34I0149 (Philosophy of Cosmology)

This course is co-taught with Karen Crowther and Niels Linnemann.

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 the philosophy of cosmology. Cosmology is the study of the universe as a whole, and deals with questions about its origins (e.g., regarding the 'big bang', and what happened before and after it), its large-scale structure and nature (e.g., is our universe one of many in an infinite 'multiverse'?), the laws that govern its evolution, and its eventual fate (e.g., the 'heat death'). The philosophy of cosmology engages with the best science that seeks to answer these questions, inquiring into its claims, reasoning and methods. The seminar will thus discuss questions such as the underdetermination of theory by data, the origins of the universe (including inflationary scenarios), anthropic forms of reasoning, the possibility of a 'multiverse', and the limits of scientific methodology as they are tested in cosmology. The regular seminar will be interspersed with talks by leading experts on their current research in the philosophy of physics.

While some background in physics, mathematics, and philosophy will be helpful, we will not assume any specific knowledge beyond high school mathematics.

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:

  • Carr, Bernard, editor (2007). Universe or Multiverse?. Cambridge University Press.
  • Chamcham, Khalil, Silk, Joseph, Barrow, John D, and Saunders, Simon, editors (2017). The Philosophy of Cosmology. Cambridge University Press.
  • Zinkernagel, Henrik, editor (2014). On the philosophy of cosmology. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46.
  • All other reading materials will be made available on Moodle.

Schedule (Fall 2018)

This is the schedule for the seminar. It is subject to adjustment. For titles and abstracts of the guest talks, visit beyondspacetime.net. Reading marked with an asterisk (*) are not mandatory.

Date Readings Presenter(s)
20.09. *Smeenk (2013) Karen Crowther, Niels Linnemann, Christian Wüthrich
27.09. Munitz (1951) Simran Kumar
04.10. Guest lecture Mauro Dorato
11.10. Smeenk (2008) Noah Mifsud
18.10. Huggett and Wüthrich (2018) Christian Wüthrich
25.10. Earman (1995) Niels Linnemann
01.11. McCoy (2015) Lorenzo Cocco
08.11. No seminar (semaine de lecture)
15.11. Smeenk (2017) Augustin Baas
22.11. Page (2007) Claudio Calosi
29.11. Landsman (2016), *Earman (1987) Nathalie Niquille
06.12. Tegmark (2008) Lorenzo Cocco, Augustin Baas
13.12. Anderl (forthcoming)
20.12. Guest seminar Claus Beisbart