Pembroke College, Oxford University
Academic Year 2013-14
Concepts of Reduction and Emergence in Physics
Josh recently completed his doctorate in philosophy at the University of Oxford, where his research focused on philosophy of physics, foundations of physics and philosophy of science. His thesis explored the nature of inter-theory relations in physics both from a general methodological point of view and by examining particular case studies of reduction: namely, between classical and quantum, and relativistic and non-relativistic, theories. In the thesis, he argues that dynamical systems theory furnishes a particularly clear-cut framework in which to understand a wide range of inter-theory relations in physics, and illustrates the application of this framework in a number of particular cases.
His current research interests continue to revolve around issues pertaining to reduction and emergence in physics and in the sciences more generally, as well as issues in the foundations of quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. While in Pittsburgh, he intends to revisit the discussion of the role of bridge laws in Nagel and Schaffner’s account of inter-theory reduction in light of certain reductions in physics, as well as to investigate certain reduction-related issues in the foundations of quantum mechanics and quantum-field theory.
Outside of philosophy, Josh enjoys playing blues guitar, tennis and reading literary fiction.
I spent this past year as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Minnesota. During this time I have had three papers published or accepted for publication and also completed a fourth. "Local Reduction in Physics", written while a fellow at Pitt's Center, was published in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics in May 2015. "Is De Broglie-Bohm Theory Specially Equipped to Recover Classical Behavior?", also completed while a fellow at Pitt, will be published in Philosophy of Science as part of the proceedings of the 2014 PSA Meeting. A third paper, titled "'Formal' vs. 'Empirical' approaches to Quantum-Classical Reduction" will be published in Topoi's special issue on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics in the fall of 2015. While at Minnesota, I also completed a fourth paper, "Interpretation Neutrality in the Classical Domain of Quantum Theory," which argues that the recovery of classical behavior from quantum theory is a largely interpretation-neutral affair and moreover conforms to a general model of inter-theoretic reduction defended in my other work. In addition to these papers, I also delivered talks at the PSA 2014 conference in Chicago, the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics conference in Oxford, and at the University of Minnesota's Philosophy Symposium and Physics Interest Group (PIG). This fall, I will be delivering talks on reduction at Pitt's conference on Effective Field Theories, Mixed-Scale Modeling and Emergence and at the UC Boulder Conference on Emergence. On the teaching side of things, while at Minnesota I had the opportunity to build and deliver my own course on Science, Technology and Society, titled “The Scientific Worldview and its Critics,” which examines the relevance of various core topics in history and philosophy of science toward contemporary debates about the place of science in modern society.