19/05/2022 – Niels Martens : Philosophy of Dark Matter

Thursday the 19th of May, at 15:00 Paris time (CET), at this Zoom link


This presentation will start with a brief overview of the recent literature on the philosophy of dark matter, which has been steadily growing over the past two decades. We then focus on the question of what the dark matter research programme and its main alternative, modifications of gravity, can teach us about the distinction between (dark) matter and modified gravity/spacetime. Interesting in this regard is a small recent trend of hybrid dark matter/ modified gravity theories. We provide a conceptual analysis of a popular hybrid theory, Berezhiani & Khoury’s superfluid ‘dark matter’ theory. We investigate the senses in which the single novel entity postulated by such theories can be both dark matter and modified gravity, which leads to three groups of possible ontological interpretations of hybrid theories. We conclude that hybrid theories push back against the Democritean-Newtonian tradition of assuming a strict conceptual dichotomy between (dark) matter and spacetime/gravity, thereby opening up theory space.

(This contribution is based on joint work with Dennis Lehmkuhl)

Biographical information:

Niels Martens is a philosopher of physics and a metaphysician. He completed his PhD on the philosophy of physical quantities at the University of Oxford. His current work is on the philosophy of dark matter. This work takes place in the context of the interdisciplinary research unit “Epistemology of the Large Hadron Collider”, the Lichtenberg Group for History and Philosophy of Physics at the University of Bonn, and the Institute for Theoretical Particle Physics and Cosmology at RWTH Aachen University. Niels will start as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at Utrecht University in September 2022, working on the philosophy of dark energy, and as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative in September 2023, working on the philosophy of black holes. His interests in the epistemology of scientific collaborations extends beyond the large hadron collider: he co-leads the Collaborations Focus Group of the History Philosophy Culture Working Group of the Next Generation Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.

Reading Material:

External links:

Meeting information:

  • Thursday the 19th of May, at 15:00 CET (Paris time), at this Zoom link

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