Simon Friederich

Simon Friederich

I am an assistant professor of philosophy of science at University College Groningen and at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen. I am also the chair of the Young Academy Groningen and an external member of the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP).

Prior to coming to Groningen, I substituted as professor of theoretical philosophy at the University of Göttingen after working as a postdoc in the research collaboration "Epistemology of the LHC" at the University of Wuppertal and as academic visitor at the University of Cambridge, UK. Previously, I studied physics and philosophy in Göttingen and Lausanne. I hold a PhD in philosophy from the University of Bonn, where Andreas Bartels was my supervisor, and a PhD in theoretical physics from the University of Heidelberg, where Christof Wetterich was my supervisor.


I have very diverse research interests. The following is a broad overview of them that gives you an impression of my main philosophical ideas and preferences.

"Epistemology of the Multiverse"

Currently, I am working on a research project "Epistemology of the Multiverse", funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) through a Veni grant. The project explores the prospects for empirically testing theories according to which the laws of nature and the constants vary across space-time or even across universes that together form a "multiverse". Easily accessible introductions to the themes of the projects can be found here and here. Often a "fine-tuning" for life of the laws and constants of nature is claimed to provide evidence that we live in a multiverse. I give an overview of that debate in my article on "Fine-tuning" for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy here.

Philosophy of physics

I am intrigued by the challenge to make sense of quantum theory. An excellent brief account of my published thoughts has been written by Richard Healey's in his SEP-entry "Quantum-Bayesian and Pragmatist Views of Quantum Theory", Section 5.1. My papers concerning the prospects for epistemic accounts of quantum states can be found here, here, here, here, and a paper concerning the compatibility of (so-called) non-local quantum correlations with relativity theory here. My monograph "Interpreting Quantum Theory -- A Therapeutic Approach" brings together all the different threads of my work on quantum theory until now. It has been reviewed for Erkenntnis by Florian Boge.

In addition, the significance of symmetries and symmetry breaking in physics have intrigued me, in particular how symmetries connect to questions of identity among physical states (here) and what it actually means for different types of symmetries to be spontaneously broken (here, here). I was guest editor of a special section on philosophical perspectives on particle physics after the Higgs discovery in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, together with Dennis Lehmkuhl, see here.

General philosophy of science

Some of my work on quantum theory has a direct bearing on questions with a general relevance for philosophy of science, in particular concerning the nature of objective probabiliy and causation (here). Together with Koray Karaca and theoretical physicist Robert Harlander I wrote a paper on the notion "ad hoc hypothesis" and its application to methodological issues concerning the Higgs mechanism, in particular the violation of "naturalness" (here).


My work in epistemology focuses on problems of rational self-locating belief, a topic that has a bearing on diverse issues, from everyday contexts to the evaluation of cosmological theories. Two papers of mine in this field (here and here) explore the relevance of an epistemic agent's causal context and the appearance of anomalous causal powers according to some suggested accounts of self-locating belief.

Energy and ethics

I have recently started to work on energy and ethics. Human flourishing seems to require access to relatively cheap energy. But these days that energy comes mostly from burning fossil fuels, which in turn threatens human flourishing by contributing to climate change. I am particularly intrigued by the question whether we should invest a significant amount of resources in further development and deployment of nuclear energy in addition to increasingly harvesting surrounding energy flows such as solar and wind energy. At various occasions I have given talks on the ethics of nuclear energy deployment in the age of climate change. At the moment, I am working on an article on this topic together with my colleague Maarten Boudry.

Philosophy of Mathematics

To understand mathematics and mathematical activity, it is crucial to have a clear view of the functioning of mathematical language. I am tempted by Wittgenstein's idea that mathematical language has an essentially normative, rather than descriptive, mode of use. Whereas Wittgenstein applied this perspective on mathematics predominantly with an eye on applications of mathematics, I argue that it fits surprisingly well with the modern axiomatic approach to pure mathematics (here). As I see it, such a Wittgensteinian approach to mathematical language supports deflationary perspectives on mathematical truth and mathematical objects (in German). Inasmuch as a structuralist view of mathematical objects is compatible with such perspectives, I think that it can and should be extended to meta-mathematics (here).


As a PhD student in physics I co-authored three papers on high-temperature superconductivity and its relation to anti-ferromagnetism in a simple model of fermions on a lattice, the so-called Hubbard model (see here for the final installment of the series). This work is based on a renormalization group approach to the development of which my physics PhD supervisor Christof Wetterich made decisive contributions.

Further interests

I have many further philosophical interests, for example in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of biology. In environmental matters I sympathize broadly with "ecomodernism."

I am also passionate about trying to be a good and inspiring teacher -- one of my central roles at University College Groningen (UCG). See here for some personal information about me on the UCG website.



Interpreting Quantum Theory: A Therapeutic Approach S. Friederich Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (2014), reviewed by F. Boge, Erkenntnis, 82, 443-449 (2017).

Popular articles

A rare universe? The multiverse debate in physics through the lens of philosophy.
Multiverse theories in physics from the vantage point of philosophy.
Einsatz von Kernenergie -- ein Gebot der Ethik?.

Academic articles

A new fine-tuning argument for the multiverse S. Friederich forthcoming in Foundations of Physics.
Reconsidering the inverse gambler's fallacy charge against the fine-tuning argument for the multiverse S. Friederich forthcoming in Journal for General Philosophy of Science.
Fine-tuning as old evidence, double-counting, and the multiverse S. Friederich forthcoming in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science.
Fine-tuning S. Friederich The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, E. N. Zalta (ed.), Fall 2017 edition.
Resolving the observer reference class problem in cosmology S. Friederich Physical Review D, 95, 123520 (2017).
The asymptotic safety scenario for quantum gravity---an appraisal S. Friederich forthcoming inStudies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 63, 65-73.
Symmetries and the identity of physical states S. Friederich EPSA 2015 Selected Papers, M. Massimi, J.-W. Romeijn and G. Schurz (eds.), Springer, 153-165 (2017). See here.
Choosing Beauty S. Friederich Logique et Analyse, 60(240), 449-463 (2017).
Self-locating belief and causal structure S. Friederich Grazer Philosophische Studien, 93, 319-345 (2016) See here
Symmetry, empirical equivalence, and identity S. Friederich British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 66:537-559 (2015) See here
Re-thinking local causality S. Friederich Synthese, 192, 221-240 (2015) See here
Philosophical perspectives on ad hoc-hypotheses and the Higgs mechanism S. Friederich, R. Harlander, K. Karaca the definitive version is Synthese, 191, 3897-3917 (2014) See here
Warum die Mathematik keine ontologische Grundlegung braucht -- Wittgenstein und die axiomatische Methode S. Friederich Wittgenstein-Studien 5, 163-178 (2014) See here for the citable version.
A philosophical look at the Higgs mechanism S. Friederich Journal for General Philosophy of Science, 45, 335-350 (2014) See here
Interpreting Heisenberg interpreting quantum states S. Friederich Philosophia Naturalis 50, 85-114 (2013) See here
Gauge symmetry breaking in gauge theories -- In search of clarification S. Friederich European Journal for Philosophy of Science 3, 157-182 (2013) See here
In defence of non-ontic accounts of quantum states S. Friederich Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 44, 77-92 (2013) See here
Quantum theory as a method -- the Rule Perspective S. Friederich New Vistas on Old Problems: Recent Approaches to the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, T. Sauer and A. Wüthrich, Edition Open Access, 121-138 (2013) See here
How to spell out the epistemic conception of quantum states S. Friederich Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 42, 149-157 (2011) See here
Motivating Wittgenstein's perspective on mathematical sentences as norms S. Friederich Philosophia Mathematica 19, 1-19 (2011) See here
Functional renormalization for spontaneous symmetry breaking in the Hubbard model S. Friederich, H. C. Krahl, C. Wetterich Physical Review B 83, 155125 (2011)
Structuralism and meta-mathematics S. Friederich Erkenntnis 73 (1), 67-81 (2010) See here
Four-point vertex in the Hubbard model and partial bosonization S. Friederich, H. C. Krahl, C. Wetterich Physical Review B 81, 235108 (2010)
Incommensurate antiferromagnetic fluctuations in the two-dimensional Hubbard model H. C. Krahl, S. Friederich, C. Wetterich Physical Review B 80, 014436 (2009)
Spin-charge separation in transport through Luttinger liquid rings S. Friederich, V. Meden Physical Review B 77, 195122 (2008)
Inflating truthmakers: A critique of the primitive notion of truthmaking in Heil's ontological picture S. Friederich and G. Tuzet in M. Esfeld (ed.), John Heil: Symposium on his ontological point of view, Ontos, Frankfurt a. M. (2006)


Particle physics after the Higgs discovery: Philosophical perspectives S. Friederich and D. Lehmkuhl Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 51, 69-70 (2015) See here


Pristinism under pressure --- Ruetsche on the interpretation of quantum theories S. Friederich Erkenntnis 78, 1205-1212 (2013) See here (open access)
Hans-Johann Glock und John Hyman (Hg.), Wittgenstein and Analytic Philosophy, Essays for P.M.S. Hacker S. Friederich Philosophischer Literaturanzeiger 62 (2009) See here for a non-citable version.

Physics PhD Thesis

Functional renormalization for antiferromagnetism and superconductivity in the Hubbard model S. Friederich revised and extended version published as "Functional renormalization for spontaneous symmetry breaking: An investigation of antiferromagnetism and superconductivity in the two-dimensional Hubbard model", Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften (2011)


University College Groningen
Hoendiepskade 23/24
NL-9718 BG Groningen
The Netherlands

Faculty of Philosophy
Oude Boteringestraat 52
NL-9712 GL Groningen
The Netherlands

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