Campus & Community

Philosophy Department appoints Hall

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Analyst of the philosophical notion of causation joins FAS

FAS Dean William Kirby said of Edward J.P. Hall (above): 'Professor Hall brings a razor-sharp analytical mind to inquiry into mainstream metaphysics.' (Staff photo Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office)

Edward J.P. Hall, a leading philosopher of physics and quantum mechanics and an eminent analyst of the philosophical notion of causation, has been appointed professor of philosophy in Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, effective July 1.

Hall, 39, is currently associate professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he has taught since 1994.

“Professor Hall brings a razor-sharp analytical mind to inquiry into mainstream metaphysics,” says William C. Kirby, Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. “He is a conspicuous leader in his field, having quickly established a reputation as one of the most important philosophers focusing on the topic of causation. His insights into the philosophy of physics will also be welcomed by Harvard students, many of whom have a strong interest in this area.”

Hall is currently writing a book titled “Two Concepts of Causation,” to be published by Oxford University Press. In this book he will expand upon his work differentiating between two distinct types of causation: “dependence,” typified by a relationship where one event will not occur without another, and “production,” where one event helps generate or bring about another. Hall’s analysis of causation has served to articulate, defend, and explore the difference between dependence and production.

At the intersection of metaphysics and the philosophy of physics, Hall’s work on the philosophy of quantum mechanics is the inspiration for his forthcoming book “How It Could Possibly Be That Way: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics.” His work in this area examines quantum mechanics’ philosophical foundations, including the essential nature of quantum mechanics and the fundamental philosophical questions provoked by it. Hall’s work also examines the relevance of philosophical debates about the proper aim and scope of scientific inquiry. Hall’s analysis of the philosophy of physics has received high praise from colleagues, and for the past several years, he has been invited to participate in the prestigious Rutgers Philosophy of Physics Workshop.

Since graduate school, Hall has also undertaken philosophical study of probability, focusing largely on the so-called “Principal Principle,” which holds that subjective chance – the degree to which one believes that an event will occur – should be informed by one’s belief about the objective chance of that event occurring. Hall is now widely regarded as the most significant contemporary philosopher working in this area.

Hall received undergraduate degrees in philosophy and chemistry from Reed College in 1987 and was awarded a Ph.D. in philosophy by Princeton University in 1996. He joined MIT as an instructor in philosophy in 1994, and was named assistant professor in 1996 and associate professor in 2000. Hall has served as a referee for MIT Press since 1995, as well as a referee for the Australian Journal of Philosophy, the Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Mind, Philosophy of Science, Erkenntnis, Nous, the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, and Perspectives on Science.