Jenann Ismael

My early research focused on philosophy of physics and metaphysics, especially issues involving the role of symmetry in physics and the interpretation of symmetries with a disputed status.  In the past few years, I have been working on issues in the philosophy of mind, applying the formal apparatus associated with symmetry -- the apparatus of transformations and invariance, which saw early applications in physics as a way of understanding frames of reference -- to understanding interactions among perspectives, and the contested relationship between the objective vision of the world presented in physics and the view presented in the experience of the embedded subject.

After a detour through difficult related topics like freedom, death, and the experience of time, I am returning to philosophy of physics.  The next few years will be spent working on a book that explores the mathematical tools that physicists deploy in forming metaphysical hypotheses, and the reasons for the success (such as it is) that physics has had. Symmetry, again, will figure prominently, as will closely allied notions of unity and simplicity.

Quantum mechanics presents an especially interesting example in this context, because the mathematical tools have led in that case in the direction of a formalism that has all the right formal characteristics, but doesn't permit an imaginatively intelligible ontological interpretation. I'll argue for an imagination-stretching view.

I am at the Centre for Time from 2005-2010, as an ARC Queen Elizabeth II Research Fellow in conjunction with an ARC Discovery Project with Huw Price and Guido Bacciagaluppi, studying time, probability and quantum mechanics. I received my Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1997, taught at the University of Arizona before coming to Sydney, and have also held a Mellon Fellowship at Stanford, and an NEH fellowship at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina. I will take up a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford in 2011.



For a full list of my publications, as well as online acess to most of my papers, my cv and audio versions of some of my presentations, click here.


The Situated Self. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Essays on Symmetry. Garland, 2000

Selected papers:

“Selves and Self-Organization”, Minds and Machines, forthcoming.

“Causation, Perspective and Agency”, Psyche: An interdisciplinary journal of research on consciousness, forthcoming.

“How to Combine Chance and Determinism: Thinking About the Future in an Everett Universe.”     Philosophy of Science, October, 2003.

“Closed Causal Loops and the Bilking Argument.” Synthese, Sept. 2002.

“Rememberances, Mementos, and Time Capsules.” In Time, Reality, and Experience, ed. Craig     Callender. Cambridge University Press, 2001.

“A Philosopher’s Introduction to Quantum Mechanics.” Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

“Science and the Phenomenal.” Philosophy of Science, December 1999.

“Curie’s Principle.” Synthese, January 1997.

“What Chances Could Not Be.” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, March 1996.

“Symmetry as a Guide to Superfluous Theoretical Structure.” With Bas van Fraassen. In Symmetries in Physics:  Philosophical Reflections, ed. Elena Castellani and Katherine Brading. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Last updated: 1 September 2009