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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

PHIL3852 Philosophy of Modern Physics

20 creditsClass Size: 60

Module manager: Dr Juha Saasti

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not 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 hours179.00
Total Contact hours21.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will have the opportunity to submit a 1,000 word essay plan for feedback.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay3000 words (end of module)100.00
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: 07/10/2022


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