Michael Epperson

Research Professor & Founding Director
Consortium for Philosophy and the Natural Sciences
History & Philosophy of Science Program
Department of History

  • More generally, I explore the philosophical implications underlying recent innovations in quantum mechanics, cosmology, and complexity theory. My approach is grounded in the study of the historical evolution of the conceptual frameworks central to these disciplines.

    I did my doctoral work in metaphysics, philosophy of science and philosophy of religion at The University of Chicago, and earned my Ph.D. there in 2003. My dissertation, Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead (Fordham University Press, 2004, 2nd ed. 2012) was written under the direction of philosopher David Tracy and physicist Peter Hodgson, Head of the Nuclear Physics Theoretical Group at the University of Oxford. My follow-on work, Foundations of Relational Realism: A Topological Approach to Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Nature (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013), co-authored with quantum theorist and mathematician Elias Zafiris (Ph.D., Theoretical Physics, Imperial College, University of London) explores the ontological significance of potentia and contextuality in quantum mechanics, toward a mereotopological, relational interpretation.

    My philosophical interests also include ethics and just war theory, and my work in these areas includes the 2005 documentary film The 11th Day: Crete 1941 (writer, producer) which chronicles the story of the Cretan civilian resistance against German occupation in World War II. The film received critical acclaim in publications including The Chicago Tribune, Canada's National Post, The Sacramento Bee, and Newsday. Exhibitions have included a special advance screening requested by members of the United States Congress, held at the Capitol, and a screening at the British Embassy in Athens, Greece.

    I am a proud graduate of the Sac State School of Arts & Sciences Discovery Program (in 1980. I was twelve) and have been teaching at Sac State since 2005. I’m a member of the faculty governing committee of the CSUS Hellenic Studies Program and am the founding director of the CSUS Consortium for Philosophy and the Natural Sciences and its History and Philosophy of Science program.


    • HIST 104: History and Philosophy of Ancient Science
    • This course examines the historical foundations and evolution of ancient Greek physics, mathematics, and medicine, from the natural philosophy of the Presocratics to post-Aristotelian thought. Particular emphasis is given to the development of formal propositional logic and formalized inductive and deductive reasoning and their effect on the progression of Hellenic and Hellenistic physics, medicine, and mathematics. Along the way, we explore the surprising ways in which key aspects of these ancient Greek conceptual frameworks have been reincorporated into current scientific theories, including quantum physics and cosmology.
    • HIST 107: History and Philosophy of the Physical Sciences
    • In this course, we study the historical evolution of the conceptual foundations of modern physics, including the rise and fall of the 17th century mechanical paradigm and the subsequent rise of field theory (and its rehabilitation of the ancient Hellenic concept of purely mathematical objects that are physically significant). We trace this evolution from its origins in ancient natural philosophy, through the medieval and early modern periods and the Enlightenment, up to the physics of today--the special and general theories of relativity and the latest interpretations of quantum mechanics.
    • HIST 199: Special Problems in the History and Philosophy of Science
    • This course is part of the CPNS HPS Student Research Initiative
    • Spring 2024: Hannah McCoy - History Major
      Project: "Biological Sex and Gender: Causative or Interrelated?"
    • Fall 2023: Gavin Roberts - History and Ethnic Studies Double Major
      Project: "The Application of Complexity Theory to the Evolution of Racial and Ethnic Social Dynamics in the United States"


    I study the historical and philosophical foundations of physics, with an emphasis on quantum theory and its rehabilitation of ancient Hellenic ideas about the relationship between mathematics and nature. I have been Principal Investigator on four grant-funded projects:

    • 01Experimental Application of the Relational Realist Formalism: A Topological, Sheaf-Theoretic Explication of Quantum Geometric Phases

      Principal Investigators: Michael Epperson (CPNS-CSUS) and Elias Zafiris (Univ. of Athens).

      2014-2017 • Supported by a grant from the Fetzer-Franklin Fund (Grant D34C101) and the Parmenides Foundation - $181,200

      Foundations of Relational Realism: A Topological Approach to Quantum Mechanics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2013) represents the capstone of our initial project on topological quantum theory, along with a number of published papers and conference presentations. With this foundational work in place, our next step is to apply this framework to the task of explicating the well-known but poorly understood problem of quantum geometric phases. We will do so by analysis of experimental data on the Aharonov-Bohm Effect, the Pancharatnam Phase, and the Quantum Hall Effect, toward a unified interpretation.

      Project page

    • Principal Investigator: Michael Epperson (CPNS-CSUS). Co-Investigators: Elias Zafiris, Senior Research Fellow in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics, University of Athens; Stuart Kauffman, Research Professor, Complex Systems Center, University of Vermont; Timothy Eastman, NASA-Goddard; Phillip Stamp, Professor of Physics, University of British Columbia; Karim Bschir, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Consultants: David Finkelstein, Professor Emeritus of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology; Roland Omnès, Laboratoire de Physique Théorique Université de Paris XI, (Unité Mixte de Recherche, CNRS).

      2010-2013 • Supported by a grant from the Fetzer-Franklin Fund (Grant D21C62) - $572,760

      This project presents an intuitive, event-ontological interpretation of quantum mechanics formalized via the mathematics of category theory and algebraic topology.

      Project page

    • Principal Investigator: Michael Epperson. Co-Investigators: David Finkelstein, Georgia Institute of Technology; Henry P. Stapp, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Timothy Eastman, NASA-Goddard.

      2008-2009 • Supported by a grant from the Fetzer-Franklin Fund (Grant D11C36) - $209,000.

      This project explores the mutually implicative relationship of the causal and logical orders in quantum mechanics and its connection to the mutually implicative relationship of subject and object (viz. contextualized measurement and measured system).

      The logical structure of quantum theory emphasizes the importance of the non-unitary, contextualized evolution of the density matrix via von Neumann’s Process 1. The effects of Process 1 are specified by the orthodox von Neumann rules, but the process by which the measurement basis restricts the evolution and fixes a particular projection operator is not specified by any yet-known law or rule. The principle of the causal closure of the physical is thus not validated by the known rules of contemporary quantum physics. 

      Von Neumann’s Process 1 was a crucial attempt to render explicit the non-classical, contextualizing effect of the measuring apparatus (‘subject’) upon the measured system (‘object’) in a way that at once preserved the traditional meanings of ‘subject’ and ‘object’ and made possible their coherent application to quantum mechanics. By this framework, the objective state of a classically-conceived ‘measuring subject’ actively, contextually conditions the superposition of potential outcomes states constitutive of the classically conceived ‘object measured.’ Prior to the measurement outcome, the potential objective qualifications of the ‘object-in-process’ always conform to ‘subjective’ contextualization via the measuring apparatus according to its orthonormal basis. The measured system is thus best understood not as a ‘classical object’ but rather a quantum physical ‘object-in-process’—i.e., a history of contextual quantum ‘measurement relations’ or, more generally, ‘quantum praxes.’

      Project page

    • Principal Investigator: Michael Epperson. Co-Investigators: David Finkelstein, Department of Physics, Georgia Institute of Technology; Henry P. Stapp, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Timothy Eastman, NASA-Goddard.

      2007 • Supported by a grant from CTNS-STARS and the John Templeton Foundation - $20,000

      Our hypothesis is that any conception of ultimate reality that it is in any way fundamentally describable by physics must presuppose the order of logical implication as a necessary first principle. Several modern interpretations of quantum mechanics have begun to explore, in very small steps, the metaphysical notion of an explicit correlation of the order of efficient causal relation and the order of logical implication as physically, and not merely conceptually, significant. Thus, for example, the logical-mathematical trace-over by which the physical process of decoherence is described in these interpretations is treated as ontologically, and not merely epistemically, significant. We will explore this hypothesis by way of the neo-Aristotelian ontological framework of actuality and potentiality and its suggested application to quantum theory by Heisenberg.


    Books, Articles, & Essays

    Foundations of Relational Realism:
    A Topological Approach to Quantum Mechanics and the Philosophy of Nature

    michael epperson & elias zafiris

    Lexington Books / Rowman & Littlefield, New York, 2013

    Quantum Mechanics and
    the Philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead

    michael epperson

    2nd ed. Fordham University Press, 2012
    1st ed. Fordham University Press, 2004

    Physics and Speculative Philosophy:
    Potentiality in Modern Science

    Timothy eastman, michael epperson, david ray griffin (eds.)

    De Gruyter, Berlin / New York (March, 2016)

    Recent Articles & Essays

    The Creative UniverseInstitute of Art and Ideas News, Issue 96, June 11, 2021

    Relational Realism and the Ontogenetic Universe: Subject, Object, and Ontological Process in Quantum MechanicsAngelaki 25:3 (2020)

    Taking Heisenberg's Potentia SeriouslyInternational Journal of Quantum Foundations, 4:2 (2018) 158-172 (with Stuart Kauffman and Ruth Kastner.) See also Tom Siegfried's review article on this paper in Science News

    The Common Sense of Quantum Theory: Exploring the Internal Relational Structure of Self-Organization in NatureCoding as Literacy, Metalithicum 5. Ed. Vera Bühlmann and Ludger Hovestadt. Birkhäuser (2015)

    For a complete list of research project publications, click here.


    documentary film

    "The 11th Day: Crete 1941"

    The 11th Day: Crete 1941 is a 2005 documentary film featuring eyewitness accounts from survivors of the Battle of Crete during World War II. The film was created by producer-director Christos Epperson and writer-producer Michael Epperson, and funded by Alex Spanos. Among the eyewitnesses interviewed are British SOE operative and famous travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, along with George Doundoulakis, and Cretan Resistance hero George Tzitzikas. The film also includes historical commentary and analysis by Chase Brandon of the CIA and Professor Andre Gerolymatos of Simon Fraser University.

    Click here for more details about the film


    You can view our extensive historical archive of photos, documents, and records detailing all aspects of the Battle of Crete and the Cretan Resistance on our website:



    Selected Invited Talks, Lectures & Presentations

    Click here for a complete list