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Summer School - Physics and Philosophy of Time

Organized and sponsored by the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy and the Chair for Philosophy of Science in the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Lausanne

The focus of this summer school will be to appreciate how physics and philosophy interact to contribute to our understanding of the nature of time. Our goal is to bring together scholars from both areas to consider central aspects of time as they arise in various physical theories, as well as how traditional philosophical questions regarding time may both motivate physical theorizing and find themselves constrained by it. In particular, we shall consider what statistical physics, the special and general theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and recent developments in quantum gravity imply for our understanding of (space and) time. The relevant scientific theories consider, among many other topics, the physics of motion, the nature of the continuum, and the geometry of flat and curved spaces. Although the summer school will also consider more straightforwardly philosophical issues, the primary focus will be on the foundations of spacetime as the philosophy of physics is concerned with.

Organizers and Scientific Committee

Detlef Dürr (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich)

Michael Esfeld (University of Lausanne)

Stephan Hartmann (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich)

Christian Wüthrich (University of California, San Diego)

Invited Speakers

Claus Beisbart (University of Bern) 

Gordon Belot (University of Michigan)

Mathias Frisch (University of Maryland)

Sheldon Goldstein (Rutgers University)

Jenann Ismael (University of Arizona)

Tim Maudlin (New York University)

Nino Zanghì (University of Genova)




PhD students in the intersection between physics and philosophy

Master students who envisage doing a PhD in the philosophy of physics

General public being acquainted with the subject at least on master level


23 - 28 July 2013 


Hotel Sonnhalde 
Hochfirstweg 24
79853 Lenzkirch-Saig
Black Forest, Germany

Nearest airport: Basel (or Frankfurt or Zurich), then take the train to Freiburg (Breisgau) Hbf, after that the train to Titisee or Neustadt (Schwarzwald).

From there take the local bus service (Bus 7257) to Saig Ochsen, Lenzkirch which is the final destination. 

Train tickets are available on bahn.de.


EUR 600 for PhD and master students

EUR 900 for other participants


  • accommodation (check-in 23 July, check-out 28 July)
  • full board (including coffee breaks, but no further drinks)
  • tuition


The application deadline was 1 April.

For the inscription to be valid, the participation fee has to be paid via bank transfer by 15 May 2013 (we cannot accept credit cards):

Recipient: LMU München
Bank account no.: 24 868
BLZ: 700 500 00
IBAN: DE53 7005 0000 0000 0248 68 
Name of Bank: Bayerische Landesbank München
Address of Bank: Brienner Straße 18, 80333 Munich, Germany
Address of LMU München: Geschwister-Scholl-Platz 1, 80539 Munich, Germany
please indicate as purpose of transfer: 1507011/821376-1-10.5/Hartmann


On 22 July a workshop on The Metaphysics of Time will take place in Lausanne. There will be a collective travel from Lausanne to the summer school on 23 July. Please book your accomodation in Lausanne and train tickets individually. For your stay in Lausanne we recommend the Hotel des Voyageurs

From 29-31 July the Foundations of Physics conference will take place in Munich. Please book your train tickets to Munich individually if you want to visit this conference.

Train tickets can be booked on bahn.de.


Photo 1, Photo 2


For all practical issues, please contact Mario.Hubert@unil.ch.


Tuesday 23 July

18:30   Dinner  
20:00 Stephan Hartmann The No Alternatives Argument (paper)

Wednesday 24 July

09:00 Jenann Ismael Bridging the Gap between Physics and Phenomenology
10:30 Coffee Break  
11:00 Michael Esfeld Quantum Non-Locality and the Philosophy of Time
12:30 Lunch  
14:00 Afternoon work in small groups:
Matthias Egg EPR and Non-Locality
Vincent Lam Quantum Gravity and the Nature of Space-Time
Florian Hoffmann General Relativity and the Nature of Space-Time
L. A. Paul The Metaphysics of the Temporal and Causal Arrow
Dustin Lazarovici Entropy and the Arrow of Time
Mario Hubert Fields and Causality in Classical Electrodynamics
16:00 Coffee Break  
18:30 Dinner  
20:00 Sheldon Goldstein What is Quantum Theory?

Thursday 25 July

09:00 Tim Maudlin New Foundations for Physical Geometry
10:30 Coffee Break  
11:00 Gordon Belot Time and Dynamics in General Relativity
12:30 Lunch  
14:00 Afternoon work in small groups as on Wednesday
16:00 Coffee Break  
18:30 Dinner  
20:00 Claus Beisbart Time in Cosmology

Friday 26 July

09:00 Christian Wüthrich The Disappearance and Re-Emergence of Space and Time in Quantum Theories of Gravity
10:30 Coffee Break  
11:00 Nino Zanghì Typicality, Probability and Time
12:30 Lunch  
14:00 Afternoon work in small groups as on Wednesday
16:00 Coffee Break  
18:30 Dinner  
20:00 Tim Maudlin How Theory meets the World

Saturday 27 July

09:00 Detlef Dürr What is and Why is Wheeler-Feynman Electro-Magnetism of Interest?
10:30 Coffee Break  
11:00 Mathias Frisch Explaining the Temporal Arrow of Radiation
12:30 Lunch  
14:00 Afternoon work in small groups as on Wednesday
16:00 Coffee Break  
18:30 Dinner  
20:00 Nino Zanghì Primitive Ontology

Sunday 28 July

09:00 Michael Esfeld, Christian Wüthrich How to get a Postdoc in Europe or the US
11:00 Coffee Break  
11:30 Round Table Discussion results of the week, open research questions
12:30 Lunch  

Information on the Afternoon Groups 

Just before the afternoon sessions start on Wednesday every participant can choose to join one of the following groups. One can attend a group for the whole time or switch between groups during the week according to one's interests. The afternoon groups start their work directly after lunch at 14:00. It depends on the group's choice to continue their work after the coffee break at 16:00. 

EPR and Non-Locality

by Matthias Egg

The work in this group serves a double purpose: On the one hand, it seeks to provide participants with the necessary background knowledge about EPR-type phenomena in order to understand the tension between quantum mechanics and special relativity. On the other hand, it gives those participants who already have that background knowledge the opportunity to explore some further issues concerning proposals to reconcile quantum non-locality with the space-time structure given by special relativity.

Tim Maudlin's book "Quantum Non-Locality & Relativity" (3rd edition, 2011) serves as a basis for our discussions. The choice of chapters will depend on the preferences and the previous knowledge of the participants: For those with little previous knowledge on the topic, chapters 1-3 are highly recommended. Further discussions will be concerned with (parts of) chapters 4, 5, 7 and 10.

Quantum Gravity and the Nature of Space-Time

by Vincent Lam

After introducing the main steps of the standard quantization procedure of general relativity, we'll address the central conceptual and technical challenges that the notion spacetime faces within this 'conservative' approach to quantum gravity. In particular, we'll distinguish the general relativistic challenges from the quantum ones. We'll discuss to what extent spacetime can be absent from the fundamental ontology of quantum gravity.


Possible background reading:

Time permitting, we'll make the link with the general debate on the 'primitive ontology' conception according to which the ontology of quantum theory is best understood in terms of ' localized stuff in spacetime' (or 'local beables').


  • V. Allori (2013): Primitive Ontology and the Structure of Fundamental Physical Theories. In A. Ney and D. Albert (eds.), The Wave Function: Essays on the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 58-75.
  • A. Ney and K. Philipps (2013), 'Does an Adequate Physical Theory Demand a Primitive Ontology', Philosophy of Science 80: 454-474.

General Relativity and the Nature of Space-Time

by Florian Hoffmann

The nature of space-time in general relativity is distinctly different not only from its role in pre-relativistic physics but also in special relativity.
Working our way through the nature of space-time played in Newtonian physics and special relativity we will try to develop an understanding of the role of space-time in general relativity.

To this end we will briefly review general relativity in a very geometric way, clarifying the different levels of structure that enter into the basic concepts of the theory.
Depending on the background of the participants we will, time permitting, move on to discuss the ADM formalism, casting general relativity in a form that provides a picture of space-time closer to everyday experience.

Subsequently we will come to solutions of Einstein's equations containing closed time-like curves, like the famous Gödel universes, and discuss possible implications. A minimum understanding of basic differential geometry is helpful.


  • Robert Geroch: "General Relativity from A to B" , The University of Chicago Press, 1978 (Chapters 6 and 7 are highly recommended for those with little to no background in general relativity)
  • Tim Maudlin: "Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time" , Princeton University Press, 2012
  • Kurt Gödel: "A Remark about the Relationship between Relativity Theory and Idealistic Philosophy", and Einstein's reply to this article (in P.A. Schilpp, Albert Einstein Philosopher-Scientist, Volume VII in the Library of Living Philosophers).

Possible additional reading, for those with more background:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Articles about

  • "The Hole Argument" 
  • "Time Travel and Modern Physics"

The Metaphysics of the Temporal and Causal Arrow

by L. A. Paul

We'll discuss the metaphysics of causation, with special attention to preemption. We'll also talk about counterfactual dependence and the metaphysics of the temporal arrow in relation to its role in counterfactual dependence as well as the causally productive forward evolution of the world.


Paul, L. A. and Hall, N. Causation: a User's Guide. Chapters 1-3 and 6.

Entropy and the Arrow of Time

by Dustin Lazarovici

Why should there be an arrow of time in our universe, governed, as it is, on the fundamental level by time-symmetric microscopic laws, laws, that is, which do not make a difference between what we call „past“ and what we call „future“? Arguably the best answer that physics has to offer is the second law of thermodynamics, the fact that a system in a state of low entropy, corresponding classically to small phase-space volume, will typically evolve into a „more likely“ state of higher entropy, thus defining a thermodynamic arrow in the direction of increasing „disorder“. But this answer raises a bunch of deep and intriguing questions, both physically and philosophically:

  • Why do we find systems – and ultimately our universe – in such unlikely, ordered states in the first place?
  • How can we justify our believe that the universe was even more ordered in the past than it is today?
  • And to what extent can the thermodynamic arrow really account for the difference between “future” and “past” that is so fundamental to our experience of physical reality?

The workgroup will start with a discussion of the physical basis of entropy and the second law, working its way to addressing the deeper questions just mentioned.

Mandatory Reading: None

Recommended Reading:

  • Lebowitz, J.: "Macroscopic laws, microscopic dynamics, time’s arrow and Boltzmann’s entropy.";
  • Bricmont, J. : "Science of Chaos or Chaos in science?";
  • Goldstein, S.: "Boltzmann’s Approach to Statistical Mechanics" 
    (all articles are easy to find via google).
  • Albert, D.Z. (2003): "Time and Chance";
  • Penrose, R.: "The Emperor’s New Mind", Chapter 7.

Additional Reading (for fun):

  • Carroll, S.: "From Eternity to Here";
  • Reichenbach, H: "The Direction of Time".

Fields and Causality in Classical Electrodynamics

by Mario Hubert

This group is dedicated to two questions:

  1. Do electromagnetic fields physically exist?
  2. What does classical electrodynamics tell us about causality?

We are going to read the following book:

Lange, M. (2002). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics – Locality, Fields, Energy, and Mass. Chapters 1-3 and 5-6.

If possible, please, take this book with you.

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