My primary research interest lies in the intersection of the (mainly formal and natural) sciences and philosophy, viewed from both a philosophical and a socio-historical perspective. Accordingly, I was trained in history and philosophy of science, but until recently I worked mainly in the history of philosophy of science and early analytic philosophy.
Together with Carolin Antos, a set theorist-turned-philosopher (who is also my wife), I developed a larger research project in the history and philosophy of set theory.
History and philosophy of set theory
The Forcing Project
The Forcing Project (2018-2023) is concerned with the fundamental question of conceptual change in the formal sciences. The project investigates the claim that such a conceptual change has happened in the unique setting of the so-called forcing technique in modern set theory.
I am currently working on a subproject on the ‘pre-history’ of forcing, in particular Kurt Gödel’s attempts to prove the independence of the Continuum Hypothesis and the Axiom of Choice in the early 1940s.
Philosophy of science and its history
The topic of my dissertation (2010-2017) concerned 20th century philosophy of science as it originated from the intersection of science and philosophy. It is devoted to the relationship between scientific philosophy, in particular pre- and post-war Logical Empiricism, and “post-positivist” philosophy, as exemplified by Paul Feyerabend’s early (1946-1955) and later philosophy (1960-1975).
In the dissertation, I provide a novel interpretation of Feyerabend’s philosophy by showing that many of his famous post-positivist theses (his pragmatic theory of observation, his incommensurability thesis, etc.) developed from early contributions to scientific philosophy in the 1920s and 1930s and that his later attack on Logical Empiricism is to be understood as an internal critique: He targets an unwelcome philosophical development of post-war Logical Empiricism from the viewpoint of earlier contributions to Logical Empiricism, which were made by Viktor Kraft, Philipp Frank, Rudolf Carnap and Otto Neurath, but which did not survive the forced emigration over to the American continent.
Furthermore, I contend that an adequate reconstruction of Feyerabend’s metaphilosophical view as a distinct kind of epistemic voluntarism can explain some turning points in Feyerabend’s overall philosophy, in particular his early attacks against (and later adherence to) the so-called “historical turn” in philosophy of science. I explain his change of mind on the basis of quite minimal changes on the level of Feyerabend’s metaphilosophical views.
Finally, I am interested in the relationship between Feyerabend’s general philosophy of science and his more technical contributions, in particular his interest in (the philosophy of) quantum physics.
I am interested in rediscovering how the Neurathian push towards a more empirical dimension of philosophy of science affected the early Vienna Circle. Starting from Feyerabend’s testimony, I reconstructed a particular proposal in the protocol sentence debate put forward by Rudolf Carnap as an attempt at a causal account of observation sentences in terms of a “detector model” of observational agents.
Methodologically speaking, all this research displays my inclination to engage in hands-on historical research, combining philosophical questions and questions in social and cultural history.
From a more systematic point of view, I am working on epistemic voluntarism in the setting of belief-justification. In particular, I investigate how epistemic and non-epistemic reasons apply to beliefs or propositions.
The application of this research is the study of how distinct propositional attitudes, like acceptance, work in the sciences. This work is still in the early stages.
History of science
I have a genuine interest in the history of science and its philosophical aspects, in particular:
- Sceptical arguments in medieval and early modern discussions in natural philosophy
- Conceptual changes in Galilei’s nova scientia
- Development of deductive and diagrammatic reasoning