Seminar: The Ontology of Physics / Ontologie der Physik

Winter Term 2014/2015

   General Information    Sessions    Literature

Prof. Detlef Dürr
Office B214
Prof. Michael Esfeld
Dustin Lazarovici
Office B315

The seminar takes place on Wednesday, 14.15h - 15.45 h, in room B006 (Theresienstr. 39).

General Information

If you want to know what a physical theory tells you about nature, you have to know what this theory is about. That is, you have to know and understand the ontology of the theory. In this interdisciplinary seminar, we will discuss ontology in physics from classical mechanics to modern quantum field theory, both from a physical and a philosophical perspective.

The seminar is structured as a reading class with open discussions on various topics on the boundary between physics and philosophy. Credits ("Scheine") can be awarded for the regular attendance of the meetings and a term paper on one of the subjects covered in the seminar, to be submitted by the end of the term.


Prior registration is not necessary. All interested students are invited to attend the fist meeting on Wed, October 8th.


Attention: Schedule has changed! Last Session: Jan 14th 2015

October 8, 2014
October 15, 2014
The beginning of natural philosophy: from the Presocratics to Newton
October 22, 2014
Properties and Laws
October 29, 2014
The notion of primitive ontology
November 5, 2014
Laws of nature: Humeanism vs. modal realism
November 12, 2014
Newtonian mechanics: particles and forces
November 19, 2014
Classical fields: are they real?
November 26, 2014
Laws in relativistic space-time
December 3, 2014
Quantum mechanics: primitive ontology & wave-function
December 10, 2014
Bohmian mechanics
December 17, 2014
Identity-based Bohmian mechanics
January 7, 2014
QFT: Dirac sea as the fundamental theory
January 14, 2014
QFT: Bell-type as effective theories
January 21, 2014
January 28, 2014

Reading Material

Here you can download the Course Syllabus.

Here you can download the complete reading material as a zip-file.
The password will be communicated to the participants on the first day of the seminar.

Der Dialog des Demokrit; Detlef Dürr, Dustin Lazarovici; Beitrag zu Proceedings des XXII. Deutschen Kongresses für Philosophie. In: Julian Nida-Rümelin und Elif Özmen (Hgg): Welt der Gründe. Proceedings des XXII. Deutschen Kongresses für Philosophie, Meiner Verlag (2012)

Quantum Humeanism, or: physicalism without properties Michael Esfeld, The Philosophical Quarterly 64 (2014), pp.453–470.

New translation of Newton's Principia.

J. Bigelow, B. Ellis, and R. Pargetter. Forces. Philosophy of Science, 55(4):614-630, 1988.