CFP: 2nd Annual Phenomenological Approaches to Physics Conference: Quantum Mechanics: Paradigm or Ontology of Nature?

Submission deadline: May 6, 2019

Conference date(s):
September 26, 2019 - September 28, 2019

Go to the conference's page

Conference Venue:

Philosophy Department; Quantum Philosophy Research Group, State University of New York, Stony Brook
Stony Brook, United States

Topic areas


Recently, a number of phenomenologically inspired thinkers have devoted attention to quantum mechanics. For these thinkers, quantum mechanics brings attention to the ways that scientific phenomena are produced within subjective frames of knowledge and experimentation.

A persistent question for these interpretations is whether the mathematical formalism and experimental data of quantum mechanics represent reality as it is ‘in itself,’ or whether they constitute merely subjective beliefs and models based on the appearing of certain kinds of phenomena. Some philosophers of science struggle to normalize issues of quantum physics in terms of traditional realisms that present quantum phenomena as indications of a need for an entirely new ontology of nature. On the other hand, others resist these ontological speculations. Following in the steps of physicists like Bohr, these interpretations take quantum phenomena to demonstrate nothing but the predictive power of instrumental models given within a still ‘classical’ frame. Still other interpretations attempt to balance subjective belief and ontological implication. Quantum Bayesianism, for instance, places the subject’s beliefs at the heart of reflection on quantum phenomena, despite claiming to hold to a ‘participatory realism.’

We are interested in papers that explore the conflicts between ontological and non-ontological interpretations of quantum physics, particularly from a phenomenological perspective. We take the debates over the ontological significance of quantum mechanics to draw attention to the role of subjective interpretation and conceptual framing in scientific experimentation. In part, these debates reflect conflicts over the role of the subject in registering quantum phenomena through various instruments and conceptual apparatuses. How does reflection on the subjective conditions of knowledge making, including conceptual paradigms and pre-scientific language, affect the ‘frame’ in which quantum phenomena appear? Does the subjective ‘frame’ reveal an inability for our models to reflect reality ‘in itself,’ or is the subject a part of a reality that is quantum ‘all the way up?’ More generally, is a phenomenological perspective on quantum phenomena compatible with various species of quantum realisms?

We are open to papers that engage the problems above, in addition to the following themes: 

  • The influence of philosophy, especially phenomenology, on Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger
  • The role of the pre-theoretical lifeworld in scientific practice and theory
  • How language, tools, and theory ‘frame’ the appearing of quantum phenomena
  • Competing standards of objectivity and subjectivity in realist and anti-realist interpretations of quantum mechanics
  • Differences in method and theory in phenomenological versus naturalistic interpretations of quantum phenomena
  • Quantum mechanics through the perspective of phenomenologists including Husserl, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty
  • Challenges that quantum mechanics pose to phenomenological inquiry

Women, minorities, people with disabilities, and members of other underrepresented groups are highly encouraged to apply.



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Keynote Speakers

·       Michel Bitbol | French researcher in philosophy of science, and "Directeur de recherche" at CNRS, previously in the Centre de Recherche en Epistémologie Appliquée (CREA) of École polytechnique in Paris, France. A prolific author and editor, Bitbol is also a member of Archives Husserl, Ecole Normale Superieure.

·       Michael Epperson | Author of Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead; Research professor and founding director of the Center for Philosophy and the Natural Sciences at California State University, Sacramento, and the founding director of the university's History and Philosophy of Science Program.

·       Harald A. Wiltsche | P.I. of the research project Intentionality and Symbolic Construction at the University of Graz, Austria.

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Custom tags:

#science, #phenomenology, #philosophy of science, #quantum mechanics, #Stony Brook University, #New York, #physics