dr. S.M. (Simon) Friederich

Associate professor


Postal address:
Hoendiepskade23 -24
Gebouw 1137, ruimte 0229
9718 BG
Phone: +31 50 363 6149

Research interests

I have very diverse research interests. The following is a broad overview of them that gives you an impression of my contributions and views.


"Epistemology of the Multiverse"

I am working on a research project "Epistemology of the Multiverse", funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) through a Veni grant. The project explores the prospects for empirically testing theories according to which the laws of nature and the constants vary across space-time or even across universes that together form a "multiverse". Often a "fine-tuning" for life of the laws and constants of nature is claimed to provide evidence that we live in a multiverse. I give an overview of that debate in an article on "Fine-tuning" for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Various papers of mine that have recently appeared or are presently under consideration discuss crucial aspects of that debate and assess the challenges that arise in attempts to empirically test concrete multiverse theories.


Philosophy of physics

I have long been intrigued by the challenge to make sense of quantum theory. Existing work of mine concerns the status of quantum states, the compatibility of (so-called) non-local quantum correlations with relativity theory and the problem that arise from quantum theories with infinitely many degrees of freedom. My monograph "Interpreting Quantum Theory -- A Therapeutic Approach" brings together the different threads of my work on quantum theory until 2014. My interest has recently turned to approaches that assume some kind of retrocausation to make sense of the quantum world.

In addition, the significance of symmetries and symmetry breaking in physics have intrigued me, in particular how symmetries connect to questions of identity among physical states and what it actually means for different types of symmetries to be spontaneously broken. Recently, I was guest editor of a special section on philosophical perspectives on particle physics after the Higgs discovery in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, together with Dennis Lehmkuhl.

General philosophy of science

Some of my work on quantum theory has a direct bearing on questions with a general relevance for philosophy of science, in particular concerning the nature of objective probabiliy and causation. Together with Koray Karaca and theoretical physicist Robert Harlander I wrote a paper on the notion "ad hoc hypothesis" and its application to methodological issues concerning the Higgs mechanism, in particular the violation of "naturalness".


My work in epistemology focuses mostly on problems of rational self-locating belief, a topic that has a bearing on diverse issues, from everyday contexts to the evaluation of cosmological theories.

Philosophy of Mathematics

To understand mathematics and mathematical activity, it is crucial to have a clear view of the functioning of mathematical language. I am tempted by Wittgenstein's idea that mathematical language has an essentially normative, rather than descriptive, mode of use. Whereas Wittgenstein applied this perspective on mathematics predominantly with an eye on applications of mathematics, I argue that it fits surprisingly well with the modern axiomatic approach to pure mathematics. As I see it, such a Wittgensteinian approach to mathematical language supports deflationary views of mathematical truth objects. Inasmuch as these are compatible with a structuralist view of mathematical objects, I think that this view can and should be extended to meta-mathematics.


As a PhD student in physics I co-authored three papers on high-temperature superconductivity and its relation to anti-ferromagnetism in a simple model of fermions on a lattice, the so-called Hubbard model. They are based on a renormalization group approach to the development of which my physics PhD supervisor Christof Wetterich made decisive contributions.

Further interests

I have many further interests, for example in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of biology. Beyond philosophy, I am fascinated by evolutionary psychology and intrigued by the long-standing discussion about its scope and limits. Recently, I have also become passionately interested in the question of which energy sources are most promising in the fight against catastrophic climate change.

  1. Retrocausality in quantum mechanics

    Friederich, S. & Evans, P. W., 2019, In : The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2019, Summer

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

  2. Fine-tuning as old evidence, double-counting, and the multiverse

    Friederich, S., 2-Oct-2017, In : International Studies in the Philosophy of Science. 31, 4, p. 363-377 15 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  3. Symmetries and the identity of physicsl states

    Friederich, S., 2017, EPSA15 Selected Papers. Massimi, M., Romeijn, J-W. & Schurz, G. (eds.). Springer, p. 153-165 13 p. (European Studies in Philosophy of Science; vol. 5).

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionAcademicpeer-review

  4. A New Fine-Tuning Argument for the Multiverse

    Friederich, S., Sep-2019, In : Foundations of Physics. 49, 9, p. 1011–1021 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

  5. Reconsidering the Inverse Gambler's Fallacy Charge Against the Fine-Tuning Argument for the Multiverse

    Friederich, S., Mar-2019, In : Journal for General Philosophy of Science. 50, 1, p. 29-41 13 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Press / Media
  1. Einsatz von Kernenergie -- ein Gebot der Ethik?

    Simon Friederich


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Public Engagement ActivitiesPopular

  2. Multiverse theories in physics from the vantage point of philosophy

    Simon Friederich


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Expert CommentProfessional

  3. A rare universe? The multiverse debate in physics through the lens of philosophy

    Simon Friederich


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Public Engagement ActivitiesProfessional

View all (3) »

  1. Studies in history and philosophy of modern physics (Journal)

    Simon Friederich (Guest editor)

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditorial activityAcademic

View all (1) »

  1. Fellowship for the Innovation of Teaching

    Chris May (Recipient), Rink Hoekstra (Recipient) & Simon Friederich (Recipient), 2018

    Prize: Fellowship awarded competitivelyAcademic

  2. Member of the Young Academy Groningen (YAG)

    Simon Friederich (Recipient), Mar-2017

    Prize: Election to learned societyAcademic

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