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2023/24 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

HPSC5171M Topics in the Philosophy of Physics

30 creditsClass Size: 50

Module manager: Dr Juha Saatsi

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

Pre-requisite qualifications

Postgraduate standing or permission of the Director of Philosophy MA Programmes

This module is mutually exclusive with

PHIL3851Intro: Phil of Modern Physics
PHIL3852Philosophy of Modern Physics

Module replaces

HPSC5170M History and Philosophy of Modern Physics

This module is not approved as an Elective

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?


On completion of this module, students should be able to:

- Demonstrate a familiarity with certain contemporary issues in the philosophy of modern physics.
- Exhibit an ability to critically analyse views regarding these issues and articulate and defend their own.


This module will provide detailed discussions of recent issues in the philosophy of physics. Topics covered may include: the various interpretations of quantum mechanics; the measurement problem; non-separability and entanglement in quantum physics; the metaphysics of quantum particles; the nature of quantum information; the foundations of space-time theory; the substantivalist-relationist debate in the context of relativistic space-time; the hole argument; determinism and indeterminism in modern physics.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Office Hour Discussions20.501.00
Private study hours278.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

8 hours per seminar reading - 88 hours
Further reading - 89 hours
Essay Preparation - 100 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Seminar performance/discussion and feedback on a 1000-word essay plan.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay5000 word essay100.00
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: 28/04/2023 14:44:02


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