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2023 Du Châtelet Prize in Philosophy of Physics: Winners

The winners of the 2023 Du Châtelet Prize in Philosophy of Physics are: Marta Bielinska and Caspar Jacobs for their paper “A Philosophical Introduction to Hidden Symmetries in Physics". Congratulations Marta and Caspar!


Marta’s and Caspar’s paper investigates examples of so-called “hidden symmetries”, widely used in physics, arguing that such symmetries pose new challenges for philosophical accounts of symmetries and for “symmetry-to-reality” inferences.

Marta is currently a doctoral student at the University of Oxford. Before this, she completed, also at the University of Oxford, the MSc in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics (2022) with a dissertation on hidden symmetries, and the BPhil in Philosophy (2021) with a dissertation on spacetime orientability. In addition to her work on foundations of spacetime, she is also interested in philosophical accounts of laws of nature and scientific practice, as well as contemporary ontology. 


Caspar is currently a university lecturer at Leiden University. He defended his DPhil at the University of Oxford in 2021 with a dissertation on the interpretation of symmetries in physics. In addition to his work on symmetries, Caspar is also interested in the metaphysics of quantities and early modern history and philosophy of science, especially the work of Du Châtelet.

The topic of this year’s prize was Laws and symmetries in the practice of physics. This year marks the 40thanniversary of the publication of Nancy Cartwright’s highly influential book, How the Laws of Physics Lie. In honor of this, we invited submissions addressing the ways laws and symmetries are deployed in the practice of doing physics: in experiment, in theory, and in the interplay between them. The scope was intended to be broad, encompassing the variety of theoretical, practical, and explanatory roles that laws and symmetries play in physics.


The committee was:

·       Elena Castellani, Professor in Philosophy of Science, University of Florence

·       Nina Emery, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Mount Holyoke College

·       Bas van Fraassen, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, San Francisco State University, and McCosh Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, Princeton University

·       Marc Lange, Theda Perdue Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

with input from Nancy Cartwright.


A big thank you to the committee for all their work, and to all those who submitted such superb papers.


The Du Châtelet Prize in Philosophy of Physics is supported by Duke University in collaboration with Studies in History and Philosophy of Science

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