Thomas Pashby

Thomas Pashby
Assistant Professor
Stuart Hall, Room 231-B
Office Hours: Autumn Quarter,
773.834.8191
University of Pittsburgh PhD, History and Philosophy of Science, MA Philosophy (2014); University of Bristol MSci in Physics & Philosophy (2005)
Teaching at UChicago since 2016
Research Interests: Philosophy of Physics, History and Philosophy of Science

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, particularly its relationship to the relational logic and metaphysics of Bertrand Russell and A. N. Whitehead.  His research in the philosophy of time concerns Aristotle's theory of time and the discrete continuum as well as the relationship between tense, modality and locality in 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 core faculty member of the Stevanovic Institute on the Formation of Knowledge and a board member of the PhilSci-Archive, a free preprint server for philosophy of science.  

Selected Publications

“At What Time Does a Quantum Experiment Have a Result?” (2017) in Time in Physics (Eds. Renner & Stupar), Birkhauser: 141–160.

“How Do Things Persist? Location Relations in Physics and the Metaphysics of Persistence,”  Dialetica 70, no. 3 (2016): 269–309

“Time and Quantum Theory: A History and a Prospectus,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52 (2015): 24–38

“Reply to Fleming: Symmetries, Observables, and the Occurrence of Events,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52 (2015): 44–47

“Taking Times Out: Tense Logic as a Theory of Time,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 50 (2015): 13–18.

“Do Quantum Objects Have Temporal Parts?” Philosophy of Science 80, no. 5 (2013): 1137–1147.

“Dirac’s Prediction of the Positron: A Case Study for the Current Realism Debate,” Perspectives on Science 20, no. 4 (2012): 440–75

Recent Courses

PHIL 22709/32709 Introduction to Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics

(KNOW 22709, HIPS 22709, CHSS 32709)

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. (B) (II)

Prior knowledge of quantum mechanics is not required since we begin with an introduction to the formalism. Only familiarity with high school geometry is presupposed but expect to be introduced to other mathematical tools as needed.

2019-2020 Spring
Category
Metaphysics
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 53003 Explanation

(CHSS 53003, KNOW 53003 )

This course surveys recent work on explanation across philosophical disciplines. Beginning with classic accounts of scientific explanation we will proceed to consider recent work on mechanical explanation, mathematical explanation, causal explanation (particularly in the physical and social sciences), the relation between explanation and understanding, and metaphysical explanation (particularly the idea of explanation as ground). (II)

2019-2020 Spring
Category
Philosophy of Mathematics

PHIL 22000 Introduction to Philosophy of Science

(HIPS 22000, HIST 25109)

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. (B)

2019-2020 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 21108/31108 Time After Physics

(HIPS 21108, KNOW 21108, CHSS 31108, KNOW 31108 )

This course provides a historical survey of the philosophy of time. We begin with the problems of change, being and becoming as formulated in Ancient Greece by Parmenides and Zeno, and Aristotle’s attempted resolution in the Physics by providing the first formal theory of time. The course then follows theories of time through developments in physics and philosophy up to the present day. Along the way we will take in Descartes’ theory of continuous creation, Newton’s Absolute Time, Leibniz’s and Mach’s relational theories, Russell’s relational theory, Broad’s growing block, Whitehead’s epochal theory, McTaggart’s A, B and C theories, Prior’s tense logic, Belnap’s branching time, Einstein’s relativity theory and theories of quantum gravity. (B) (II)

2019-2020 Autumn
Category
Logic
Metaphysics
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 22709/32709 Introduction to Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics

(CHSS 32709, HIPS 22709, KNOW 22709)

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. (B)

Prior knowledge of quantum mechanics is not required since we begin with an introduction to the formalism. Only familiarity with high school geometry is presupposed but expect to be introduced to other mathematical tools as needed.

 

2018-2019 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 55100 The Development of Whitehead's Philosophy of Nature

(CHSS 55100, KNOW 55100)

In this course we will read Whitehead with the aim of understanding how he arrived at his mature views, i.e., the "philosophy of organism" expressed in Process and Reality (1929). The development of Whitehead's philosophy can be traced back to a planned fourth volume of Principia Mathematica (never completed) on space and time. This course will examine how these concerns with natural philosophy led Whitehead to develop his philosophy of organism. Beginning in the late 1910s, we will read over 10 years of published work by Whitehead, supplemented by recently discovered notes from his Harvard seminars 1924/25 and selected commentaries. (II)

2018-2019 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Mathematics
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 58108 The Philosophy of Howard Stein

(CHSS 58108)

Howard Stein's impressive body of work is notable for its tight integration of history of science with philosophy of science. Topics include: theories of spacetime structure (Newtonian and relativistic), the conceptual structure of quantum mechanics, the methodology of science in general and the character of scientific knowledge, and the history of physics and mathematics. Readings by Stein will be supplemented by primary historical texts and secondary philosophical literature, including selections from a forthcoming edited collection on Stein. (II)

2017-2018 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Science

PHIL 20100/30000 Elementary Logic

(CHSS 33500, HIPS 20700)

An introduction to the techniques of modern logic. These include the representation of arguments in symbolic notation, and the systematic manipulation of these representations in order to show the validity of arguments. Regular homework assignments, in class test, and final examination.

2017-2018 Autumn
Category
Logic

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. (B) (II)

2017-2018 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

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. (B) (II)

2016-2017 Winter
Category
Philosophy of Science

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.

2016-2017 Autumn
Category
Philosophy of Science

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)

2016-2017 Autumn