We are a Working Group devoted to the discussion of historical and philosophical issues in symbolic logic, mathematics, and science. We meet on occasional Wednesday evenings for a talk and a lively discussion. The group is funded by the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities and the Department of Philosophy.

All members of the academic community are welcome to attend. We have regular participants in many different fields, including philosophy, mathematics, history of science, and psychology.

The group organizers are Lara Buchak (Philosophy), Wesley Holliday (Philosophy), John MacFarlane (Philosophy), Paolo Mancosu (Philosophy), and Seth Yalcin (Philosophy).

Our next event

May 04, 2016, 6-7:30 PM in 234 Moses Hall

Alexei Grinbaum (LARSIM, Gif-sur-Yvette)

How device-independent approaches change the meaning of physics

Dirac sought an interpretation of mathematical formalism in terms of physical entities and Einstein insisted that physics should describe “the real states of the real systems”. While Bell inequalities put into question the reality of states, modern device-independent approaches do away with the idea of entities: physics is not built of physical systems. Focusing on the correlations between operationally defined inputs and outputs, device-independent methods promote a view more distant from conventional theory than Einstein’s ‘principle theories’ were from ‘constructive theories’. On the examples of indefinite causal orders and almost quantum correlations, we ask a puzzling question: if physical theory is not about systems, then what is it about? The answer given by the device-independent models is that physics is about languages. In moving away from the information-theoretic reconstructions of quantum theory, this answer marks a new conceptual development in the foundations of physics.