BBLOC Philosophy of Physics Seminar Series

The Birmingham-Bristol-London-Oxford-Cambridge Philosophy of Physics Seminar Series is restarting! This is a research seminar for philosophers of physics across the South of England to meet each term, hosted at King’s College London. 

The next two events will take place on Monday 23rd March at 5pm in Bush House (SE) 1.02 and Thursday 21st May at 4:30pm in K2.40, King’s Building, KCL Strand Campus. The speakers will be Emily Adlam and James Read.

For more details see:

New to the Department: Alexander Franklin

Where where you before coming to King’s?

I did my PhD and MPhilStud at King’s, so I’ve been here since 2013. However, most recently I came here from Bristol where I was a postdoc on a project with the grand title ‘The Metaphysical Unity of Science’. The great thing about that project is that it allowed me to work on my own research while also giving me the chance to collaborate with the other postdocs (Vanessa Seifert and Toby Friend) on exciting topics. The products of these collaborations should be completed soon!

How did you become interested in philosophy?

I’m lucky enough to have been introduced to philosophy from a very young age by my dad (who also has a PhD in philosophy). Throughout my childhood and later life we’d go on walks on Hampstead Heath discussing philosophy (though not necessarily calling it that) as well as various religious Jewish texts. So, it’s not clear to me that I’ve ever not been into philosophy. The choice to study philosophy professionally was likely motivated in part by the desire to keep up with the conversations when Oliver Black (a schoolfriend of my Dad’s) would join us on these walks! But I really became excited when, as an undergraduate, I started learning about the philosophy of physics!

Your work involves the role of emergence in science, do you think there is a single concept of emergence applicable across different levels of scientific explanation or are we talking about different things? 

That’s a good question, and a difficult one to answer. In my more hubristic moments, I think that everyone is talking about the same thing, and that the account of it that I defend with Eleanor Knox, is the one to which everyone should appeal! I do think that many of the uses of the term ‘emergence’ across science have a lot in common with each other, and that, if one wants to use the philosophical jargon, scientists are mainly talking about weak ontological emergence (in its synchronic or diachronic forms). I think that strong emergence is almost exclusively found within philosophy (and that’s one reason to be sceptical of it!). Having said all that, it’s worth noting that I’ve read much more physics than any other science, and so my views should not be taken to result from a systematic study of the literature. 

It has been argued in the past that special sciences are autonomous from more fundamental sciences. Do you think that we can ever give an explanation of this autonomy or will it remain a mystery?

The boring answer to this question is that it depends on how ‘autonomy’ is defined. A fair few philosophers assume (explicitly or implicitly) that autonomy is the kind of thing that just can’t be explained – that if a science is autonomous then the relations between it and the lower-level sciences aren’t the sorts of relation which allow for explanation of that autonomy. My view is that, while there’s a sense in which the special sciences are clearly autonomous, that’s a sense which is compatible with explaining how that autonomy comes about. 

The basic idea is that autonomy corresponds to a kind of stability: my desk is autonomous because it will look the same even while its constituent particles are continually jiggling about. So part of explaining autonomy is explaining why the jiggling about of the particles just doesn’t make a difference to the macroscopic properties of the table. Once we’ve made this conceptual shift, then we can repurpose a great many scientific explanations to explanations of autonomy: the table’s autonomy is explained by the theories which tell us about how the particles are arranged in a lattice, and how wood is cohesive etc. I’ve written a paper about this that’s currently under review, so hopefully it’ll all be public soon!

Is there a philosophical idea that you endorse and that most people don’t but should?

I think that there may well be no fundamental level – that we may continue describing the world ever more precisely for ever and ever!

King’s College London Peace Lecture: Prof Cécile Fabre (10th of March)

The King’s College London Peace Lecture will be given this year by Prof Cécile Fabre on the topic, ‘Snatching Something From Death’: Value, Justice, and Humankind’s Common Heritage

Professor Fabre is a Senior Research Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford,  Professor of Political Philosophy at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. She is the author of Justice in a Changing World, Whose Body is it Anyway? Justice and the Integrity of the Person, and in 2012 Cosmopolitan War.

Cécile Fabre has just completed an eight year long project on the ethics of war and peace. She is also working on the ethics of economic statecraft and on the ethics of espionage.

The lecture will be in Bush House Lecture Theatre 1 on Tuesday the 10th of March

The lecture will begin at 6.30pm till 8pm with a reception afterwards


When Notre-Dame Cathedral was engulfed by fire on April 15, 2019, the world (it seemed) watched in horror. On Twitter, Facebook, in newspapers and on TV cables ranging as far afield from Paris as South Africa, China and Chile, people expressed their sorrow at the partial destruction of the church, and retrospective anguish at the thought of what might very well have happened – the complete loss of a jewel of Gothic architecture whose value somehow transcends time and space. My aim in this lecture is to offer a philosophical account and defence of the view that there is such a thing as humankind’s common heritage, and that this heritage makes stringent moral demands on us. I first offer an account of the universal value of (some) heritage goods, and then offer a conception of justice at the bar of which we owe it to one another, but also to our ancestors and successors, to preserve that heritage.

KCL MAP RG – 12/02/20

KCL MAP reading group will be looking at ‘The rational impermissibility of accepting (some) racial generalizations’ by Renee Bolinger . We will be meeting 13:00-14:00, on Wednesday 12th Feb, at Activity Room B, 8th Floor, South East Wing, Bush House. 

Abstract: I argue that inferences from highly probabilifying racial generalizations (e.g. believing that Jones is a janitor, on the grounds that most Salvadoreans at the school are janitors) are not solely objectionable because acting on such inferences would be problematic, or they violate a moral norm, but because they violate a distinctively epistemic norm. They involve accepting a proposition when, given the costs of a mistake, one is not adequately justified in doing so. First I sketch an account of the nature of adequate justification—practical adequacy with respect to eliminating the ¬p possibilities from one’s epistemic statespace. Second, I argue that inferences based on demographic generalizations tend to disproportionately expose group members to the risks associated with mistakenly assuming stereotypical propositions, and so magnify the wrong involved in relying on such inferences without adequate justification.

Peter Adamson: From Known to Knower

Peter Adamson (KCL, LMU Munich) will be speaking to the department about on Friday 28th February, 3-5pm in Room 508 of the Philosophy Building.

The title of his talk is “From Known to Knower: Affinity Arguments for the Mind’s Incorporeality in the Islamic World”

Prof. Adamson’s latest book Classical Indian Philosophy will be released by Oxford University Press in March.

Philosophy in Medical Education Conference

The organisers of the conference Philosophy in Medical Education are pleased to invite abstract submissions. The conference is due to take place at King’s College London on the 6th – 8th of April 2020. 

The conference will look at the role and the details of teaching philosophy as part of the curriculum of medical schools. We invite abstracts of papers on all aspects of this topic, from, for example, papers on the value of philosophy in medical education to papers on specific teaching topics to reports of experiences of teachers and students, and so on. We welcome interdisciplinary submissions. 

Abstracts of up to 300 words should be sent to  by 14 February 2020.  We will select papers for inclusion in the conference as soon as possible after that date. 

We will have some funding for bursaries to support the participation of graduate students and early career researchers. General inquiries can be directed to

MAP Reading Group – 29/01/20

This week, MAP reading group will be looking at ‘Responsibility Without Blame: Empathy and the Effective Treatment of Personality Disorder’ by Hanna Pickard. In the paper, Pickard examines the relation between personality disorder and concepts such as responsibility and blame. 

Location: Activity Room E, 8th Floor, South East Wing, Bush House

Time: 13:00-14:00, Wednesday 29th January

Women Intellectuals in Antiquity

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Dr Katharine O’Reilly will be co-organising a conference on Women Intellectuals in Antiquity at the University of Oxford next month (14th-15th Feb). The symposium aims to bring together scholars from across the humanities disciplines to discuss women intellectuals in Antiquity and will feature keynote lectures from Dr. Danielle Layne and Dr. Sophia Connell, and a panel discussions led by Armand D’Angour.

Katharine notes: “The event is really a first, and many of the women philosophers we’re discussing are mostly unknown outside a very small circle, so we’re very excited to be running this”.

To see the event announcement on PhilEvents, click here.

The programme for the event is here and to register, click here.

Registration, including lunch and coffees, is free for students.

King’s is one of the few philosophy departments to offer a course dedicated to Women Thinkers in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Hopefully this symposium will call greater attention to this research in this field.

For any questions, please email

This event is jointly organised by Jenny Rallens, Peter Adamson, Katharine O’Reilly, and Ursula Coope with the support of Keble College Oxford, the British Society for the History of Philosophy (BSHP), The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH), Oxford University, the Department of Classics at King’s College London, and LMU Munich.  

Reading Groups this Term

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This term will see a host of reading groups, some familiar, some new, all open to everyone. So why not drop by? 

Philosophy of Action

Monday 1pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building

Focus: Go beyond the ‘Standard Story’?

Email:, or

Philosophy of Medicine

Thursday, 4pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building


Philosophy of Race

Thursday, 10am, Room 508, Philosophy Building


(Mostly) Metaphysics  Reading Group

Wednesday, 12:30-2pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building


Philosophy of Mind

Wednesday, 11am, Room 508, Philosophy Building  


Phenomenology in Analytic Philosophy

Wednesday 3pm, Room 508, Philosophy Building


Minorities and Philosophy

Venue varies


A Spirit of Trust

Time and place to be determined [starting after the reading week]