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Unit information: Philosophy of Physics in 2020/21

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Philosophy of Physics
Unit code PHILM0005
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
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

This unit covers philosophical issues related to basic physical theories, discussing issues such as the causal structure of space-time, conceptual questions in the foundations of quantum mechanics, and the role of probability in physics.

The aim of this course is to explore metaphysical, methodological, epistemological and conceptual issues that arise in modern physics. We cover topics such as: space and time in Aristotle’s, Newton’s, and Einstein’s physics; the notion of simultaneity in Einstein’s theory of relativity; geometry and the causal structure of relativity physics; the conceptual structure of quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment; the measurement problem and Schrödinger’s cat paradox of; locality and action-at-a-distance; and causation and chance in atomic physics.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should:

  1. Have knowledge and understanding of core issues in philosophy of physics.
  2. Be able to conduct independent research into a new topic, using online and library resources, analyze and understand difficult philosophical texts, and write clear academic prose.

Teaching Information

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

Assessment Information

Summative Assessment: One essay of up to 6,000 words (excluding bibliography) - 100%

Reading and References

  • Cushing, J., Philosophical Concepts in Physics.
  • David Albert, D., Quantum Mechanics and Experience.
  • Sklar, L. Philosophy of Physics.
  • Kosso, P., Appearance and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics.
  • Sklar, L., Space, Time and Spacetime.