Michael Cuffaro 2017-09-12T10:39:06+00:00

Project Description


  • Philosophy of Physics

  • Philosophy of Computing

  • General Philosophy of Science



Postdoctoral Fellow;
Department of Philosophy, Western University

Michael Cuffaro’s philosophical interests are mainly in the philosophy of physics, the philosophy of computing, and the interrelations between them. His research investigates how looking at physical theories from a computational point of view can help to deepen our understanding of what those theories say. He is also interested in how considering the nature of computer algorithms can help to inform traditional, more general, debates between philosophers of science. Besides his interests in Philosophy, Michael is also an experienced Computer programmer, with over nine years of experience as a software developer. Michael received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, and then his master’s degree in Philosophy, from Concordia University in Montreal. In 2013 he received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Western University. From 2013-2015 he was a postdoctoral research fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, where he continues to be a member.

I am interested in the fact that certain “no-go” results in quantum mechanics (Bell’s theorem, etc.) take on a different significance when we view them from a computational point of view, and I am currently investigating how reflecting on this fact helps to enlighten philosophical debates over the aim and subject matter of fundamental physics, and on debates over the nature of information.

I am interested in how reconsidering the views of some of quantum theory’s founders, as well as some of its lesser known early commentators, helps to clarify modern debates over the theory’s interpretation and over whether and how the theory explains quantum phenomena.

I am interested in how physics can illuminate science of computational complexity, both its concepts and its methods.

I am interested in the philosophical characterisation of what it means to explain in a science. In particular I am interested in how considering the characteristics of computer algorithms helps to illuminate our concept of possibilistic explanation, our broader understanding of explanation in general, and our various conceptions of mechanism.

Besides these main research interests, I have published on various other topics, including historical papers on Kant, on Hobbes, and on Frege, and also in the areas of legal and political philosophy.

I am currently working with Professor Markus Müller on the project “Emergent Objective Reality: From Observers to Physics via Solomonoff Induction” (http://fqxi.org/grants/large/awardees/view/__details/2016/mueller).

Links to these and other publications, and in some cases preprints and drafts, can be found at: www.michaelcuffaro.com


Cuffaro, M. E., Fletcher, S. C. (eds.), Physical Perspectives on Computation, Computational Perspectives on Physics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, In press.


“Reconsidering No-Go Theorems from a Practical Perspective.” Forthcoming in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.

“On the Significance of the Gottesman-Knill Theorem.” The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 68 (2017), 91-121.

“How-Possibly Explanations in (Quantum) Computer Science.” Philosophy of Science 82 (2015): 737-748.

“On the Debate Concerning the Proper Characterisation of Quantum Dynamical Evolution” (with Wayne C. Myrvold). Philosophy of Science 80 (2013): 1125-1136.

“Many Worlds, the Cluster-state Quantum Computer, and the Problem of the Preferred Basis.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2012): 35-42.

“Kant and Frege on Existence and the Ontological Argument.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 29 (2012): 337-354.

“The Conditions of Tolerance” (with Ryan Muldoon and Michael Borgida). Politics, Philosophy and Economics 11 (2012): 322-344.

“On Thomas Hobbes’s Fallible Natural Law Theory.” History of Philosophy Quarterly 28 (2011): 175-190.

“The Kantian Framework of Complementarity.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 41 (2010): 309-317.

Book Chapters

“Universality, Invariance, and the Foundations of Computational Complexity in the light of the Quantum Computer.” In Technology and Mathematics: Philosophical and Historical Investigations (Springer-Verlag), Sven Ove Hansson (ed.), in Press.

Encyclopedia entries

“Quantum Computing” (with Amit Hagar). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 edition).

Book reviews

Review of “Quantum Information Theory and the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics”, by Christopher G. Timpson. Philosophy of Science 81 (2014): 681-684.