• 15-106-R


    «The fundamental ontology of the natural world»

    Prof. Dr. Michael Esfeld, University Lausanne
    CHF 65'000.-

    The principal investigator is a philosopher who is known for his work on the foundations of physics. Last year, he spent his sabbatical at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy in Munich at the Ludwig-Maximillians-University in order to work on a book on the ontology of physics in an atomistic and structural realist framework. He established contact to mathematical physicists there who pursue similar ideas. The funding by the cogito foundation is requested to invite D. Lazarovici as postdoc to Lausanne for 20 month to collaborate with completing the book manuscript. The project thus combines in an exemplary manner expert knowledge from both the humanities and the natural sciences.

    The objective is to work out a fundamental ontology of the physical world that is on the one hand as simple and as general as possible and on the other hand in the position to explain the experimental data. Classical atomism meets these conditions. However, conceiving the atoms as being characterized by intrinsic properties fails in quantum physics due to entanglement. Their spatial distribution then remains as the characteristic feature of the atoms. We thus get to the hypothesis of a spatial configuration of matter, consisting in point particles that are individuated in an entirely structural manner, namely through the spatial relations in which they stand and the change in these relations. Dynamical parameters – such as mass in classical mechanics, or the wave function in quantum mechanics – then are the means to describe the temporal evolution of that configuration. While this hypothesis is able to generate a solution to the famous quantum measurement problem (as is evident from the de Broglie-Bohm-Bell quantum theory), the biggest challenge is how to deal with fields in this hypothesis, both in classical and in quantum physics. Starting from Feynman's criticism of taking fields ontologically serious, we'll examine the Wheeler-Feynman theory of classical electromagnetism as a case study of a relativistic direct interaction theory of particles and work out its consequences for our view of laws of nature. The planned work has the potential to produce exciting new results.