Professor of Philosophy

Interests: Philosophy and History of Science (physics, biology and cognitive sciences), Epistemology, Metaphysics, Social and Political Philosophy, with special interests in philosophical issues related to (classical and global) modernity and postmodernity.

Before coming to Boston University in the fall of 1994, Tian Yu Cao did research at Trinity College (University of Cambridge), Northwestern University, Harvard University, and MIT.

He was a Visiting Fellow of All Souls College and Wolfson College, Oxford (2000-01); a joint member in the School of Natural Sciences and the School of Historical Studies, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) for the academic year 2004-05.

Dr. Cao is currently working on:

The Making of QCD (forthcoming from Cambridge University Press)

A Structural-Historical Approach to Scientific Realism (a book-length monograph, soon to be completed).

Philosophical Issues in Quantum Gravity (a book-length monograph, in preparation)

Knowledge Economy and Network Society: From a Historical Perspective (in preparation)

Dr. Cao is author of:

Conceptual Developments of Twentieth Century Field Theories (Cambridge University Press, February 1997; second printing and paperback edition with minor revisions, May 1998; second [revised and expanded] edition, October, 2019)

From Current Algebra to the Genesis of QCD – A Case for Structural Realism (Cambridge University Press, 2010; paperback edition forthcoming in October 2012).

Rationality and Power – Marxism and Liberalism in the World History (East-China Normal University Press, 2016).

Dr. Cao is editor of:

Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Field Theory (Cambridge University Press, February, 1999; paperback edition, March, 2004).

Philosophy of Science, vol. X of the Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy, August 10-16, 1998. (Philosophical Documentation Center, February 2001).

The Chinese Model of Modern Development (editor; Routledge, May 2005) [the Chinese edition titled Modernization, Globalization and the Chinese Path was published by Social Sciences Documentation Publishing House, Beijing, China, July 2003).

Culture and Social Transformations in Reform Era China (co-editor, with Xueping Zhong and Kebin Liao, Brill, Leiden and Boston; June, 2010; the Chinese edition was published by Zhejiang University Press, June 2006)

Culture and Social Transformations – Theoretical Framework and Chinese Context (co-editor, with Xueping Zhong, Kebin Liao and Ban Wang, Brill, Leiden and Boston, 2014; the Chinese edition was published by Guangxi Normal University Press, 2012).

Dr. Cao has also published articles on the philosophy, history and sociology of science, as well as other topics of his interests.

Selective publication of Articles:

“Gauge Theory and the Geometrization of Fundamental Physics,” in Philosophical Foundations of Quantum Field Theory (eds. R. Harré and H. Brown; Oxford U. Press, 1988), 117-133.

“Attempts at Reconciling Quantum Field Theory with S-matrix Theory — The Reggeization Program: 1962-82,” The Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 41:3 (1991), 239-283

“Spontaneous Breakdown of Symmetry: Its Rediscovery and Integration into Quantum Field Theory,” with L. M. Brown, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 21:2 (1991), 211-235.

“The Conceptual Foundations and Philosophical Aspects of Renormalization Theory,” with S. S. Schweber, Synthese, 97:1 (1993), 33-108.

“The Kuhnian Revolution and the Postmodernist Turn in the History of Science,” Physis, Vol. XXX (1993), 477-504.

“Spontaneous Breaking of Symmetry,” (co-authored with L. Brown, R. Brout, P. Higgs and Y. Nambu, based on a Panel Session at The Third International Symposium on the History of Particle Physics, SLAC, June 24-27, 1992) in The Rise of The Standard Model (eds. L. M. Brown, M. Dresden, L. Hoddeson; Cambridge University Press, 1997), 477-521.

“Postmodernity in Science and Philosophy,” as part of the collection of pamphlets (published both in English and Spanish) and videos (subtitled in Spanish) on The Sciences and Humanities At the Threshold of the 21st Century, (ed. Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, Mexico, 1997).

“The Casimir Effect and the Interpretation of the Vacuum,” with S. E. Rugh and H. Zinkernagel, in Studies in History & Philosophy of Modern Physics, 30(1) (1999), 111-139.

“Conceptual Issues in Quantum Field Theory,” in Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Field Theory (ed. T. Y. Cao; Cambridge University Press, 1999), 1-27.

“Representation or Construction? An Interpretation of Quantum Field Theory,” in the Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy (ed. T. Y. Cao; Philosophical Decumentation Center, February, 2001),129-141.

“Prerequisites for a Consistent Framework of Quantum Gravity,” in Studies in the History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 32(2) (2001), 181-204. (Its Russian translation appeared in Philosophy of Science, 7 (2001): 238-269)

“Julian Schwinger, But Not the Definitive Julian Schwinger” — Review of Climbing the Mountain – The Scientific Biography of Julian Schwinger by Jagdish Mehra and Kimball A. Milton (Oxford U Press, 2000), Physics Today 55 (4) (April 2002), 77-78; a further exchange with Mehra and Milton in Physics Today 56 (5) (May 2003), 15-16.

“Structural Realism and the Interpretation of Quantum Field Theory,” in Synthese, 136 (1) (July 2003), 3-24.

“Ontological Relativity and Fundamentality – Is Quantum Field Theory the Fundamental Theory?” in Synthese, 136 (1) (July 2003), 25-30 .

“Can We Dissolve Physical Entities into Mathematical Structures?” in Synthese, 136 (1) (July 2003), 57-71.

“What is Ontological Synthesis? A Reply to Simon Saunders,” in Synthese, 136 (1) (July 2003), 107-126.

“Ontology and Scientific Explanation,” in Explanatios (ed. John Conwell, Oxford University Press, 2004), 173-196.

“Spontaneous Breaking of Symmetry,” (co-authored with L. Brown, R. Brout, P. Higgs and Y. Nambu, based on a Panel Session at The Third International Symposium on the History of Particle Physics, SLAC, June 24-27, 1992) in The Rise of The Standard Model (eds. L. M. Brown, M. Dresden, L. Hoddeson; Cambridge University Press, 1997), 477-521.

“Postmodernity in Science and Philosophy,” as part of the collection of pamphlets (published both in English and Spanish) and videos (subtitled in Spanish) on The Sciences and Humanities At the Threshold of the 21st Century, (ed. Pablo Gonzalez Casanova, Mexico, 1997).

“Conceptual Issues in Quantum Field Theory,” in Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Field Theory (ed. T. Y. Cao; Cambridge University Press, 1999), 1-27.

“Renormalization Group: An Interesting Yet puzzling Idea,” in Conceptual Foundations of Quantum Field Theory (ed. T. Y. Cao; Cambridge University Press, 1999), 268-286.

“Representation or Construction? An Interpretation of Quantum Field Theory,” in the Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy, 129-141.

“Space and Time,” in Oxford Companion to the History of Modern Science (ed. John Heilbron, Oxford University Press, 2003).

“Ontology and Scientific Explanation,” in Explanatios (ed. John Conwell, Oxford University Press, 2004), 173-196.

“Theory and Practice of the Chinese Model,” in The Chinese Model of Modern Development (ed. T.Y.Cao; Routledge, May 2005), 293-317.

“Structural Realism and Quantum Gravity,” in Structural Foundation of Quantum Gravity (ed. Steven French, Oxford University Press, forthcoming in December 2006), 42-55.

“Will Einstein Still be the Super-Hero of Physics History in 2050?” in Positioning the History of Science (eds. and K. Gavroglu and J. Renn, Springer, 2007), 27-32.

“Structural Realism and Conceptual Issues in Quantum Chromodynamics,” Epistemology and Philosophy of Science (Moscow), XVII (3) (June 2008), 143-156.

“Introduction: The social and Cultural Roots of the Reforms”, with X. Zhong, in Culture and Social Transformations – Theoretical Framework and Chinese Context (eds. by T. Y. Cao, X. Zhong, K. Liao and B. Wang, Brill, Leiden and Boston, 2014), 1-20.

“Key steps toward the creation of QCD — Notes on the logic and history of the genesis of QCD,” Modern Physics Letters A, Vol. 29, No. 25 (2014) 1430024 (17 pages); © World Scientific Publishing Company, DOI: 10.1142/S0217732314300249

“Incomplete, but real, — A constructivist account of reference,” Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, vol. 41, issue 3, 2014, 72-81.

“Land Ownership and Market Socialism in China”, in The Land Question – Socialism, Capitalism, and the Market (edited by Mahmood Mamdani, Makerere Institute of Social Research Book Series, 2015), 77-94.

“The Englert-Brout-Higgs Mechanism — An Unfinished Project,” in International Journal of Modern Physics A, Vol. 31, No. 35 (2016) 1630061 (20 pages), DOI: 10.1142/S0217751X16300611

“The Hole Argument and the Nature of Spacetime — a Critical Review from a Constructivist Perspective,” in Einstein, Tagore and the Nature of Reality (edited by Partha Ghose, Routledge, 2017), 37-44.

“Scientific Realism in the Post-Kuhnian Times –Beyond Structuralism and Historicism,” in Map and Territory, exploring the foundations of science, thought and reality (Springer, 2018, edited by Shyam Iyengar) pp.101-123. [A Spanish translation published in a volume Scientific Realism, edited by Bruno Borge and Nélida Gentile, Eudeba –a university press affiliated with University of Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2018; a Chinese version, published in Philosophical Analysis, Shanghai, China, Feb., 2018].

“The Meaning of Background Independence and the Nature of Spacetime — A Critical Review from a Constructivist Perspective,” in the conference volume of the First Hermann Minkowski Meeting on the Foundations of Spacetime Physics (edited by Marc Holman and Christopher Duston; Minkowski Institute Press, 2018).

Over the years, he has received fellowships and Grants from various institutions:

1985-90 Research Fellowship, Trinity College, Cambridge, United Kingdom.

1990-92 Grant from NSF [Grant DIR-No. 9014412 (4-59070)]

1995-96 Grant from NSF [Grant No. SBR-9529112], in support of the conference on the foundations of quantum field theory, held on March 1-3, 1996.

1996-97 Grant from NSF [Amendment No. 001 to Grant No. SBR-9529112, as a supplement support for the publication of the Proceedings of the conference.]

1999 Award from the Lakatos Foundation for a short visit to the London School of Economics and Political Sciences.

1999 Grant from the Smithsonian Institution for a short visit in June.

2000 (March – August): Senior Smithsonian Institution Fellowship with a research grant.

2001 (June): Grant for a short visit from the Max-Planck Institute for the History of Science, Germany.

2002 Grant from Ford Foundation in support of a three day conference “Modernization, Globalization and the Chinese Path” which was held in Hangzhou, China, July 5-7, 2002; and a supplement in support of the publication of the conference volume in Chinese.

2004-05 Neugebauer Fellowship, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

2006 (May-June) Lakatos Research Fellowship, London School of Economics and Political Science

In addition, Dr. Cao has given more than 100 invited lectures in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Canada, Russia, Mexico and China.

Dr. Cao regularly teaches the following courses:

Undergraduate level:
Social Philosophy (PH 253)
Philosophy of Science (PH 270)
History of Science (PH 271)
Philosophical Methods in Human Sciences (PH277)
Marx and Marxism (PH 418)
Philosophy of Cognitive Science (PH 465)
Philosophy of Physics (PH 470)

Graduate level:

Marx and Marxism (PH 618)
Philosophy of Cognitive Science (PH 665)
Philosophy of Physics (PH 670; Space-time, Probability, Quantum)
Seminar on the History of Philosophy of Science (PH 870)
Seminar on Contemporary Issues in the History and Philosophy of Science (PH 871)