University of Arizona
Jenann Ismael’s influential research focuses on philosophy of physics and metaphysics. She addresses issues involving the structure of space and time, the foundations of quantum mechanics, and nature of physical law. Her early work (Essays on Symmetry, Garland Press, 2001) focused on issues involving the role of symmetry in physics and the interpretation of symmetries with a disputed status. She has written a number of papers on the role of probability in physics.
Another focus of her research has been philosophical questions at the nexus between physics and our experience of the world (sometimes described as a clash between the scientific and manifest images of the world). She argues in several papers that much of the apparent conflict is the product of a lack of understanding of the logic of the relationship between the fundamental level of physical description and phenomenology. She has also written about what physics tells us about issues of central human importance: freedom, death, and the experience of time, the unity of consciousness, and the nature of the self. She authored a book on the nature of the self (The Situated Self, Oxford University Press, 2006) and has written several papers on the relationship between two very different images of time: the Parmenidean image associated with relativistic physics and Heraclitian image associated with experience.
Her current research focuses on three sets of problems: (i) the cluster of problems that go under the label of “the problem of free will”, (ii) all of the different pressures in current physics for abandoning space-time as the fundamental arena for physical description, and (iii) the ways in which the mathematical methods employed by physics differ from traditional approaches in metaphysics and the role of probability in physics.