Virginia Tech, USA
Fall Term 2009
Modeling Necessity: Hertz, Einstein, and Hilbert
Lydia Patton (Ph.D. McGill University) is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Virginia Tech. Before coming to Virginia Tech, she was a Harper-Schmidt Fellow at the University of Chicago.
Patton’s research focuses on experiment, modeling, and theory-building in science, and on the associated problem of the interpretation of scientific theories. Her project at the Center focuses on Heinrich Hertz’s demonstration of radio waves, the development of the theory of special relativity, and the unification of electromagnetism and optics. Her project will address several related questions, including the role of experimental design in detecting genuine effects and modeling their parameters; how to evaluate the scope of the warrant for scientific claims; and the usefulness and limits of a manipulability theory of causality. Patton also has research interests in Kant and Neo-Kantian philosophy, including the relationship between Kant and Newton, and the dialogue between neo-Kantianism, empirical psychology, and physiology in the 19 th century.
Her extra-philosophical pursuits include traveling; yoga; keeping up with what’s going on in art, architecture, dance, and politics; Sudoku (which eats up the time for other interests); quixotic autodidacticism in some areas of mathematics and physics; and visiting her family in West Virginia.
I have almost made it to HOPOS 2010 in Budapest, at which I will be presenting a paper, "Hilbert's Method of Analogy," that I researched while at the Center. I'm spending the week beforehand in Venice and Croatia, "fine-tuning the paper" (read: glancing at my paper on the table while watching the World Cup and drinking prosecco, which is how I always fine-tune papers). Then, in the fall, I will present a version, revised according to comments at HOPOS, at the Integrated HPS conference in Indiana.
My paper, "Experiment and Theory Building," was accepted for publication in Synthese. This is the paper I presented at the Fellows' reading group, so I am particularly grateful to the other Fellows, Athanassios Raftopoulos, Slobodan Perovic, Natalie Gold, Mark Sprevak, Lisa Damm, and Drozdstoj Stoyanov; and to Center director John Norton and HPS professor Michela Massimi, for their comments and suggestions, which were invaluable in revising the paper. The reading group was a great experience.