New and Enduring Themes in the History and Philosophy of Quantum, Statistical, and Thermal Physics: Celebrating Jos Uffink’s Research at Minnesota

When & Where?

  • November 7–8, 2022
  • 215 Humphrey (Wilkins Room), University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; and online, via Zoom
  • Registration is required, but free. Registration deadline: October 17, 2022. Registrants attending online will receive a Zoom link via email.
  • Workshop dinner at 7 PM, Nov. 7, at Trapeze, $85. Registrants who indicate an interest in attending the dinner will receive information via email regarding payment methods.
  • Current UMN Covid protocols will be in effect.

What & How?

Jos Uffink will retire from the University of Minnesota at the end of 2022, having spent a decade with us as Professor of Philosophy and a faculty affiliate of the Program in the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine. While Jos’s essays are widely taken “to master and explicate [their] subject so thoroughly as to bluff everyone else into thinking there is nothing left to say,” this conference celebrates the enduring vitality of the themes in Jos’s research in the history and philosophy of quantum, statistical, and thermal physics.

Who? (Speakers)

Clayton Gearhart (St. John’s)
Wayne Myrvold (Western)
Margriet van der Heijden (Eindhoven/Amsterdam UC)
Giovanni Valente (Poli Milano)
Charlotte Werndl (Salzburg)*
Lena Zuchowski (Bristol)
*via Zoom videoconferencing
Organization: Samuel C. Fletcher (UMN)

More on When (Program)

Monday, November 7, 2022

Time (CST/UTC-6)
9:15–9:30 Opening Remarks (Alan Love & Samuel C. Fletcher)
9:30–10:30 Charlotte Werndl (Salzburg): Phase Transitions: Boltzmann versus Gibbs
10:30–10:45 Coffee Break
10:45–11:45 Lena Zuchowski (Bristol): From Randomness to the Arrow of Time
11:45–12:00 Coffee Break
12:00–1:00 Giovanni Valente (Poli Milano): Taking up Statistical Thermodynamics: Equilibrium Fluctuations and Irreversibility
1:00–2:30 Lunch Break
2:30–3:30 Clayton Gearhart (St. John’s): “Astonishing Successes”; “Bitter Disappointment”: Physics Textbooks and the Old Quantum Theory
3:30–3:45 Coffee Break
3:45–4:45 Michel Janssen (UMN): Getting Right to the Heart of Matters (Counting Crows in Omaha)
4:45–5:00 Coffee Break
5:00–6:00 Margriet van der Heijden (Eindhoven/AUC): Tatiana Afanassjewa and Paul Ehrenfest – A Cosmopolitan Oasis in Provincial Leiden
7:00 Conference Dinner

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Time (CST/UTC-6)
9:00–10:00 Wayne Myrvold (Western): Two Sciences Called “Thermodynamics”
10:00–10:15 Coffee Break
10:15–11:15 Samuel C. Fletcher (UMN): What Gravitational Waves Teach Us about Thermodynamics
11:15–11:30 Coffee Break
11:30–12:30 Bryan W. Roberts (LSE): Geometric Thermodynamics and Black Holes
12:30–1:00 Closing Remarks (Jos Uffink)


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The Argument Clinic

I recently published a fun little pedagogical essay on using Monty Python’s “Argument Clinic” sketch to introduce students to arguments, in the philosophical sense. I first learned of this sketch in graduate school from Ben Rin. Ever since, I have deployed it in teaching introductory logic, but it would also be wonderful for any introductory philosophy course that has a unit on arguments and argumentation. If you teach philosophy, aspire to, or wonder what it would be like, watch the clip first and imagine how you would use it.

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Workshop: Rethinking Formal Methods in Philosophy

When & Where?

  • September 20–21, 2019
  • 215 Humphrey (Wilkins Room), University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
  • Registration is free.
  • Workshop dinner at 7 PM, Sept. 20, at Republic. Cost is $30 for graduate students and $40 for non-student workshop attendees. Registrants who indicate an interest in attending the dinner will receive information via email regarding payment methods.

What & How?

With which methods should a competent, contemporary philosopher be familiar? Argumentation, analysis, and creative synthesis have always been in the philosopher’s toolkit, but there is a rising confluence between the methods of contemporary philosophy and those formal methods more traditionally associated with the sciences. While “logic” has been essentially synonymous with “formal methods” in philosophy for many decades, increasingly philosophers are using probability and decision theory, statistics, and even experimental design and computer simulation. This two-day workshop on this new conception of philosophical method will bring together diverse philosophers into conversation about the present and future status of formal and mathematical methods in philosophy, their institutionalization in graduate (and undergraduate) pedagogy, and how these changes now reflect and will engender evolving relationships between philosophy and other disciplines.
Two special features of this workshop:

Who? (Speakers)

Ray Briggs (Stanford)
Helen De Cruz (St. Louis)
Catarina Dutilh Novaes (VU Amsterdam)*
Branden Fitelson (Northeastern)*
Joshua Knobe (Yale)*
Conor Mayo-Wilson (Washington)
Cailin O’Connor (UC Irvine)
Eric Steinhart (William Patterson)
Greg Wheeler (Frankfurt School)
*via videoconferencing

More on When (Program)

Friday, 20 September 2019

Time Event
9:30–10:30 Joshua Knobe: Which Formal Methods are Most Used in Philosophy?
10:30–10:45 Coffee Break
10:45–11:45 Helen De Cruz: Reflections on Teaching Experimental Philosophy to Undergraduates
11:45–12:00 Coffee Break
12:00–1:00 Eric Steinhart: Can Mathematics Save Philosophy?
1:00–2:30 Lunch Break
2:30–3:30 Ray Briggs: Baby Logic?
3:30–3:45 Coffee Break
3:45–4:45 Gregory Wheeler: Too Boole for School
4:45–5:00 Coffee Break
5:00–6:00 Conor Mayo-Wilson: Is TMTOWTDI When We Train Philosophers in Formal Methods?
7:00 Workshop Dinner

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Time Event
9:30–10:30 Branden Fitelson: How to Model the Epistemic Probabilities of Conditionals
10:30–10:45 Coffee Break
10:45–11:45 Cailin O’Connor: Synthesizing Formal and Empirical Methods in Philosophy: Testing the Red King
11:45–12:00 Coffee Break
12:00–1:00 Catarina Dutilh Novaes: Carnapian Explication and Ameliorative Analysis: A Systematic Comparison
1:00–2:30 Lunch Break
2:30–3:30 Jonathan Livengood: TBA
3:30–3:45 Coffee Break
3:45–5:00 Roundtable Discussion, moderated by Liam Kofi Bright

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Even More Revealing

Ever wonder where you can read or here about what I’ve been recently pondering? No? Well, now you can here!

Summer Talks!

  • Little Shallows in the Depths: Indeterminacy in Quantum Theory (with David E. Taylor) @ Quantum Indeterminacy Workshop (Dartmouth), July 12–13
  • The Topology of Intertheoretic Reduction @ BSPS 2019 (Durham), July 17–19
  • The Topology of Intertheoretic Reduction @ CLMPST 2019 (Prague), August 5–10
  • The Role of Replication in Psychological Science @ EPSA 2019 (Geneva), September 11–14


You can now download new syllabuses here for Space and Time (F18), Computability and Logic (S19), and my graduate seminar (S19): Physical Perspectives on Computation, Computational Perspectives on Physics.

Research & Writing!

I’ve updated my research and publications pages, the latter with the following. If you can’t access something linked there, let me know: I’ll be happy to send it to you, especially these new ones:

“Extending List’s Levels.” In Marek Kus and Bartłomiej Skowron, eds. Category Theory in Physics, Mathematics, and Philosophy. Springer. (With Neil Dewar and Laurenz Hudetz.)

“Approximate Local Poincaré Spacetime Symmetry in General Relativity,” in Claus Beisbart, Tilman Sauer, and Christian Wüthrich, eds. Thinking about Space and Time. Einstein Studies, vol. 15. Birkhäuser.

“Similarity Structure on Scientific Theories.” In Bartłomiej Skowron, ed. Topological Philosophy. de Gruyter.

“Which Worldlines Represent Possible Particle Histories?” Foundations of Physics. (Check out the published version or a read-only version thereof.)

“On the Reduction of General Relativity to Newtonian Gravitation.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics. (Check out the published version.)

“Counterfactual Reasoning within Physical Theories.” Synthese.  (Check out the published version or a read-only version thereof.)

“On Representational Capacities, with an Application to General Relativity.” Foundations of Physics. (Check out the published version or a read-only version thereof.)

“Evidence Amalgamation in the Sciences: An Introduction. Synthese. (With Jürgen Landes and Roland Poellinger. Check out the published version or a read-only version thereof.)

“Infinite Idealizations in Science: An Introduction.” Synthese 196(5): 1657–1669.  (With Patricia Palacios, Laura Ruetsche, and Elay Shech. Check out the published version or a read-only version thereof.)

“Stopping Rules as Experimental Design.” European Journal for Philosophy of Science 9: 29. (Check out the published version.)

“Global Spacetime Similarity.” Journal of Mathematical Physics 59(11): 112501. (Check out the published version.)

“Computers in Abstraction/Representation Theory.” Minds & Machines: 8(3): 445–463. (Check out the published version, or a read-only version thereof.)

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Revealed Preferences

If you had asked me in a survey about my preferences for organizing my sock drawers and updating my website, it would not have revealed the preferences that my actions over the past year have! Instead of a languorous narrative, here are some high points for the concretely minded.


Updated syllabuses available here.


Check out the updated research and papers publications pages, especially these:

“Minimal Approximations and Norton’s Dome.” 2018. Synthese: forthcoming. (Check out the published version, a read-only version thereof, or a preprint.)

“Would Two Dimensions be World Enough for Spacetime?” 2018. Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics: forthcoming. (With J. B. Manchak, Mike D. Schneider, and James Owen Weatherall. Check out the published version or a preprint.)

“Indeterminism, Gravitation, and Spacetime Theory.” 2017. In Gábor Hofer-Szabó and Leszek Wroński, eds. Making It Formally Explicit: Probability, Causality and Indeterminism. Springer, pp. 179–191. (Check out the published version or an pre-copyedited preprint.)


It’s finally coming out! I’ll be teaching a graduate seminar in Spring, 2019 on my book edited with Mike Cuffaro,  Physical Perspectives on Computation, Computational Perspectives on Physics, due out in May, 2018 with Cambridge University Press. In addition to our introduction, there are twelve commissioned chapters evenly divided among four thematic parts:

  1. The Computability of Physical Systems and Physical Systems as Computers
  2. The Implementation of Computation in Physical Systems
  3. Physical Perspectives on Computer Science
  4. Computational Perspectives on Physical Theory

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