This course is co-taught with Karen Crowther.

The philosophy of physics deals with methodological, epistemological, and metaphysical issues in physics. This seminar has the dual purpose of systematically introducing the background necessary to do research in philosophy of physics as well as discussing current research in the field.

The focus of the seminar this semester will be on principles in physics. We will explore the nature, status, and roles of some important principles in physics (these may be historical principles, as well as contemporary ones). For instance, conservation principles (e.g., conservation of energy), relativity (and other symmetry principles), unification, the correspondence principle, and the principle of least action. The regular seminar will be interspersed with talks by leading experts on their current research in the philosophy of quantum gravity.

While some background in physics, mathematics, and philosophy will be helpful, we will not assume any specific knowledge beyond high school mathematics. No background in quantum gravity is necessary to successfully complete this seminar.

This seminar will be in English.

Course Requirements

If this seminar is taken for credit, please let us know. You will have to fulfill requirements, depending on the module for which you are taking this course. For credit in philosophy:

- travail écrit de recherche avec soutenance (env. 25 pages, 50'000 signes)
MA8 (demi-module):
- travail écrit de recherche (env. 12 pages, 24'000 signes) ou présentation orale durant le séminaire

Contact one of us if you need credit in physics.

Course Materials

Course materials such as lecture notes, handouts, etc may be made available as they will be used in class.

The readings for this seminar will be from the following sources:

  • Brading, Katherine and Elena Castellani (2010), Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections. Cambridge University Press.
  • Morrison, Margaret (2000), Unifying Scientific Theories: Physical Concepts and Mathematical Structures. Cambridge University Press.
  • Rickles, Dean (2016), The Philosophy of Physics. Polity Press. The text is available here.
  • All other reading materials will be made available on Chamilo.

Schedule (Fall 2017)

This is the schedule for the seminar. It is subject to adjustment.

Date Readings Presenter(s)
21.09. Introduction Karen Crowther, Christian Wüthrich
28.09. Rickles (2016), Chs. 3 - 4.2 Karen Crowther
05.10. Brading and Brown Debbie Eeltink
12.10. Pooley George Tsimploulis
19.10. Radder Augustin Baas
26.10. No seminar (external conference)
02.11. Bokulich, Ch. 4 Claudio Calosi
09.11. No seminar (semaine de lecture)
16.11. CUSO indeterminism conference
23.11. Morrison (1994) Milena Mascio
30.11. Maudlin Joshua Babic
07.12. Rickles (2011) George Tsimploulis
14.12. Matsubara Niels Linnemann
21.12. Dawid Lorenzo Cocco