Alyssa Ney, Associate Professor of Philosophy, UC Davis


Office              2283 Social Sciences and Humanities

Email               aney@ucdavis.edu

Office Hours    by appointment 


Research Areas

Metaphysics, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Mind

Biography


I am Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Davis, where I have taught since July 2015. Prior to that, I taught at the University of Rochester for ten years. I received my MA and Ph.D in Philosophy from Brown University and my BS in Physics and Philosophy from Tulane University. 

My research examines what our best fundamental physical theories can tell us about the world. Much of my work is concerned with clarifying and defending physicalism. I argue that physicalism is best understood as an attitude one takes to approaching issues of fundamental metaphysics, a commitment to endorsing the entailments of our best, current physical theories. Some of my more recent work also explores what is the best empirical case that can be made for physicalism.

I have also been engaged with the interpretation of quantum theories. In a series of articles, I explore and defend the view that quantum entanglement may suggest that the world we inhabit is not fundamentally constituted by a collection of objects in three-dimensional space, but rather a field spread out in a much-higher-dimensional space. It is too early yet to decide whether this picture, originally defended by David Albert, is correct as a fundamental metaphysical description of the world. Most importantly, it remains to be seen what this picture will look like when extended to the relativistic domain. But it is clear that quantum theory forces us to substantially revise our fundamental picture of the world and this is an exciting option worth exploring.

In my work, I also explore how to fit facts about the mind and consciousness into the picture presented to us by our best physical theories. I defend a staunch reductionism about mental phenomena, however argue that this leaves open a number of interesting metaphysical questions. Lately, I have been especially interested in the correct ontological classification of mental disorders.



News

This past year, I was on sabbatical pursuing work for the project Conceptual Analysis of Quantum Theories: Developing a Realistic Interpretation of the Wave Function funded by the National Science Foundation. You can read more about this project here

I am currently at work on a few book projects. A draft of the first, Finding the World in the Wave Function, is on its way to completion. It develops and defends the wave function realist framework for interpreting quantum theories. The second, Physics and Fundamentality, aims to articulate the sense in which our best physical theories are reasonably taken to be fundamental and how such a claim may be used to underwrite support for the funding of research in physics. Finally, I have started work on a second edition of Metaphysics: An Introduction.

I have been awarded an academic cross-training fellowship by the John Templeton Foundation to spend 2018-2020 pursuing graduate work in physics.

I am past-President of the Society for the Metaphysics of Science. Our Society holds an annual conference and also sponsors sessions at the Central and Pacific Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association. Information about our upcoming meeting in New York may be found on the Society's website.


Publications


Books

Articles

Upcoming Talks

  • Keynote lecture, Scientific Realism and the Quantum, Leeds, September 2017
  • Keynote lecture, Boulder Conference on History and Philosophy of Science, Boulder, October 2017
  • Keynote lecture, Humphrey Colloquium, University of Louisville, November 2017


Work in Progress
The Wave Function
Metaphysics: An Introduction