We propose an investigation of the philosophical consequences of 'quantizing' gravity – of theories of quantum spacetime. Because such theories, like heliocentrism or relativity before them, challenge the most fundamental ingredients of physical reality – space and time – their development will require philosophical rethinking of basic concepts. In turn, they promise to revolutionize humanity’s understanding of its relation to the world. Especially, quantum gravity’s radical suggestion that space and time as we know them are absent from fundamental reality obliterates traditional conceptions of material existence, of laws of nature, and of causality. This project will analyze the implications. Conversely, the proposed research also informs the foundations of quantum gravity. From Copernicus, to Newton, Einstein, and Bell, scientific revolutions centrally trade on broadly ‘philosophical’ work; we expect quantum gravity to be no different. Thus, the second major thrust is to identify points on which philosophical clarification is needed for the scientific project, and to deliver it.
Even so, philosophers have been slow to investigate, so we propose to continue and amplify the work we have done developing the subject and providing training and opportunities for others to pick up the challenge. The core of the project would be a 3-year research group comprised of the PIs and their students, and of pre- and post-doctoral fellows. In addition to publishing their research in the area, the group would hold a summer school and a conference, edit volumes of papers, hold an annual essay competition, produce video lectures and talks, and develop a website to disseminate results. By their contributions the group would advance our understanding of the philosophical consequences of quantum gravity; the scholarly community building would help create the dialogue between physics and philosophy necessary to articulate fully those consequences for science and humanity.