odd, somehow different in nature from the rest, yet everyone comes to her for advice, and no one dares to contradict her”. And the philosophical status of thermodynamics is disputed; Is it reduced? Autonomous? Anthropocentric? Universal? 

In this talk, I tackle two of these questions. First, I discuss the arguments for thermodynamics being not objective, or anthropocentric. I argue, contra Myrvold’s Maxwellian view of thermodynamics, that thermodynamics is not anthropocentric. I then block another road to subjectivity by arguing that the introduction of probability need not be justified by our ignorance of the exact microstate, as Jaynes argued. Instead, in agreement with Chen and Wallace, I argue that the statistical mechanical probabilities can be understood as quantum mechanical probabilities. But my account differs from Chen’s quantum Mentaculus in several respects. Finally, I consider the autonomy of thermodynamics. How can other physical theories ‘come to thermodynamics for advice’ — as we see with black hole thermodynamics guiding the search for a theory of quantum gravity — if thermodynamics is autonomous, and so floats free, of any underlying fundamental theory?