University of Pittsburgh
Graduate Student

Thomas Pashby

Broadly speaking, my work concerns the foundations and metaphysics of 20th century physics. My dissertation Time and the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, written under the supervision of John Earman and John D. Norton, concerns the representation of time and change in quantum theory. Beginning with the idea that a quantum experiment often concerns detection events that happen at a specific time (such as the time at which a Geiger counter clicks) I argue for the inclusion of the time of an event as an observable of quantum mechanics. This leads to a reappraisal of the role of time in the theory, which is often said to only enter as a parameter. Couched as a theory concerning the occurrence of events, I suggest that quantum theory supports an event-based ontology and a Leibnizian view of time as a temporal order on events.

In related work I am currently exploring the implications of quantum theory for metaphysical debates about persistence, on which see my recent paper "Do Quantum Objects Have Temporal Parts?" (Philosophy of Science, 2013). I am also interested in general philosophy of science and in particular scientific realism, on which see "Dirac's Prediction of the Positron: A Case Study for the Current Scientific Realism Debate" (Perspectives on Science, 2012). Other projects I am engaged in concern the ontology of relativistic quantum theory and (with Bryan W. Roberts) the definition of time observables in classical mechanics.