Marian J. R. Gilton


My primary research interests concern the conceptual and mathematical foundations of contemporary particle physics, especially as informed by the mathematical formalism of both classical and quantum field theories. In this vein, my dissertation developed an interpretation of the property of charge in classical field theory.

Charge itself has both a rich structure and a robust role to play in classical field theories. It is a conserved quantity that may be derived from the symmetries of dynamical laws using Noether’s theorem; it plays a crucial role within the force law of a given field theory; and, as a property attributed to fundamental particles, it is highly structured by the mathematics of group theory. Yet it is not clear how these notions of charge relate to one another in general. In order to clarify the conceptual relations among these notions of charge, my dissertation investigates points of comparison and of contrast between electric charge and color charge, the kind of charge associated with the strong nuclear force.

Many issues in metaphysics and philosophy of science concern the status, significance, or theoretical role of properties such as charge and mass. I have written about the surprising differences in metaphysical character between mass and charge properties. This paper [“Could Charge and Mass be Universals?” in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (2021)] develops a novel, three-fold analysis of color charge, and it shows that the same analysis for electric charge is degenerate. Additionally, the formalism for mass raises a different set of considerations for its metaphysical status. I argue that, since mass, color charge, and electric charge have these differences, metaphysicians and philosophers of science must reevaluate the ways in which they are accustomed to appealing to these properties.

I am also interested in the history of physics and its connection to intellectual history more broadly. I have written on the conceptual history of quantum mechanics and its implications for contemporary issues in its interpretation. This paper [“Whence the the eigenstate-eigenvalue link?” in Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 55 (2016)] clarifies the historical origins of an interpretive principle, known as the eigenstate-eigenvalue link, often invoked as one of the foundational claims of standard quantum mechanics.

Reaching farther back into history, I also have a project studying the demise of Aristotelianism preceding the Scientific Revolution. It is well-known that Newton’s work constitutes a radical departure from Aristotle’s physics. It is often thought that Newton similarly departed from Aristotle’s metaphysics, in part because Newton presents himself as being against ‘the Aristotelians.’ However, on the specific topic of substance, I show that there is a significant level of similarity between Aristotle’s and Newton’s accounts. In light of this surprising kinship between Aristotle and Newton, I further investigate the historical explanations for how Newton came to think of himself in opposition to Aristotelian views.

I am also interested in the historical contributions to both science and philosophy by women such as Laura Bassi and Émilie Du Châtelet. Both eighteenth century natural philosophers, these women made original contributions to physics and philosophy, achieving significant recognition in their own day. In my view their works have been under-appreciated and deserve further study. I am particularly interested in studying the ways in which both Bassi and Du Châtelet contributed to the development and widespread acceptance of Newtonian physics.

Beyond my work in the history and philosophy of physics, I am interested in philosophical logic and ethics. I am particularly interested in deontic logics for moral reasoning, such as Chisholm’s Ethics of Requirement.


Working Papers

Drafts of the following papers are available upon request.
© 2021 Marian J. R. Gilton