Thomas Pashby

Thomas Pashby is Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy. He specializes in philosophy of physics with a particular interest in the interaction of physics, metaphysics and the philosophy of science. He received his graduate training at the University of Pittsburgh, where he wrote his dissertation "Time and the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics" under the direction of John Earman and John D. Norton. He is currently engaged in research projects concerning the interpretation of quantum mechanics, the relational theory of time, and structural realism. What connects these projects is the idea that modern physics is best interpreted within an event ontology, which is to say that (metaphysically speaking) events and processes are fundamental rather than objects and properties.

He is also interested in the history of this idea, which originates with Whitehead and Russell (in their post-Principia works). In this connection, he is working on a novel defense of Russell's structural realism and (with Riccardo Pinosio) on an updated version of Russell's relational theory of time in a form suited to relativistic spacetime. In the history of physics, he has a long-term project concerning Paul Dirac's discoveries in relativistic quantum theory and his use of projective geometry. He is a board member of the PhilSci-Archive, a free preprint server for philosophy of science.



office: Stuart Hall, Room 231-B
office hours: Spring Quarter: by appointment
office phone: 773/834-8191
email: pashby at

Recent Publications

  • "How Do Things Persist? Location Relations in Physics and the Metaphysics of Persistence." (2016) Dialetica, Vol. 70, Issue 3.
  • Time and Quantum Theory: A History and a Prospectus." (2015). Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 52: 24–38.
  • "Reply to Fleming: Symmetries, Observables, and the Occurrence of Events." (2015). Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 52: 44–47.
  • "Taking Times Out: Tense Logic as a Theory of Time" (2015). Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, Vol. 50: 13–18.
  • "Do Quantum Objects Have Temporal Parts?" (2013). Philosophy of Science, Vol. 80, No. 5: 1137–1147.
  • "Dirac’s Prediction of the Positron: A Case Study for the Current Realism Debate"(2012). Perspectives on Science, Vol. 20, No. 4: 440–475.

Works in Progress

  • At What Time Does a Quantum Experiment Have a Result? - Link
  • Understanding Russell's Response to Newman - Link

Recent and Upcoming Courses

PHIL 22000/32000. Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. (=CHSS 33300, HIPS 22000, HIST 25109, HIST 35109) We will begin by trying to explicate the manner in which science is a rational response to observational facts. This will involve a discussion of inductivism, Popper's deductivism, Lakatos and Kuhn. After this, we will briefly survey some other important topics in the philosophy of science, including underdetermination, theories of evidence, Bayesianism, the problem of induction, explanation, and laws of nature. (II) and (B) Winter 2017.

PHIL 22709. Introduction to Quantum Mechanics. In this class we examine some of the conceptual problems associated with quantum mechanics. We will critically discuss some common interpretations of quantum mechanics, such as the Copenhagen interpretation, the many-worlds interpretation and Bohmian mechanics. We will also examine some implications of results in the foundations of quantum theory concerning non-locality, contextuality and realism. Prior knowledge of quantum mechanics is not required since we begin with an introduction to the formalism, but familiarity with matrices, freshman calculus and high school geometry will be presupposed. Autumn 2016.

PHIL 54410. Russell's Philosophy of Science in Context. We will read work from Russell's entire career with a particular focus on both his philosophy of science and the role of science (including geometry and mathematics) in his philosophical development. We will also look at his influences and contemporaries (including Whitehead, Keynes and Carnap) and at how Russell's views on causation and structuralism have been treated by more recent philosophers of science. (II) Autumn 2016.