CamPoS: Cambridge Philosophy of Science

Philosophy of the Physical Sciences

It is not much of an exaggeration to say that much of the physical world – from Newton’s universal gravitation to Thomson’s electron – was discovered in Cambridge. At a more abstract level, the University has a long tradition of distinguished philosophers (e.g., J. M. E. McTaggart and Bertrand Russell) expressing strong opinions about the nature of the physical world; and also of distinguished physicists (e.g., Sir Arthur Eddington and Stephen Hawking) expressing equally strong views about philosophical matters. But notoriously, distinction in one field is not a strong indication of distinction in the other, and often such great figures have tended to talk past one another. 

In recent decades, however, Cambridge has also been at the forefront of a new and welcome tendency for philosophers and physicists to talk to and with one another, in pursuit of common interests in foundational questions in the physical sciences. (Here Mary Hesse and Michael Redhead were founding figures.) The contemporary Cambridge research group in the philosophy of the physical sciences is  among the largest and most active in the world. Our research topics include the philosophical aspects of time, space and relativity theory, of thermal physics, and of quantum physics, and philosophy of chemistry. We have close links with Cambridge scientists in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (e.g., in the Centre for Quantum Information and Foundations) and elsewhere. We also have close ties to other leading research centres in the philosophy and foundations of the physical sciences, in the UK and elsewhere in the world.

Jeremy Butterfield and Huw Price 
October 2012