the Centre in Metaphysics of the University of Geneva

GSSPP08 - Geneva Summer School in the Philosophy of Physics 2008, July 28 - August 2

Geneva Summer School in the Philosophy of Physics 2008

Download the poster.

Click here for the programme.

Thanks to everyone for a great summerschool! We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Write to Bryan Roberts for access to the pictures and scroll down for a list of participants.

Topic: What is the Nature of Space and Time?

What is the nature of space and time? Does time pass, and if so, what does this passage amount to? Or is time static? Is only the present real, or is the past real as well? And what can we say about the future? Does time have an intrinsic direction, or is it just that events in time exhibit a temporal asymmetry? If the latter, how can we find fundamental asymmetries in which to ground the direction of time? Or if the direction is supposed to be intrinsic to time, how can this be established? Is space a substance in its own right, or is it just nothingness? Or is space the complex of spatial relations among material objects? Can these issues be settled by a careful metaphysical analysis, or will empirical results in physics ultimately decide these questions?

As these debates are inextricably linked with developments in fundamental physics, we will try to understand whether, and if so, to what extent, these developments impose constraints on how metaphysical theories of space and time might look like. In particular, we shall consider what statistical physics, the special and general theories of relativity, quantum mechanics, and recent developments in quantum gravity imply for our understanding of space and time. The relevant scientific theories consider, among many other topics, the physics of motion, the nature of the continuum, and the geometry of flat and curved spaces.

We will discuss some of the pertinent philosophical literature on these topics. This literature is extensive and quite wide-ranging, encompassing issues in identity, causation, modality, explanation, semantics, and phenomenology. Although the summer school will also consider these philosophical issues, the primary focus will be on the foundations of spacetime as the philosophy of physics is concerned with.

Targeted audience

This summer school is geared to doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers in philosophy of physics, philosophically minded physicists as well as in academic and non-academic professionals interested in an advanced level introduction to the main problems of contemporary philosophy of physics.

We aim to bring this group together with leading experts on the foundations of spacetime who will guide us through the current debates in the metaphysics and physics of spacetime. Experts will give lectures on each of these topics. An effort will be made to presuppose little by way of prior exposure to the literature both in physics as well as in philosophy. The lectures should thus be accessible to the talented novice, although we expect the programme to be dense.


Mohammad Bahrami, Sharif U of Technology, Tehran
Katie Barr, Univ Bristol
Christopher Belanger, Univ Toronto
Ori Belkind, Univ Richmond, VA
Jeremy Butterfield, Univ Cambridge
Claudio Calosi, Univ Florence
Natalja Deng, Univ Oxford
Dennis Dieks, Univ Utrecht
Thomas Scott Dixon, Univ Wyoming, UC Davis
Matt Farr, Univ Bristol
Laura Felline, Univ Roma 3
Akiko Frischhut, Univ Geneva
Nick Huggett, Univ Illinois, Chicago
Gil Jannes, Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía
Benjamin C Jantzen, Carnegie Mellon Univ
Majid Karimi, Sharif U of Technology, Tehran
Philipp Keller, Univ Geneva
Eleanor Knox, Univ Oxford
Daniel Kremer, Univ Tel-Aviv
Anthony Kulic, Univ Toronto
Vincent Lam, Univ Lausanne
Maria Lasonen-Aarnio, Univ Oxford
Stephan Leuenberger, Univ Leeds, Univ Geneva
Piotr Lipski, Jagiellonian Univ
Giovanni Macchia, Univ Urbino
Tarun Menon, UCSD
Robert Moir, Univ Western Ontario
Thomas Mueller, Univ Utrecht
Ioan Muntean, UCSD
John D. Norton, Univ Pittsburgh
Rudolf Rippler, Univ Heidelberg
Bryan Roberts , Univ Pittsburgh
Carlo Rovelli, Univ Marseille
Ryan Samaroo, Univ Western Ontario
Erica H Shumener, NYU
Adan Sus, Univ Barcelona
Liong Yu Tu, Univ Southern Carolina
Marco van Hulten, Univ Utrecht
Tiziana Vistarini, Univ Illinois, Chicago
Jonas Waechter, Univ Geneva
Jacek Wawer, Jagiellonian Univ
Christian Wüthrich, UCSD, Univ Geneva


The summer school aims at providing a synoptic view of the main theories and the latest research in the philosophy of space and time. Participants in the summer school will achieve this aim both through high-quality teaching and through intensive interaction with some of the best experts on these matters world-wide.

Anyone successfully completing the summer school should thus be in a position to get started on some of the more advanced work in the philosophy of spacetime. In particular, the summer school will serve as an intense preparation for doing research in the area, both for the beginning doctoral student as well as for anyone further along the road with an interest to build up the philosophy of spacetime as a core competence. Last but not least, it will allow the participants to connect with leading experts in the field and thus lets them establish a network vital for their research careers.


List of topics for lectures:


Kevin Mulligan, Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Geneva, and Head of eidos, the Centre for Metaphysics at the University of Geneva

Organizing Committee

Christian Wüthrich, Department of Philosophy, University of California, San Diego

Vincent Lam, Department of Philosophy, University of Lausanne

Philipp Keller, Department of Philosophy, University of Geneva


The following world-wide experts have confirmed their presence at the summer school:

Practical Information

The summer school will take place from 28 July to 2 August 2008, at the beautifully located "Hôtel du Mont-Collon", in the middle of the Swiss Alps at Arolla.

Arolla (2000m) is a small mountain resort at the end of an alpine valley (the "Val d'Hérens") surrounded by the impressive Mont-Collon (3636m) and the Pigne d'Arolla (3790m).

The participants will be accommodated at the "Hôtel du Mont-Collon" in two- to four-bed rooms (depending on the number of participants) with shared bathroom.

Accomodation fee (full board): 103 CHF per night.

Hotel du Mont-Collon
Monica and Vincent Anzévui
CH-1986 Arolla VS
Tel +41 27 283 11 91

Arolla can be reached by bus from Sion (about 75 min. / 22,80 CHF), which is efficiently linked by the Swiss rail network to the Geneva International Airport (about 120 min. / 48 CHF) and to the Zurich Airport (about 180 min. / 94 CHF) - for the timetable: www.sbb.ch


The call for applications is now closed.

Applicants should send us a short application letter of no more than one page stating the reason for their application and their level of technical expertise in the relevant physics together with a CV by 15 April 2008.

Applications should be sent to Christian Wüthrich and Vincent Lam.

We will notify the applicants by 20 April 2008.

Tuition fees

Tuition fee includes all lectures, conference materials, reception on Sunday evening, coffee breaks, and the excursion. The fees do not include accommodation, meals, and travel to and from the location of the summer school.

Financial support for applicants from Eastern Europe

There is a program called SCOPES Eastern Europe (http://www.snf.ch/E/international/abroad/scopes/cg/Seiten/default.aspx) by the Swiss National Foundation which subsidises participation of people from Eastern Europe at conferences in Switzerland with a flat contribution of 1000 CHF. If you wish to apply for this funding, please indicate this on your letter of application.

Eligible countries are: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia-Montenegro, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan

Online registration and payment

Please visit our secure site for your online registration and payment. Write to Philipp Keller if you encounter problems registering online.


For all inquiries, please contact Vincent Lam.

Questions and Comments
This document last modified Wednesday, 23-Sep-2009 04:53:38 CEST