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Unit information: Philosophical Issues of Physical Sciences in 2021/22

Unit name Philosophical Issues of Physical Sciences
Unit code PHIL30052
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Ladyman
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The aim of this unit is to explore metaphysical, methodological, epistemological and conceptual issues that arise in modern physics. We focus on quantum mechanics and relativity theory. Topics covered include: the Copehagen interpretation of quantum mechanics; the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment and Bell’s theorem; locality and action-at-a-distance; the problem of measurement in quantum mechanics and Schroedinger’s cat paradox; the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics; causation and chance; space and time in Aristotle’s, Newton’s, and Einstein’s physics; the notion of simultaneity in Einstein’s theory of relativity; and geometry and relativity physics.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

(1) a sophisticated knowledge of the metaphysical, methodological, epistemological and conceptual issues that arise in modern physics.

(2) a sophisticated knowledge of the literature on these issues

(3) an ability to engage philosophically with, analyse, and critically appraise the main arguments in this literature.

(4) the sophisticated skills in philosophical writing and argumentation appropriate to level H/6.

Teaching Information

Lectures, small group work, individual exercises, seminars and virtual learning environment.

Assessment Information

Summative: one take home open book exam designed to test the intended learning outcomes - 100% (ILOs 1-4)


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. PHIL30052).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.