What is FraMEPhys?

FraMEPhys is short for A Framework for Metaphysical Explanation in Physics. It’s a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council, as part of an €1.5m ERC Starting Grant (awarded to Alastair Wilson and hosted in the Philosophy Department at the University of Birmingham during 2018-2022). The project has a UoB project webpage and a Twitter account.

The aim of FraMEPhys is to explore the varieties of explanation that are involved in our best physical theories, and in particular to understand the role of metaphysical explanation, understood as any dependencies between aspects of reality that go beyond the classic cause and effect. Explanations involving the geometry of spacetime, quantum entanglement, and closed timelike curves will be the focus of project case studies during 2020-2022. The approach taken is to integrate recent progress in metaphysics, philosophy of science and philosophy of physics.

The FraMEPhys project team will investigate the features that are had in common by the forms of explanation that feature in our most abstract and fundamental physical theories and by the ‘grounding’ explanations more usually studied in contemporary metaphysics. These distinctive metaphysical explanations include the way in which the temperature of a gas depends on the motion of its molecules, the way in which the solidity of a table depends on the chemical bonding forces holding it together, and the way in which life depends on organised self-sustaining metabolic processes.

The new general framework developed by FraMEPhys will enable greater understanding of such explanations in physics, generalising approaches that have been employed successfully in recent empirical science for modelling more familiar causal explanations. The new framework will then be applied to three challenging cases of explanation in the philosophy of physics – the geometry of spacetime, time travel around causal loops, and entanglement between quantum particles.