Project Description

Home / Members / Postdoctoral Fellows / Niels Linnemann

Niels Linnemann


  • Philosophy of spacetime

  • Philosophy of discovery

  • Naturalised metaphysics



Research Associate;
Theoretical Philosophy, Universität Bremen

I am a research associate in theoretical philosophy at the University of Bremen, as well as a Young Fellow of the Hamburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. From 2020-21, I was a postdoctoral fellow at the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, working on the New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology Project (PIs: Prof. Chris Smeenk and Prof. Jim Weatherall (UC Irvine)). I continue to stay affiliated to the project group for another year. In the context of the New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology Project, I mainly work on wave propagation in space-time, issues of singularities and the relationship between general relativity to other (classical or quantum) gravitational theories.

I studied Physics, Maths and Philosophy at Münster (BSc Physics, BSc Mathematics), Lund, Oxford (MSt in Philosophy of Physics) and Cambridge (MASt in Advanced Mathematics, Part III). I became first interested in philosophy of physics after struggling with conceptual foundations of quantum mechanics (like so many) while still being a physics student in Münster. Now, my major interests within the philosophy of physics lie in the philosophy of spacetime. At a higher level, I am interested in issues of the philosophy of discovery, metaphysics of science and meta-metaphysics.

Within my PhD project at the University of Geneva — supervised by Prof. Christian Wüthrich — I inquired into the basic strategies and conceptual obstacles for formulating a theory of quantum gravity. My thesis entitled “Philosophy of quantum gravity as a philosophy of discovery” investigates the means we have for learning from pre-quantum gravitational theories (general relativity (GR), quantum field theory in curved spacetime (QFT in CST), semi-classical GR, and perturbative quantum GR) about quantum gravity (QG). For this, I analysed what I take to be the main sources of rationales in QG research: (1) the development and implementation of certain physical or mathematical core ideas and constraints (`principles’ such as UV completion, background-independence, minimal length, …), (2) patterns of analogical reasoning, (3) semi-classical heuristics, and (4) ideas on prescriptional theory construction (quantisation in particular). Additionally, I dealt with the question of possible conceptual constraints on formulating a theory of quantum gravity. My research took place within the Swiss National Science Foundation project “New Avenues Beyond Spacetime“ (Principal Investigator: Prof. Christian Wüthrich, collaborator: Dr. Karen Crowther); Prof. Fabrice Correia, Prof. Richard Dawid, Prof. Fay Dowker and Prof. Nick Huggett served on my committee. During the time of my PhD studies, I was also involved as a fellow in the DFG project Inductive Metaphyics within which I linked to the subproject B1 “Modality in Physics and in Metaphysics” (Principal Investigator: Prof. Andreas Bartels, Collaborator: Kian Salimkhani).

Project Title: New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology

Project Website:

Principal Investigators:

Chris Smeenk (Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University)
James Owen Weatherall (University of California, Irvine)

Brief Description: 

Cosmology is different from other areas of the physical sciences, both in its subject matter – the universe as a whole – and in the tools we use to study it. Standard experimental and theoretical methods used throughout the rest of the physical sciences have little traction in cosmology, where we have only one universe to study and many of the features of greatest interest are removed from us in space and time. These methodological difficulties, coupled with the profound importance of understanding the history and structure of the universe, make cosmology an urgent subject for philosophical research.

Learn About Rotman Trainee Opportunities
Learn About Our Postdoctoral Fellowship Program