Lecturer in philosophy, mathematics and theoretical physics at the Amsterdam University College and the Faculty of Science of the University of Amsterdam.
During the academic year 2019-2020, I also lecture at the Department of Philosophy of the Free University of Amsterdam. During the winter of 2018-2019, I was a visiting fellow in philosophy at the Black Hole Initiative, Harvard University.
Tarner scholar in Philosophy of Science and History of Ideas (2015-2020) at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I did my PhD in philosophy of science with Jeremy Butterfield. Member of the Vossius Center for History of Humanities and Sciences at the University of Amsterdam. I did my PhD in theoretical physics in 2001 under Gerard 't Hooft (Nobel Prize in Physics 1999).
My areas of specialisation are the philosophy of science and the philosophy and history of physics. I am particularly interested in how classical referential semantics can be brought to bear on various questions in philosophy of science. I am interested in the debates about scientific realism, emergence, in questions of empirical under-determination, empirical equivalence, theoretical equivalence, scientific understanding, heuristics, dualities in physics, the relation between science and philosophy, and the philosophy of string theory.
I have active interests in the history and philosophy of information, the philosophy of technology, and philosophy of mind: on how these fields inform philosophy of science, and on how philosophy of science can be informed by them.
Scientific Realism. I am developing a response to the pessimistic meta-induction argument against scientific realism. The response brings aspects of intensional semantics to bear on the debate, by noting that meaning is ambiguous between extensions and intensions. The resulting position is a modest scientific realism, according to which one is justified in believing what confirmed theories say about extensions but not, in general, about intensions. I dub it ‘extensional scientific realism’.
Emergence. In recent work, I began to develop a framework for emergence in the physical sciences. Namely, I proposed to explicate ontological emergence in terms of the notion of ‘novel reference’, and of an account of interpretation as a map from theory to world. I am interested in the applications of ontological emergence to the emergence of spacetime and the emergence of gravity, and in the possibilities of applying the framework in biology, chemistry, and in computer science.
Dualities and philosophy of science. I have also been interested in the contribution of dualities to broader questions in philosophy of science: in particular, their contribution to extant syntactic and semantic construals of empirical equivalence and of empirical under-determination, and on the practical uses of dualities—what I have called the ‘heuristic function’ of dualities.
Scientific understanding and history of black holes. I work on scientific understanding (with Henk de Regt) and on other aspects of the epistemology of science (see paper 1, paper 2). With Jeroen van Dongen, I work on the history and philosophy of black holes, from the late 1960s to the most recent developments (see paper 1, paper 2).
Philosophy of physics. My research in philosophy of physics focusses on dualities, the equivalence of theories, and the philosophy of string theory. I have recently worked out (with Jeremy Butterfield) a schema for dualities that we have applied in various examples. We have also explored the connections between duality and symmetry. In a recent paper, I explain the contribution of the recent schema for duality to discussions of theoretical equivalence.
See my full list of publications on Google scholar. For a partial list of publications and activities, see the separate tab.
Generally, I will supervise theses on one of the two following broad topics: