dr. S.M. (Simon) Friederich

Associate professor

Research

Postal address:
Hoendiepskade23 -24
Gebouw 1137, ruimte 0229
9718 BG
Groningen
Netherlands
Postal address:
Oude Boteringestraat52
Gebouw 4345, ruimte 0204
9712 GL
Groningen
Netherlands
Phone: +31 50 363 3512Fax: +31 50 363 6160

Research interests

I have very diverse research interests. The following is a broad overview of them that gives you an impression of my main philosophical ideas and preferences.

"Epistemology of the Multiverse"

Until summer 2019 I was working on a research project "Epistemology of the Multiverse", funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) through a Veni grant. The project explored 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". Easily accessible introductions to the themes of the projects can be found here and here. 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 my article on "Fine-tuning" for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. A systematic overview of all my thoughts and reflection on these topics will be found in my forthoming book "Multiverse Theories: A Philosophical Perspective", which will appear in 2020 with Cambridge University Press.

Philosophy of physics

I am intrigued by the challenge to make sense of quantum theory. I have recently become interested in accounts that postulate retrocausality to solve the foundational problems of quantum theory and related strategies, see here for a review article that I wrote with Pete Evans on such approaches and their motivation for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. An excellent brief account of my earlier work on quantum theory has been writtenis by Richard Healey's in his SEP-entry "Quantum-Bayesian and Pragmatist Views of Quantum Theory", Section 5.1. My papers concerning the prospects for epistemic accounts of quantum states can be found here, here, here, here, and a paper concerning the compatibility of (so-called) non-local quantum correlations with relativity theory here. My monograph "Interpreting Quantum Theory -- A Therapeutic Approach" brings together all the different threads of my earlier work on quantum theory. It was reviewed for Erkenntnis by Florian Boge.

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 (here) and what it actually means for different types of symmetries to be spontaneously broken (here, here). 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, see here.

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 (here). 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" (here).

Epistemology

My work in epistemology focuses 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. Two papers of mine in this field (here and here) explore the relevance of an epistemic agent's causal context and the appearance of anomalous causal powers according to some suggested accounts of self-locating belief.

Energy, ethics, sustainability and global risks

I have recently started to work on energy, ethics, sustainability, and global risks. At my own university and at LMU Munich I give courses and talks (e.g. here) on "existential risks", i.e. risks that threaten the extinction of humanity itself. I am currently working on an article on the ethics of nuclear energy deployment (see also my "Further Interests") together with Maarten Boudry, and on an article on dynamical accounts of sustainability with Jonathan Symons.

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 (here). As I see it, such a Wittgensteinian approach to mathematical language supports deflationary perspectives on mathematical truth and mathematical objects (in German). Inasmuch as a structuralist view of mathematical objects is compatible with such perspectives, I think that it can and should be extended to meta-mathematics (here).

Physics

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 (see here for the final installment of the series). This work is based on a renormalization group approach to the development of which my physics PhD supervisor Christof Wetterich made decisive contributions.

Further Interests

You can find information about my further interests and activities here on my personal webpage.

Publications
  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

View all (27) »

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

    Simon Friederich

    19/05/2018

    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Public Engagement ActivitiesPopular

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

    Simon Friederich

    17/05/2018

    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Expert CommentProfessional

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

    Simon Friederich

    04/04/2018

    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Public Engagement ActivitiesProfessional

View all (3) »

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

    Simon Friederich (Guest editor)
    Aug-2015

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditorial activityAcademic

View all (1) »

Prizes
  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

View all (4) »

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