PHI 327 Philosophy of Physics

Description: The course will examine a number of issues concerning the foundations, and philosophical implications, of special relativity (SR) and quantum mechanics (QM). The course will not presuppose previous acquaintance with these theories; we will introduce the mathematical tools needed for a responsible discussion. Some questions we might discuss: Does QM entail metaphysical idealism -- i.e., that there is no physical reality outside the perceptions of some conscious observer? Does SR show that the entire course of history is predetermined? Does QM entail that some events are purely random and have no explanation?


Weekly reading assignments and/or problem sets. Students will have some freedom to choose between problems sets and writing assignments.

Midterm Exam15%
Final Exam25%
Term Paper30%



April 16: Assignment due: Hughes, pp. 37-38, #1-8.

April 18: Sklar, pp. 171-179.

April 25: The measurement problem. Sklar, pp. 179-202. (Technical track assignment due: Hughes, read pp. 38-56 and do all exercises in text.)

April 30: Hidden variables and Bell's theorem. Sklar, pp. 202-212.

May 2: Hidden variables and Bell's theorem. Sklar, pp. 213-225.

Tuesday, May 14: TERM PAPERS DUE by 5:00pm.

Thursday, May 16: Review session (5:30pm, Marx Hall 201)

Friday, May 17: FINAL EXAM (1:30pm, Peyton Hall 145)

Last modified: Feb 24, 2004