Philosophy of Physics - PHI00013H

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Rob Trueman
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2019-20

Module summary

To examine some of the philosophical and conceptual problems raised by classical, relativistic and quantum physics.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2019-20

Module aims

To examine some of the philosophical and conceptual problems raised by classical, relativistic and quantum physics.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this course students should:

  • be able to explain certain key aspects of classical, relativistic and quantum physics, such as the nature of inertial frames, space and time, relativistic paradoxes, simultaneity, wave-particle duality, measurement, and entanglement.
  • be able to explain the mutual interplay of some of these notions in the respective physical theories and in our scientific world-view.
  • be able to reflect on the relationship between physics and philosophical analysis.
  • have developed core philosophical skills.

Module content

Our purpose is to examine some of the conceptual questions presented by classical and contemporary physical theories.

The general theme of the course will be: What is objectively real and what is not (in modern physics)? What can we infer from our successful physical theories about the reality that those theories are used to describe and predict?

We will start by looking at notions of space and time in modern physics. Questions considered will include the following: Does time pass, or is the flow of time an illusion? In the light of special and general relativity, are temporal order and geometrical structure facts about the world or are they conventions? Is space a substance in its own right or just a system of relations among physical bodies?

We will then move on to considering the philosophical puzzles raised by quantum mechanics. Questions to be considered include: Does QM offer a complete description of reality? Do observers discover an already existing reality or do they somehow create it by measuring and observing? The focus will be on the Copenhagen interpretation, the EPR argument, and the Bell results concerning non-locality.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay (4000 Words)
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay (4000 Words)
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback on formative work will be available two weeks after submission. Feedback on summative work will be available four weeks after submission.

Indicative reading

A reading pack will be provided for this module but the following text book is also recommended:

Lawrence Sklar, Philosophy of Physics, (OUP: Oxford, 1992). [Multiple hard copies are available in the library.]



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.