The philosophy of physics deals with methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical issues in physics. This seminar has the dual purpose of systematically introducing the background necessary to do research in philosophy of physics as well as discussing current research in the field.

The focus of the seminar in this semester will be on the foundations of spacetime theories and the philosophy of space and time. We will consider the nature and structure of spacetime, whether it is a substance or a relational complex, and how it is described in classical Newtonian physics, in special relativity, in general relativity, and beyond. The regular seminar will be interspersed with talks by leading experts on their current research in the philosophy of quantum gravity.

While some background in physics, mathematics, and philosophy will be helpful, I will not assume any specific knowledge beyond high school mathematics. No background in quantum gravity is necessary to successfully complete this seminar.

Course Requirements

If this seminar is taken for credit, please let me know. You will have to fulfill requirements, depending on the module for which you are taking this course:

- travail écrit de recherche avec soutenance (env. 25 pages, 50'000 signes)
- travail écrit de recherche (env. 12 pages, 24'000 signes) et présentation orale durant le séminaire
MA8 (demi-module):
- travail écrit de recherche (env. 12 pages, 24'000 signes) ou présentation orale durant le séminaire

Course Materials

Course materials such as lecture notes, handouts, etc will be made available as they will be used in class.

The following books are strongly recommended for this seminar (though we will mostly be using Maudlin's book:

  • Dainton, Barry (2001). Time and Space. Montreal. McGill-Queen's University Press.
  • Earman, John (1989). World Enough and Space-Time: Absolute versus Relational Theories of Space and Time. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Friedman, Michael (1983). Foundations of Space-Time Theories: Relativistic Physics and Philosophy of Science. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Maudlin, Tim (2012). Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Reichenbach, Hans (1958). The Philosophy of Space and Time. New York: Dover.
  • Sklar, Lawrence (1974). Space, Time, and Spacetime. University of California Press.
  • More materials will be made available on Chamilo.


This is the schedule of topics and readings for the seminar. It is likely subject to adjustment. For titles and abstracts of the guest talks, visit beyondspacetime.net

Date Readings Presenter(s)
*21.09. Guest (Geneva): Joshua Norton (American University Beirut)
Landolt L107, 18:00
22.09. Introduction Christian Wüthrich
29.09. Reichenbach, §§1-8, pp. 1-37 (Background: Sklar, pp. 88-103) Niels Linnemann
*5.10. Guest (Geneva): Tatyana Shestakova (Southern Federal University)
Landolt L107, 18:00
06.10. Reichenbach, §§21-23, pp. 135-149 (Background: Sklar, pp. 318-343) Lorenzo Cocco
*12.10. Guest (Geneva): Ko Sanders (University of Leipzig)
Landolt L107, 18:00
13.10. van Fraassen, Ch. 6 Baptiste Le Bihan
*19.10. Guest (Geneva): Marko Voijnovic (University of Belgrade)
Landolt L107, 18:00
20.10. Maudlin, Ch. 1 and Ch. 2 Karen Crowther
*26.10. Guest (Geneva): Elena Castellani (Firenze)
Landolt L107, 18:00
27.10. Guest (Geneva): Elena Castellani (Firenze)
Elena Castellani
03.11. No seminar (I will be at the PSA)
10.11. Semaine d'études
*16.11. Guest (Chicago): Shamik Dasgupta (UC Berkeley)
Landolt L107, 18:00
17.11. Maudlin, Ch. 3 Daniele Cereghetti
24.11. Maudlin, Ch. 4, pp. 67-87 Joshua Babic
*30.11. Guest (Geneva): Tushar Menon (Oxford)
Landolt L107, 18:00
01.12. Maudlin, Ch. 4, pp. 87-105 Christian Wüthrich
08.12. Maudlin, Ch. 5 Augustin Baas
15.12. Maudlin, Ch. 6 Benjamin Neeser
22.12. Maudlin, Ch. 7 Christian Wüthrich


  • With the exception of the first meeting, assigned readings should be prepared before the meeting.
  • Readings marked with an asterisk are background reading which will not be examined.
  • The participation in events marked with an asterisk is not mandatory.