Philosophy 126

Spring 2023

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
126 Philosophy of Physics Rubenstein MWF 1-2 Dwinelle 88

This course is an introduction to various philosophical issues which arise in physics, concerning the nature of motion, laws, forces, space, time, and probability. The first half of the course will be concerned with classical mechanics; the second half will introduce special relativity and quantum mechanics.

Questions to be discussed include: Are there instantaneous velocities? Are the laws of physics true, or are they just predictively useful approximations? Are forces like gravity real, or are they just mathematically convenient fictions? Is Newtonian mechanics really deterministic? Is space a thing (and what would that even mean)? What makes time different from space? In what sense does time have a direction? Is the present special? Does time ‘flow’, and if so, how can this be explained? Does quantum mechanics teach us that the world is fundamentally indeterministic? Or that there are many parallel worlds? Or that space and time are an illusion?

As taught this semester, Phil 126, can satisfy group A of the Epistemology/Metaphysics requirement.