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2021/22 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL3851 Introduction to Philosophy of Modern Physics

10 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Dr Callum Duguid

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2021/22

Pre-requisite qualifications

EITHER: 20 credits of level 2 Physics (or equiv) OR: A level Physics (or equiv) together with 20 credits in level 2 HPS OR level 2 Logic & Language OR Theoretical Core Philosophy modules. Students who don't have A-level physics (or equivalent) may be allowed to enrol after discussion with the module leader.

This module is mutually exclusive with

HPSC3850Philosophy of Modern Physics

Module replaces

HPSC3850 Philosophy of Modern Physics

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

What is the nature of reality as described by modern physics? This is the central question considered in this module as we examine a selection of philosophical issues at the heart of some of the central pillars of modern physics (quantum theory, space-time physics, statistical physics). They exact focus can vary from year to year, but here are possible questions to consider: Does the world consist only of physical objects standing in certain spatial and temporal relations to one another, or do space and time also exist as entities themselves? Are space and time doomed to fade away into mere shadows according to relativity theory? If so, what is spacetime? Can the metaphysics of everyday and classical objects be their quantum counterparts? Can quantum objects be said to possess properties independent of sentient observers? In what sense does quantum mechanics involve 'spooky action at a distance'? How can we reconcile quantum indeterminacy and holism with the determinate and particular features of the world we observe? Is there an 'arrow of time' to be found in the fundamental physics?


To provide a critical understanding of the development of 20th century physics and its leading philosophical problems.


This module will examine philosophical issues connected with modern physics (e.g. quantum mechanics, special and general relativity), such as determinism, causality and the nature of space and time.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours79.00
Total Contact hours17.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)96.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Through tutorial interaction and questionnaires.
Students will have the opportunity to submit 500 word essay plan for feedback.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/06/2021 14:25:34


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