PhD position in philosophy of canonical quantum gravity, CNRS, France

Call for a doctoral position for the project
Philosophy of Canonical Quantum Gravity
funded by an ERC Starting Grant
of the European Research Council
Principal Investigator: Gabriel Catren

The project Philosophy of Canonical Quantum Gravity announces a doctoral position in philosophy of mathematical physics.

Project description. This research proposal addresses from a philosophical perspective one of the most important unsolved problem of theoretical physics, namely the formulation of a quantum theory of gravity. Quantum mechanics and Einstein’s theory of gravity—i.e. general relativity—are the two main revolutions of 20th century physics. These theories have radically challenged and modified our epistemological and ontological conceptions about time, space, motion, matter, causality, physical objectivity, and the global structure of the universe. However, the formulation of an unanimously accepted and experimentally tested quantum theory of gravity capable of harmonizing these new insights in a consistent synthesis remains—since 1930s—an open problem. The absence of an experimental guidance for the quantization of gravity, the conceptual nature of some of the obstructions encountered by the different research programs, and the philosophical origin and scope of the problems to which both general relativity and quantum mechanics provided a provisional solution explain why philosophy can play a fundamental role in helping to accomplish this “unfinished revolution” (Rovelli). The general objective of the present research proposal in philosophy of physics is to address the main (interrelated) foundational issues raised by canonical quantum gravity. To do so, this project depends on two intermediate subprojects. The first subproject addresses some foundational problems concerning space-time theories and gauge theories in light of both the so-called gauge theories of gravity and the generalized theories of gravity with torsion and/or non-metricity. To do so, we shall consider the Einstein-Cartan action and the theory of Cartan connections, the MacDowell-Mansouri action, teleparallel gravity, the BF topological field theory, and the formulation of general relativity in terms of Ashtekar variables. The second subproject addresses the philosophy of canonical quantization. To do so, we analyze from a foundational perspective one of the most elegant mathematical formalizations of canonical quantization, namely the formalism, mainly developed by B. Kostant and J.-M. Souriau, named geometric quantization. The specific PhD project will be fixed in accordance with the selected candidate.

Host Institution: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France.

Starting Date: Octobre 2012. The initial appointment will be for one year, with the possibility of renewal for a further two-year period after positive evaluation.

Eligibility Requirements: Eligible candidates must hold a university degree equivalent to a Master’s degree in philosophy, physics or mathematics by July 31st, 2012. In every case, the candidate is expected to have a strong background in mathematics and theoretical physics.

Application Procedure: Applicants are invited to submit an application by email (in English or French) including:

• a cover letter explaining the candidate’s research interests and her/his skills for contributing to an interdisciplinary project at the intersection between philosophy, physics, and mathematics.
• a curriculum vitae including a publication list;
• university certification of the last candidates’ degree.
• sample of relevant writings, published or not;
• the name and electronic addresses of two knowledgeable scholar who could provide recommendation letters if necessary.

Scholars of all nationalities are welcome to apply. For further information, please contact Gabriel Catren: The application must be addressed to the following electronic address:

Application Deadline: July 31st, 2012.


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