Philosophy Colloquia – Dr. Eddy Keming Chen: “Strong Determinism”

Friday March 24, 2023
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
1866 Main Mall, Vancouver

The Department of Philosophy is pleased to invite you to our 2022/2023 colloquium series.

Our next talk will be given by Dr. Eddy Keming Chen, assistant professor in philosophy at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Talk Title: “Strong Determinism”

Time: 3 – 5 pm, March 24, 2023

Location: Buchanan A103

Abstract: A strongly deterministic theory of physics is one that permits exactly one possible history of the universe. In the words of Penrose (1989), “it is not just a matter of the future being determined by the past; the entire history of the universe is fixed, according to some precise mathematical scheme, for all time.” Such an extraordinary feature may appear unattainable in any realistic theory of physics. In this talk, I show how it can be achieved, in a universe like ours. First, I propose a definition of strong determinism and explain how it differs from standard determinism and super-determinism. Next, I discuss its attractions, implications, and some toy examples. The possibility of strong determinism has interesting consequences for explanation, causation, prediction, and modality. Finally, I show that Everettian quantum mechanics, with a new version of the Past Hypothesis, provides an easy route to strong determinism. On a theory that I call the Everettian Wentaculus, the quantum state of the multiverse is a fundamental mixed state with exactly one possible history. As a consequence of physical laws, the history of the multiverse could not have been different.

#You are encouraged but not required to read the preprint before attending the talk:

Speaker Bio: ​Eddy Keming Chen is an assistant professor in philosophy at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He works at the intersection of philosophy of physics, philosophy of science, and metaphysics. He also has interests in philosophy of mind, decision theory, formal epistemology, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of religion, and Chinese philosophy. He is an associate editor of the journal Foundations of Physics, a fellow of the John Bell Institute for the Foundations of Physics, an affiliated faculty member of the UCSD Chinese studies program, and a member of the interdisciplinary project “Life on the Edge.” He has written about time’s arrow, laws of nature, quantum ontology, physical space, scientific explanations, infinitary decision theory, and temporal self-location. In several recent papers, he has been developing a new account of time’s arrow in a quantum universe, called the “Wentaculus.” One of these papers, published in the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, was awarded the Popper Prize for “ambitious, novel contribution to major issues in the foundations of physics” and judged to be the best paper in its 2021 volume. His work on the vagueness of physical laws has been published in The Philosophical Review and featured as a cover story in New Scientist. One of his side interests is using films to popularize philosophical and scientific ideas. Currently, he is co-writing a screenplay about a time-travel romance. For a complete CV and a list of publications, see