Photo: Matthias Steup
The Philosophy Department is pleased to welcome Dr. Zee Perry to the University of Colorado at Boulder. Dr. Perry is an Instructor and Visiting Scholar at the Philosophy Department and CU’s Center for the Study of Origins, respectively. Before Colorado, she was the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Postdoctoral Associate in the Philosophy Department at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. She received her Ph.D. in Philosophy from New York University in August 2016, defending a dissertation on the metaphysics of physical quantities.
We asked Dr. Perry a few questions to introduce her to the department and its students.
1. Tell us about yourself. How did you get into philosophy? Where did you study philosophy?
I sort of fell into philosophy indirectly. I was originally intending to work in math, but I kept wanting to work with things that were more and more abstract. My original undergraduate institution (Moravian College, in eastern Pennsylvania) had a two person philosophy department, so I had to transfer halfway through my undergrad (to Rutgers University, in New Jersey). It was there that I fell in love with the philosophy of physics, and further cemented my enthusiasm for metaphysics. I went to NYU for my Ph.D. and defended a dissertation focused on these topics in 2016.
2. What are your main interests both research and teaching in philosophy? What are your current projects?
I sometimes like to say that I'm interested in "the metaphysics of X" for most X. That is, I'm primarily interested in metaphysical issues as they apply to various domains. My current interests concern the nature of quantitative physical properties, and the way those properties factor into the origins of the measurement practices we use to discover them. I have interests elsewhere in the metaphysics of science, including theories of laws of nature, the foundations of quantum mechanics, and debates about the natures of space and time. Right now I'm investigating questions concerning the role of quantities in laws of nature, and whether or not those roles can give us insight into the correct metaphysics of physical laws, as well as the role that laws play in our ability to learn about quantitative properties in the world.
I enjoy teaching many topics, though I especially like courses in contemporary or historical philosophy of science. Some of this is because I love being able to use props (like a Pringles can, or a bucket hanging from a string) to illustrate important examples, and there are a great many opportunities for this in phil science. I'm also enthusiastic about guiding students towards understanding the metaphysics of somewhat unusual domains. I enjoy teaching courses on aesthetics and the philosophy of art for this reason. There are a host of really interesting and accessible metaphysical issues concerning the nature of fictional works and characters, what grounds the differences between art forms, and the role of authorial intent and audience interpretation in art, just to name a few.
3. What sorts of things do you like to do when you’re not doing philosophy?
My partner and I have two cats, and much of our free time is spent giving them an unreasonable amount of attention. In recent months I've also started teaching myself some of the basics of graphic design, as well as the specific use of some 3D art software, in order to produce clearer and more engaging diagrams in my own and others' writing. I have a secret hope that, with some of this knowledge, I'll be able to produce informative self-contained videos (and animated GIFs) covering various topics in philosophy and physics.
To find out more about Dr. Perry's research and the classes she's teaching, please visit her department webpage:
as well as her personal webpage: www.ZRPerry.com