My research is in the history and philosophy of science, with a focus on the foundations of the exact sciences, and drawing insight from a few figures in the early analytic tradition. While my interests span the subject, much of my research has focused on the foundations of the theories of Newton and Einstein: it examines their articulation of a number of basic concepts; it examines the accounts of space, time, motion, and causality that they motivate; it examines their significance for the theory of theories. All of these interests, though motivated by concerns peculiar to the exact sciences, form part of a broader interest in the analysis and revision of our fundamental concepts and the place of this task in philosophy in general.
This work is driven by a few basic questions: how do we know what we know about space, time, motion, and causality? How is this knowledge possible? What is its source? In my approach to these questions I contend that to understand space, time, motion, and causality, the methodological analysis of physical theories is a surer guide than metaphysical principles according to which these theories have been, and continue to be, judged. In this regard, my work urges a stricter empiricism. And as for my particular stake in the debates, I argue that, despite appearances and a large literature to the contrary, Newton and Einstein proposed the very same kind of theory.
The project at the heart of my research program examines a family of problems, all of which concern the principle of equivalence. This is the principle that formalizes Einstein’s insight in 1907 that bodies in free fall do not “feel” their own weight. I am interested in the correct methodological analysis of the principle. I ask the following questions: what kind of principle is the equivalence principle? What is its role in the conceptual framework of gravitation theory? This study offers new insights into Newton’s and Einstein’s arguments for their theories; furthermore, it clarifies the conceptual structures of the completed theories and, through this, the philosophical accounts of space and time that they motivate.
I have long-standing interests in logic and the philosophy of mathematics. I am interested in these areas for their own sake, but especially insofar as they are tangled up with my work on the theory of theories.