CfR: Spacetime: Fundamental or Emergent? (University of Bonn, October 26-28, 2017)

Submitted by Kian Salimkhani, University of Bonn.

CfR: Spacetime: Fundamental or Emergent?

University of Bonn, 26-28 October 2017

Karen Crowther, Richard Dawid, Neil Dewar, Michael Esfeld, Dennis Lehmkuhl, Brian Pitts, James Read, Kian Salimkhani, Alastair Wilson, Christian Wüthrich

Spacetime or spatiotemporal relations have traditionally been considered as perfect candidates for fundamental entities or structures of reality. However, in modern physics and philosophy this general agreement has been challenged by, for example, physical theories that try to recover spacetime as an emergent structure resulting in the current debate on the (non-)fundamentality of spacetime. With respect to this debate, our workshop attempts to explore three central aspects: First, what kind of entity is spacetime? Is it essentially a geometrical entity, as the received view has it, or just a physical field that can be described by geometrical means? Is that field grounding other physical fields, or is it rather one among many? Second, this naturally evokes the question of what is involved in claims of fundamentality of physical entities, and thus is connected to a current debate in the metaphysics of science. We suggest that the issue of fundamentality or emergence is where the general metaphysical status of scientific entities is reflected within physics. Third, the foregoing topics merge in the concrete question of what different approaches to quantum gravity, like loop quantum gravity, the spin-2 approach, or string theory, may reveal about the status of spacetime. Is spacetime an emergent entity as most approaches seem to suggest? If so, which concept of emergence will apply? We suggest that these questions indicate how closely metaphysical issues are entangled with the current development of physics.

Participation is free, but limited. To register, please send an email to with your name and affiliation. Also, we invite graduate students to apply for a travel grant (up to 200 EUR). To do so, please send a cover letter of no more than one page describing your current research interest and its relevance to the topic of the Workshop as well as a CV to until 15 August. Decisions will be made by early September. Female graduate students are especially encouraged to apply and will be given priority.


Andreas Bartels, Kian Salimkhani

This International Workshop is organized as an event of the DFG-funded research unit Inductive Metaphysics.