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 current research program examines a family of problems, all of which concern the notion of a criterion of identity. The notion at issue is the one that we find in Frege’s analysis of the natural numbers. I am interested in the character of the criterion of identity. I ask the following questions: what kind of principle is the criterion of identity? For example, is it a metaphysical principle or an epistemological principle? And supposing that is an epistemological principle, what kind of epistemological principle is it? Does the notion of a criterion of identity reside solely within the foundations of arithmetic or does it have something to offer to the analysis of other exact sciences? This study aims to rehabilitate the original notion found in Frege’s work and to show that it has far greater significance than the recent versions that have all but replaced it. I show that it has something to offer both the foundations of space-time theories and the theory of theories.
Setting aside my interest in criteria of identity, I have long-standing interests in logic and the philosophy of mathematics more broadly. 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.