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Thorben Petersen

: Thorben Petersen


Research Interests

Part of my philosophical work is focused on the nature of time.

  • In my Distance-Based Temporal Pluralism, which is based on my doctoral dissertation, I develop a new, innovative theory of time. This theory can be regarded as providing a novel answer to the age-old question what time is. My strategy is to provide a precisification of the concept of time. In particular, I provide a precisification in terms of an ontology, which postulates a plurality of different temporal determinations of things. Paradigmatic examples of such temporal determinations include the persistence of things, various types of change – such as beginnings, and endings and various kind-specific developments in between – causal relations, as well as the modal-temporal determinations of presentness, pastness and futurity. What all of these determinations have in common is that they are ontologically dependent on temporal distance relations (although not vice versa), as provided by relativistic chrono-geometry. The monograph offers a comprehensive view of temporal reality, and I employ the theory for addressing various issues that are prominently discussed between philosophers of time. Amongst other things, I set out to (a) defend a substantivalist conception of space-time, by arguing that spatio-temporal structure is inter alia required for definitional purposes, (b) propose an eternalist view by providing a new argument against presentism, which is that the presentist ontology runs into conflict with the symmetries of space-time, (c) extend the standard B-theoretic account of modal-temporal determinations, by showing how presentness, pastness and futurity arise vis-à-vis representations of physical objects within suitably located cognitive subjects of experience, and (d) clarify the nature of temporal passage, by equating passage with the observation of persisting things changing.
  • In my Theories of Time and Talk about Dynamical Time, I consider how different theories of time can plausibly account for the semantics of dynamical-time-talk. Natural languages like English and Urdu contain a remarkable variety of forms, which seem to attribute a dynamical quality to time. Thus speakers of English say that time is flowing, but also that time is passing, and running (out), or flying (by), and so on. In this paper, I examine how the semantics of such talk can be accounted for, depending on whether one proposes a dynamical A-theory, or spatializing B/C-theory of time.
  • In my Monism and The Persistence of It All, I explore the relation between monism and theories of persistence. How is the One from a diachronic point of view? The question of persistence has not been given much attention in the literature on monism. This is unfortunate since putting the question allows for deciding between different conceptions of the monist view. There is a longstanding debate whether monism conveys a timeless view of reality, or whether the One is more plausibly regarded as a temporal entity, like an eternal present. The fact that we can reasonably examine how the One persists suggests that monism is best construed as a temporal view, even though the One is widely taken to be unchangeable. In discussing this issue it turns out that monism is straightforwardly incompatible with some of the standard theories of persistence, including perdurantism and exdurantism. Since there is also a worry about wedding monism to endurantism, our discussion suggests that the monist ontology is best combined with non-standard conceptions of persistence, such as non-perdurantist four-dimensionalism.


A different part of my work is focused on the nature of timeless things. Thus in my Timeless Things, I introduce various candidates for timeless things, ranging from fundamental physical structures over mathematical structures to Platonic universals, and examine which of these are plausible candidates for timeless things.

Another part of my work is focused on social ontology. Together with Ludger Janssen, I am preparing an edited volume on the ontology of bands and other musical groups. This volume is supposed to include work from various ontologists addressing the nature of rock bands, classical orchestras, jazz-ensembles, and so on. My own contribution, Listen to the Band!, explores the nature of popular music groups.

Still other part is focused on the philosophy of language. More specifically, I focus on the ontology of language, and address the question what kind of thing language is. In this context, I develop an emergentist theory of meaning, according to which meaningful language can be regarded as emergent phenomenon.

Additionally, I have a serious interest in feminist philosophy of language, with questions relating to male bias, sub-ordination and and silencing.


Research Projects

  • From 2015-2018, I have been part of the DFG-project on the flow of time (“Zeitvergehen”), as conducted by Prof. Dr. Manfred Stöckler.


  • The Grounding Problem for Eternalism (Philosophical Studies 173.7: 1819-1852; 2016).
  • Points Don’t Pass – Against the Identity Theory of Passage (2014), Metaphysica 15 (2), 267-280.
  • Explicating Eternalism (2012), Philosophia Naturalis 49.2, 137-161.  
  • Zur Formulierbarkeit des Präsentismusstreits (2011), in: Schmechtig/Schönrich (Eds.), Persistenz, Indexikalität, Zeiterfahrung, Ontos, 167-202. 


  • Seminar “Introduction to Philosophy of Language” (2022-23, planned)
  • Seminar “(Feminist) Philosophy of Language” (2022)
  • Seminar “Tense” (2022)
  • Seminar “Language and Gender” (2021-22)
  • Seminar “Special Topics in the Philosophy of Language” (2021-22)
  • Seminar “Introduction to Social Ontology”, (2021)
  • Seminar “Explanations in Semantics”, (2020-21)
  • Seminar “Meta-Semantics”, (2020)
  • Seminar “Classical Texts in Theoretical Philosophy” (2019-2020)
  • Seminar “Newton, Einstein and Space-time”, (2019)
  • Seminar “Philosophy of Sounds”, (with Prof Dr. Georg Mohr and Prof. Dr. Manfred Stöckler) (2018)
  • Seminar “Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, (2018)
  • Seminar “Aristotle and Saint Augustine on Time”, (2017)
  • Seminar “On the Direction of Time” (with Prof. Dr. Manfred Stöckler), (2016)
  • Lecture “Introduction to Semantics”, (2016)
  • Seminar “Phenomenology and Metaphysics of Memory”, (2015)
  • Lecture “Introduction to Semantics”, (2015)
  • Seminar “Space and Matter” (2014-15)
  • Lecture “Introduction to Semantics” (2014)
  • Seminar “Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, (2014)
  • Seminar “Laws of Nature”, (2013-14)
  • Seminar “Plato’s The Sophist”, (2013)
  • Seminar “Introduction to the Philosophy of Language”, (2012-13)
  • Seminar “Introduction to Mereology” (2012)
  • Seminar “Emergence” (2011)
  • Seminar “Inference to the Best Explanation” (2010-11)
  • Tutorial Aristotle’s Metaphysics (for a seminar of Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Detel), (2008)
  • Tutorials in Logic and Theory of Argumentation (2007-2010)

Further Teaching Experience

  • Supervision of Bachelor Theses
  • Worked as a Full-time teacher for Philosophy and English in 2018/19

Workshops and Conference Organization

  • The End of Time: Workshop on Deep Metaphysics meets Quantum Gravity (with Niels Linnemann), September 2022 in Salzburg
  • The Ontology of Bands: Workshop on Social Ontology (with Ludger Jansen) September 2021 in Salzburg
  • Change, Dispositions and Persistence (with Florian Fischer), September 2017 in Salzburg
  • Tensed vs. Tenseless Theories of Time (with Florian Fischer), September 2014 in Salzburg

Talks and Conference Papers (Selected)

  • “Ontological Presuppositions of Temporal Asymmetry”, Rostock, 25 March 2022, (Zoom)
  • “Pluralism about Temporality”, Rostock, 30 September 2021 (Zoom)
  • “Listen to The Band: A Study On the Ontology of Popular Groups” SOPHIA-Conference, Salzburg, 10 September 2021
  • “Theories of Time and Dynamical Time-Talk”, Münster, 10 May 2021 (Zoom)
  • “Time, Reduction and Emergence”, Meeting of the Society for Philosophy of Time, Siegen, 19 October 2019
  • “Towards a Theory of Persistence”, GAP-Satellite Workshop, Cologne, 22 September 2018,
  • “Fundamentalism and Reductionism in the Philosophy of Time”, Meeting of the Society for Philosophy of Time, Bonn, 10 September 2017
  • “Tim Maudlin on The Passing of Time”, Metaphysics Group, Rutgers, 04 April 2016)
  • “Grounding Time’s Flow”, Metaphysics Group, Rutgers, 02 February 2016)
  • “Lewisian Supervenience”, Meeting of the Metaphysics Group, Rutgers, 27 January 2016
  • “Identity of Bands Through Time”, Bremen-Osnabrück-Workshop, Bremen, 09 December 2015
  • “Identity of Bands Through Time”, Meeting of the Society for Philosophy of Time, Bonn, 03 December 2015
  • “The Ontology of Pop Groups: A Neo-Aristotelian Account”, Oxford, 09 November 2015)
  • “The Grounding Problem for Four-Dimensionalism”, GAP-Poster Session, Osnabrück, 15 September 2015)
  • “Passage, Relativity and The Development of Integral Wholes”, Black Forrest Conference for the Philosophy of Physics, Saig, 23July 2015)
  • “Theories of Tense Reduction”, Meeting of the Society for Philosophy of Time, Bonn, 03 June 2015
  • “Neo-Aristotelianism and Relativity”, DPG-Meeting. Berlin, 20 March 2015




2010 – 2021   Ph.D. in Philosophy (magna cum laude), University of Bremen

                         Title of Ph.D.: “A Complete Description of Temporal Reality”

                         Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Manfred Stöckler, Prof. Dr. Dr. Norman Sieroka

                         (Committee: Prof. Dr. Dean Zimmerman, Prof. Dr. Georg Mohr, Prof., Dr. Dagmar Borchers,

                         Dr. Niels Linnemann)


2005 – 2009   M.A. in Philosophy, Linguistics and Religious Studies

                         (Cumulative Grade 1,0), University of Bremen

                         Title of M.A.: “Simultaneity and Special Relativity” (Supervisors: Prof. Dr. Manfred Stöckler,

                         PD Meinard Kuhlmann)


2001 – 2005   B.A. in Philosophy, University of Hamburg, 2005 (my “Zwischenprüfung” was on

                          Bernard Bolzano’s Conception of Lying)


Academic Work Experience and Internships

Since 2010    Assistant Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Bremen

Since 2012    Assistant Lecturer, Department of Linguistics, University of Bremen

2015 – 2018   Research Assistant, DFG-Project “The Passage of Time”

2016                Visiting Fellow, Rutgers University (at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Dea  Zimmerman)

2015                Visiting Fellow, Oxford University (at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Anna Marmodoro)

2013 – 2014   Research Grant, University of Bremen

2010 – 2013   Research Assistant in Theoretical Philosophy, University of Bremen

Aktualisiert von: J Ludwig