Professor Steven French

Professor Steven French


Philosophy of Science; History of Physics; Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics.

I joined the School in 1993 after holding previous appointments in Brazil and the USA and am currently Professor of the Philosophy of Science here at Leeds. My most recent book was co-authored with Otávio Bueno (Univ. of Miami) and concerns the applicability of mathematics to science (Applying Mathematics: Immersion, Inference and Interpretation; OUP 2018). Together with my colleague Juha Saatsi I've recently co-edited a collection of essays on the impact of quantum physics on scientific realism (Realism and the Quantum,OUP). I've also recently completed a further monograph that compares theories with artworks and concludes, as it says in the (possibly provisional and perhaps provocative) title, There are No Such Things as Theories (forthcoming OUP). As part of that work I've become interested in the aesthetic qualities of theories and the role of imagination in science. Over the past couple of years I have also fretted about the status of dispositional accounts of laws and properties in the context of modern physics and danced around the relationship between science and metaphysics more generally. Finally, I recently revived an old paper on a piece of 'effaced' history in the foundations of quantum theory and am currently developing it as the basis for yet another book, this time on the phenomenological approach to quantum mechanics ('phenomenological' as in Husserlian; yes, really ...).

I am currently Co-Editor-in-Chief (with Wendy Parker of the University of Durham) of The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (, one of the most highly regarded journals in the field. I am also Editor-in-Chief of the Palgrave-Macmillan series, New Directions in Philosophy of Science (

Research interests

  • Philosophy of Science, especially models and the semantic approach, representation and structural realism
  • Philosophy of Physics, especially the metaphysical foundations of quantum mechanics
  • History of Physics, especially twentieth century

Research Students

PhD supervision can be offered in all of the above areas.

Current PhD students include: Douglas Earl (Ontological Foundations of Quantum Field Theory; co-supervised with Juha Saatsi), Colin McCullough-Banner (Applicability of Mathematics, co-supervised with Juha Saatsi), Alice Murphy (Thought Experiments in Science and Art; co-supervised with Aaron Meskin); Simon Newey (Probability and Decoherence in Quantum Mechanics; co-supervised with Juha Saatsi).

Former PhD students include Otávio Bueno (University of Miami), George Darby (University of Oxford), Callum Duguid (University of Leeds), James Fraser (Durham University), James Ladyman (University of Bristol), Kerry McKenzie (University of California, San Diego), Dean Rickles (University of Sydney), Juha Saatsi (University of Leeds), Sam Schindler (Aarhus University), Pete Vickers (University of Durham), among others.


Scientific Realism and the Quantum, with J. Saatsi (eds.), OUP, forthcoming.

‘Performance and Practice: Situating the Aesthetic Qualities of Theories’, in S. French and M. Ivanova (eds), The Aesthetics of Science: Beauty, Imagination and Understanding, Routledge.

‘Representation and Realism: On Being a Structuralist All the Way (Up and) Down’, forthcoming in M. Frauchliger (ed.), Proceedings of the 2018 Lauener Symposium in Analytic Philosophy.

‘From a Lost History to a New Future: Is a Phenomenological Approach to Quantum Mechanics Viable?’, forthcoming in H. Wiltsche and P. Berghofer (eds.), Phenomenology and Physics, Springer.

‘A Neo-Kantian Approach to the Standard Model’, forthcoming in F. Biagioli (ed.),  Proceedings of Neo-Kantian Perspectives on the Exact Sciences.

'Structural Realism and the Standard Model',in A. Cordero (ed.), Philosophers Look at Quantum Mechanics, Springer forthcoming.

'Fundamentality',  in E. Knox and A. Wilson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to the Philosophy of Physics, Routledge forthcoming.

‘There Are No Such Things as Ordinary Objects’ forthcoming in J. Cumpa and B. Brewer (eds.), The Nature of Ordinary Objects, Cambridge University Press forthcoming.

‘Factualism, Substantialism and Structuralism’, forthcoming in International Journal of Philosophical Studies.

‘Defending Eliminative Structuralism and a Whole Lot More (or Less)’ Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 2018 (10.1016/j.shpsa.2018.12.007)

‘Identity Conditions, Idealisations and Isomorphisms: A Defence of the Semantic Approach’; Synthese 2017 (DOI 10.1007/s11229-017-1564-z)

Applying Mathematics: Immersion, Inference and Interpretation, with O. Bueno, OUP, 2018.

‘Symmetries and Explanatory Dependencies’, with Juha Saatsi,  in J. Saatsi and A. Reutlinger (eds.), Explanation Beyond Causation, pp. 185-205, Oxford University Press, 2018.

‘Realism and Metaphysics’,  in J. Saatsi (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Realism, pp. 394-406, Routledge, 2018.

‘Toying with the Toolbox: How Metaphysics Can Still Make a Contribution’, Journal of General Philosophy of Science 49 pp. 211-230, 2018.

‘Building Bridges with the Right Tools: Modality and the Standard Model’, in M. Massimi, J-W. Romeijn and G. Schurz (eds.),  Proceedings of EPSA2015, pp. 37-47, Springer 2017.

Thinking About Science, Reflection on Art: Bringing Aesthetics and Philosophy of Science Together, with O. Bueno, G. Darby and D. Rickles (eds.), Routledge 2017.

‘Structural Realism and the Toolbox of Metaphysics’ in E. Agazzi (ed.), Varieties of Scientific Realism: Objectivity and Truth in Science, Springer, pp. 227-244, 2017.

'(Structural) Realism and its Representational Vehicles', Synthese 194 pp. 3311-3326, 2017.

The Structure of the World: Metaphysics and Representation. OUP, 2014 (pbk 2016).

Philosophy of Science: Key Concepts, Bloomsbury Academic , 2016 (2nd ed. of Science: Key Concepts in Philosophy, updated and with new ch. on explanation).

Further papers can be found via

or by emailing me at:

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD (University of London)
  • BSc (University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

Professional memberships

  • British Society for the Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy of Science Association

Student education

From August 1st 2019 I will no longer be teaching any modules.

Research groups and institutes

  • History and Philosophy of Science
  • Philosophy
  • Centre for History and Philosophy of Science
  • Centre for Metaphysics and Mind

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>