Conference June 24-26 2019

the Structure of Reality and the Reality of Structure


In philosophy, the concept of structure has come to occupy center stage and seems to mesmerise many philosophical minds. When, during the 1960s, in philosophy of science, P.C. Suppes expounded a novel conception of a scientific theory as a set of models, these models were structures in the domain of discourse of set-theory. When, around the same time, in philosophy of mathematics, P. Benacerraf famously argued that numbers could not be abstract objects, his solution to the problem what arithmetic was about, then, was that it is the study of abstract ω-structures - treading, knowingly or unknowlingly, in the footsteps of the great N. Bourbaki, who characterised mathematics as: the study of abstract structure. When in philosophy of science in 1989, J.S. Worrall propounded structural realism as a new variety of a realist view of science, he construed knowledge gathered by science as structural; and when in 1997, S. French and J. Ladyman distinguished epistemic from ontic structural realism, and connected the last-mentioned to issues in the philososphy of physics, structure became an ontological category. Perhaps structure is the fundamental substance of physical reality. Ladyman suggested structure as the locus of modality. Also in philosophy of science, the idea of a structural explanation has arisen, in contrast to other types of explanaation, e.g. deductive-nomological and causal explanation.

Looking back in the history of 20th-century philosophy, A. Eddington and B. Russell turned out to have held distinctively structuralist views, as S. French has argued, and work of M.A.H. Newman and F.P. Ramsey had everything to do with structure. When in 2013 researchers at the Institute for Advanced Study held `A Special Year on Univalent Foundations of Mathematics', they presented Homotopic Type Theory (HoTT) as the most structuralist foundational theory of mathematics and logic. Needless to add that category theory also holds the banner of structure high.

This conference puts the very concept of structure center stage. Metaphysicists and philosophers of science, of physics mostly, will present their views, arguments and criticisms; they will attempt to reflect on the role and ramifications of the concept of structure therein; and they will engage with each other. A philosophical spectacle not to miss.


Send an e-mail to: (obligatory: there is a maximum of 50 participants, excluding speakers).


Free of charge.

Speakers Dinner

Monday evening 24 June 2019, presumably near Hotel New York, 20:00 hours onwards.

Conference Reception

Free for all participants, at Erasmus Paviljoen, Tuesday 25 June, 17:15 - 18:00 hours.


The Dutch National Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).


Springer Verlag will publish an edited volume with contributions based on talks given at this confer- ence, possibly with additional contributions by others who sadly could not participate. Book series: Synthese Library. Provisional title: The Structure of Reality and the Reality of Structure.

Organiser, Chair, Fundraiser and Editor of the Book

F.A. Muller


Room C2.2 (2nd floor)
Theil Building
Woudestein Campus
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
The Netherlands

One enters the campus by taxi or tram at the left (Plaza P ). Cross or walk around the water in the middle, with the fountain, and then straight ahead to the Theil Building. P Building on the map is only an air bridge: you pass it underneath. The conference room, C2-2, is on the 2nd floor.

For lunch, you are on your own:

Furthermore, on Tinbergen Plaza there is also a Supermarket, named SPAR (where you can only pay with a bank card). You get there by passing Food Plaza.

ESPhil is on the 5th floor in the Bayle Building, South-West corner on the map (if you're completely lost: go there and ask for help at the Secretarial Office).