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Theoretical Philosophy

Research in Theoretical Philosophy

The starting point of many of our research and teaching activities are philosophical questions that arise from or touch upon the content of scientific disciplines. Accordingly, the individual team members have not only philosophical but also specific scientific qualifications. The various interdisciplinary projects range from inquiries regarding time and space travel to inquiries about music and data science. Projects do not only reflect scientific concepts and methods but also aspects of wider (social and anthropological) relevance.

Philosophy of Time

Time appears in different forms: for instance as physical time, as perceived time, as social-intersubjective time, and as historical time. Therefore, the concept of time has been the subject of constant and seminal discussions in various philosophical sub-disciplines such as metaphysics, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, ethics, and the historiography of philosophy. Comparatively little attention is paid to the connections and commonalities of these discussions. It is the aim of this project to fill part of this gap. Learn more.

Two projects are concerned with the epistemology of time and, closely related, space. In the context of quantum mechanics, the conditions under which quantum systems can generate something like an objective time scale that is in principle accessible to an observer are investigated. With regard to our currently best spacetime theory --- general relativity --- it is investigated under which conditions and to what degree the empirical content of the theory as well as that of related spacetime theories can be determined by means of clocks (chronometry). Learn more.

This subproject deals with the metaphysical-conceptual questions of how much spacetime actually persists in promising quantum gravity approaches (such as string theory).

To what extent are assertations about the geometry and shape (topology) of space and time conventions – rather than objective claims about matters of fact, non-factual, to some degree arbitrary elements that reflect the theoretician’s freedom to exercise discretion? Conventionalists champion the view that talk of spacetime geometry is indeed conventional. We investigate this provocative thesis and its status vis-á-vis contemporary physics.


Methodology in Philosophy and Science

Previous projects have dealt with the development and unity of physics and with the history of the concept of matter and the notion of a historically relativised a priori in physics. Learn more.


The terms paradigm and paradigm change are used in an inflationary manner in science and everyday life. That is why there seem to be paradigm changes in science everywhere. But to what extent is the concept appropriate for disciplines other than physics, which is the field Kuhn's concept was designed for? Learn more.


The search for an empirically adequate theory of quantum gravity - i.e. a theory that should cover a range of validity in which traditionally both quantum mechanical and gravitational aspects are relevant - has been dragging on now since the 1930s. The project deals with methodological-conceptual questions in the theory development and pursuit of a theory of quantum gravity: Can candidates already be meaningfully tested or compared with each other before the actual experiment? How systematically have the known candidates been searched for? Have meaningful directions of theory development been disregarded for purely contingent but substantively unjustified reasons? Learn more.


One main project of ours within philosophy of science investigates super-empirical theory criteria (especially forms of unification and simplicity), which play an important role for theory selection and assessment. In concrete applications to physical theories, we study various explications of those criteria. The resulting case studies shed a critical light on the status of those criteria, and permit a nuanced, evaluation of their status.


Philosophy of the Individual Sciences

The basics of musicology are the subject of the philosophy of musicology. This topic implies reflections on theoretical assumptions (especially about its central object: music) as well as on concepts which define objectives and methods. Learn more.

Conceptual clarification within physics automatically leads up to wider questions from metaphysics and philosophy of science. Many of our projects can therefore be classified as classical projects in the philosophy of physics - such as those on the epistemology and metaphysics of space and time.

What can be learned in outer space that we could not learn "at home" on earth? What is so interesting about Mars, say, as opposed to what we can study in terrestrial laboratories or what we can still explore on Earth (such as the deep sea)? Why should something be (more) interesting just because it is far away? As philosophers, we are interested especially in such epistemic questions, but without neglecting the exciting ethical, anthropological, and technological questions that arise in the context of space travel. Projects are pursued in collaboration with ZARM (the Center for Applied Spaceflight and Microgravity) and MAPEX (Center for Materials and Processes), both here in Bremen.



Critical Thinking

"Critical thinking in the sciences" - that sounds like a tautology! Science and research are always (at least supposedly) concerned with critical reflection; that is, with examining and questioning things rather than simply taking them at face value. Or is that perhaps only an ideal? In daily practice it may indeed look different. Numerous constraints, such as economic concerns, financial and time constraints, and peer pressure often make it difficult to critically examine the methods used, the concepts we presuppose and the conclusions drawn. Learn more.

The current developments in the field of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning immediately raise philosophical questions, as does the general handling of ever increasing amounts of data. Pressing epistemological questions concern, for instance, the notion and role of epistemic “transparency” and of “creativity” in computer-based research. Learn more.


This project deals with selected concepts and problems that mark the beginning of the Western philosophical tradition and that, subsequently, influenced intellectual history on a wider scope. The aim is to work out systematic connections between the approaches of individual pre-Socratics and central debates of modern philosophy and natural science. A special focus lies on Anaximander. Learn more.

Application Project in Critical Thinking

KNOW is a simple yet powerful tool for collaborative work in large groups and with different multimedia sources. It replaces linear data structures such as lists with a browser-based online whiteboard, while at the same time allowing easy publishing of content.
The idea for KNOW arose out of an interdisciplinary teaching project. The aim was to combine the typically text-focused work in philosophy with image-based work in architecture. KNOW allows to visualise this process – that is, it visualises the integration of different forms of knowledge – and offers the opportunity to reflect on it with students. 

KNOW is a collaborative project with colleagues from the fields of web design (Lamm&Kirch, Leipzig/Berlin) and architecture (Hannes Mayer, ETH Zürich). More details can be found at


About Us

: Prof. Dr. Dr. Norman Sieroka
Prof. Dr. Dr.

Norman Sieroka

Institution Philosophy (Phil BA)

Building/room:SFG 4190
Phone: +49 (0)421 218 67830
E-Mail:sierokaprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

: Catherine Herbin

Catherine Herbin

Institution: Philosophie (Phil)

Building/room:SFG 4180
Phone: +49 (0)421 218 678 31
E-Mail:cherbinprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

: Dr. Niels Linnemann

Niels Linnemann

Institution Philosophy (Phil BA)

Building/room:SFG 4180
Phone: +49 (0)421 218 67832
E-Mail:niels.linnemannprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de


: Dr. Anne Christina Thaeder

Anne Christina Thaeder

Institution Philosophie (Phil)

Building/room:SFG 4170
Phone: +49(0)421 218-67833
E-Mail:thaederprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de

From right to left: Prof. Dr. Dr. Norman Sieroka, Mahé Crüsemann, Catherine Herbin, Maike Piesker, Jörg Riedel (Studierwerkstatt), Anne C. Thaeder, and Niklas Hartmann.