||First semester, 2005 - 2006
|Unit director, Lecturer, and Seminar Instructor:
I can be contacted through my mail-box in the Philosophy Department Office, 9 Woodland Rd.; through email: email@example.com; or by telephone: (0117) 928 7609. (Please make sure to check your email account regularly for announcements concerning this course.)
The aim of this course is to explore metaphysical, methodological, epistemological and conceptual issues that arise in modern physics. We cover topics such as: space and time in Aristotle's, Newton's, and Einstein's physics; the notion of simultaneity in Einstein's theory of relativity; geometry and the causal structure of relativity physics; the conceptual structure of quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen experiment; the measurement problem and the paradox of 'Schrödinger's cat'; locality and action-at-a-distance; and causation and chance in atomic physics.
PHIL 30052 carries 20 credits. In order to obtain the credit you must: i) attend the weekly seminars having adequately prepared and make satisfactory contributions to class discussion; ii) deliver satisfactory presentations at a seminar; iii) submit an essay (of not more than 2,500 words) by the deadline of Friday 16 December 2005; and iv) pass (or make a fair attempt at passing) an examination in the summer term.
PHIL 30054 carries 10 credits, and is open only to single honours students in the Faculty of Science who may be allowed to choose it as part of their 3rd or 4th year options. In order to obtain the credit you must i) attend lectures regularly; ii) attend the end of semester seminar, and iii) pass (or make a fair attempt at passing) an examination in the summer term.
Both courses are taught by a combination of lectures and seminars. The weekly lecture, common to PHIL 30052 and PHIL 30054, provides background information and guidance through the main issues and arguments. Students enrolled in PHIL 30052 attend an additional weekly seminar. Students enrolled in PHIL 30054 attend a end-of-semester two-hour seminar.
Note: go to http://www.bris.ac.uk/philosophy/department/events/phohos.html for the webpage of the Philosophy of Physics research seminar
Mode of Assessment
The summative assessment for PHIL 30052 and PHIL 30054 is by examination only. (Note that PHIL 30052 and 30054 have different examination papers). Coursework is also assessed for formative purposes. Note that although coursework assessment does not count towards the final mark, it is registered in an end-of-semester report.
- What is the EPR thought-experiment? Is the argument of the EPR paper sound? What do we know now that they didn't know then?
- Briefly explain the significance of locality in the history of physics? How is locality represented in Bell's original theorem? Do the Aspect experiments show us that there is action at a distance?
- Explain how hidden variables would help solve some problems in the philosophy of quantum mechanics? What problems do hidden variable theories face? Are they the worst interpretation of quantum mechanics apart from all the rest?
- What is the relative state interpretation of quantum mechanics? Discuss some of the problems it faces including the problem of recovering probabilities and the basis problem.
- What is different from classical physics about the way observation is represented in quantum mechanics? Why does this lead to the measurement problem and how can it be solved?
- What was revolutionary about special relativity? What advantages did it have over its rivals? Can we explain the success of special relativity in terms of methodological principles that govern scientific reasoning?
- What is novel about the metaphysics and epistemology of space and time in special relativity? What philosophical implications should we draw from it?
- Explain the substantivalist-relationist controversy? What implications does relativity physics have for this debate?
For specific reading for essay questions look at the reading under the relevant week below to get started and then come and talk to me.
Part 1: the philosophy of quantum mechanics
All references are to the bibliography below. The first reading is essential for the seminar but you should also read other material. The additional reading gives some suggestions but there are very many other sources. You may find popularisations will help you understand the difficult issues at stake but you must read primary sources too. In each section the first few questions cover the basics and the others are more difficult and intended to prompt further reading.
1 Quantum Phenomena
black body radiation, spectral lines and quantisation; the two-slit experiment, interference and superposition, the uncertainty principle
Reading: Cushing, chapters 19, 20 (especially 20.4, 20.5), 21.1, 21.2
Additional Reading: Sklar 1992, pp. 157-179; Albert, chapter1; Kosso, pp. 110-139; Hughes, Introduction. For a detailed history see Jammer. For the Bohr-Einstein debate see Wheeler and Zurek (eds), section 1, and Fine.
- In what ways was quantum mechanics a departure from classical physics?
- What is the uncertainty principle?
- What philosophical beliefs divided Bohr and Einstein?
- What is a superposition?
- What is wave-particle duality?
- What is the difference between physics and philosophy?
2 The Formalism of Quantum Mechanics
vector spaces and operators; states and observables; probability; time evolution and the Schrödinger equation
Reading: Albert, chapter 2
Additional Reading: Hughes, chapters 1-5; Redhead, chapter 1, the relevant part of any standard mathematics or physics undergraduate text on (non-relativistic) quantum mechanics
- What is the relationship between the mathematical operators in quantum mechanics and the results of measurements?
- How are superpositions represented in the theory?
- The Schrödinger equation is deterministic so why is the quantum world said to be indeterministic?
- How does the use of probability in quantum mechanics differ from that in classical physics?
- What is the relationship between matrix mechanics, wave mechanics and Hilbert space?
- What is the difference between physics and mathematics?
3 The EPR experiment
realism, locality and completeness; the logical structure of the EPR paper; Bohr?s response
Reading: the EPR paper (http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v47/i10/p777_1) and Bohr?s reply (http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v48/i8/p696_1); Cushing, 22.1, 22.2
Additional Reading: Redhead, pp. 71-82; Albert, chapter 3; Hughes, pp. 155-162; Kosso, pp. 133-139; Sklar 1992, pp. 213-218
- Why is the EPR reality criterion only a sufficient and not a necessary condition?
- What is non-locality?
- Should we reject quantum theory if it is incomplete?
- Should we reject action at a distance in physics?
- Is Bohr?s response to the EPR argument cogent?
- Do EPR show that quantum mechanics is non-local?
4 Bell's Theorem: non-locality
Bell's proof; other versions of Bell?s theorem; realism and counterfactual definiteness; factorisability and screening-off; non-locality and causation
Reading: Bell 'On the EPR paradox', Cushing, 22.3, 22.4, 22.A
Additional reading: Redhead, pp. 82-118; Maudlin, chapter 1; Cushing and McMullin, especially the Introduction; Sklar 1992, pp. 218-225; Reichenbach 1956, sections 19, 22 and 23; Salmon: chapter 7, van Frassen
- What is the singlet state in the Bohm version of the EPR experiment?
- How does Bell express locality in his proof?
- What is a hidden variable?
- Does Bell show that quantum mechanics is non-local?
- How can we reject non-locality?
- How does Bell's theorem modality?
5 The Measurement Problem
The Copenhagen interpretation and 'wavefunction collapse'; Schrödinger?s cat and the measurement problem; Wigner's friend, pure states and mixtures
Reading: Schrödinger 'The Present Situation in Quantum Mechanics' http://www.tu-harburg.de/rzt/rzt/it/QM/cat.html), Cushing, 21.3, 21.4, 21.5
Additional Reading: Albert, chapters 4 and 5 (up to p. 93); Hughes, chapter 9; Sklar: pp. 179-185; Wigner
- What is the 'projection or collapse postulate'?
- How can the measurement problem be understood in terms of the relationship between pure states and mixtures?
- How does the Copenhagen interpretation deal with the measurement problem?
- How does Wigner's friend help us understand the measurement problem?
- Does it matter when the collapse postulate is applied?
- How can we solve the measurement problem?
6 Interpretations I
observation, objectivity and subjectivity, many worlds and many minds
Reading: Everett 'Relative State Formulation of Quantum Mechanics', Albert: chapter 6
Additional Reading: Barrett; Albert and Loewer; Deutsch; Lockwood; Sklar 1992, pp. 193-195; Bell, chapter 11
- How does Everett's relative state formalism help with the measurement problem?
- How should we understand probability in the many worlds interpretation?
- How should we understand probability in the many minds interpretation?
- Does the many minds theory lend support to dualism?
- Should we prefer many worlds to many minds?
- Can decoherence theory help solve the problem of the preferred basis?
7 Interpretations II
The e-value/e-state link, modal interpretations and Bohm theory, dynamical collapse theories and decoherence
Reading: Cushing 23, 24, Albert p. 93-111
Additional Reading: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qm-bohm/, Bohm, chapter 4, Bohm and Hiley, Bell, chapters 4, 14 and 17, Kosso, pp 172-175, Bub
- How does Bohm theory differ from Copenhagen quantum mechanics?
- Is Bohm theory ad hoc?
- Should we reject Bohm theory because it is non-local?
- Is Bohm theory good for scientific realists?
- If dynamical collapse theories work ?for all practical purposes? (FAPP) should we worry about further problems of interpretation?
- Are dynamical collapse theories ac hoc?
8 Quantum Mechanics and Scientific Realism
Reading: Shimony 'Metaphysical Problems in the Foundations of Quantum Mechanics' and Fine 'Is Scientific Realism Compatible with Quantum Physics'? (handout)
Additional Reading: van Fraassen, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/qt-idind/
- What is the relationship between what is meant by realism in the sense of the EPR reality criterion, and realism in philosophy?
- What is scientific realism?
- What problems does quantum mechanics raise for scientific realism?
- What problems does quantum mechanics raise for Einstein?s realism?
- What are the problems of identity and individuality in quantum mechanics?
- Are there quantum 'objects' at all?
Part 2: the philosophy of space and time
Ancient (Aristotelian) and early modern (Newtonian) theories of space and time, the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, absolutism, relationalism, substantivalism
Reading: The Leibniz-Clarke correspondence (handout); Cushing 11.3, 11.4
Additional Reading: Sklar 1974, Chapter III, pp. 157-205; Alexander; Koyré; Smart; Earman
- How do ancient and post-Galiliean theories of space differ?
- How do the philosophical arguments of Leibniz and Newton differ?
- What is the principle of the identity of indiscernibles and how does it bear on the absolute existence of space?
- What was Mach's response to Newton's bucket?
- Is space absolute or relational?
- Is space real?
2 Special Relativity
the wave nature of light and the luminiferous ether; the Michelson-Morley experiment; the Lorentz-Fitzgerald hypothesis; Einstein?s derivation of the Lorentz transformations.
Reading: Cushing, chapters 13-17, especially 13, 14.4, 14.5, 16
Additional Reading: Einstein, part I; Sklar 1992, pp. 25-31; Zahar 1973; Zahar 1989, chapters 2 and 3; Kosso, chapter 3; Satori; Brown and Sypel; Grunbaum 1959
- Why did Einstein's programme supersede Lorentz's?
- Was the Lorentz-Fitzgerald hypothesis ad hoc?
- What is the relativity of simultaneity?
- How does the equivalence of mass and energy follow from Einstein's axioms?
- What do Galileo's and Einstein's revolutionary physics have in common?
- Does the success of Einstein's methodology lend support to antirealism about unobservable entities?
3 Geometry and Space and Time
Einstein's convention for clock synchronization, and the one-way and two-way speed of light; Reichenbach's and Grünbaum's thesis of the conventionality of simultaneity; Poincaré's conventionalism and geometry; Minkowski spacetime, lightcones and causal structure; the relationship between special relativity and quantum mechanics
Reading: Sklar 1974, chapter IV, A-C
Additional Reading: Sklar 1974, chapter II; Sklar 1992, pp. 31-91; Reichenbach: sections 19, 20, 25 27; Grunbaum 1973; Friedman: introduction; Poincaré: chapter 3; Maudlin: chapter 2-3; Jarrett; Shoemaker
- How does Minkowski spacetime differ from classical spacetime?
- What is the relationship between light cones and causal structure in special relativity?
- Is it true that according to the theory nothing can go faster than light?
- Does special relativity lend support to conventionalism?
- Is quantum mechanics compatible with special relativity?
- What implications does special relativity have for our understanding of causation?
4 General Relativity
the geometrisation of spacetime; the hole argument; general relativity and cosmology; singularities, black holes and the big bang
Reading: Cushing, 18; Sklar 1974, E and F
Additional Reading: Einstein, part II; Kosso, chapter 4; Friedman, chapter 5; Sklar: pp. 11-53; Earman;
- How does general relativity extend the basic idea behind special relativity
- How is gravity understood in general relativity?
- Does general relativity lend support to substantivalism about spacetime?
- What does the hole argument establish?
- Should we be realists about spacetime?
- How is general relativity used to describe the whole universe?
The textbook for the course is :
- J.Cushing, Philosophical Concepts in Physics which is available from the bookshop and also in the short loan collection in the library.
Additional textbooks which you may find helpful include:
- Lawrence Sklar, Philosophy of Physics
- Peter Kosso, Appearance and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics.
- David Albert's Quantum Mechanics and Experience is an accessible but detailed introduction to the philosophy of quantum mechanics.
- Lawrence Sklar's Space, Time and Spacetime does a similar job for relativity theory.
There are obviously many relevant physics and mathematics textbooks too. See what you can find or ask me. (There is the study guide too.)
* indicates highly recommended texts
Some of the texts below are on 24 loan.
- Albert, D., Quantum Mechanics and Experience (Harvard University Press, 1993) *
- Albert, D. and Loewer, B., 'Interpreting the Many-Worlds Interpretations', Synthese, 77, 1988
- Alexander, H.G., The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (Manchester University Press, 1956)
- Barrett, J., The Physics of Minds and Worlds (Oxford University Press, 2000) *
- Bell, J., Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics (Cambridge University Press, 1987)
- Brown, H. and Sypel, R., 'On the meaning of the Relativity principle and other symmetries', International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 9, pp. 233-251, 1995
- Bohm, D., Causality and Chance in Modern Physics (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957)
- Bohm, D. and Hiley, B.J. The Undivided Universe (Routledge, 1993)
- Bub, J., Interpreting the Quantum World (Cambridge University Press, 1997) *
- Butterfield, J., Hogarth, M. and Belot, G. (eds) Spacetime (Dartmouth 1996)
- Cartwright, N., How the Laws of Physics Lie (Oxford University Press, 1983)
- Cartwright, N., Nature?s Capacities and Their Measurement (Oxford University Press, 1989)
- Cushing, J., Philosophical Concepts in Physics (Cambridge University Press, 1998) *
- Cushing, J., Fine, A. and Goldstein, S. (eds), Bohmian mechanics and quantum theory : an appraisal (Kluwer, 1996)
- Cushing, J. and McMullin, E. (eds), Philosophical Consequences of Quantum Theory: Reflections on Bell?s Theorem (University of Notre
- Dame Press, 1989) *
- Dainton, B., Time and Space (Acumen 2000) *
- Deutsch, D., The Fabric of Reality (Penguin, 1997)
- Dickson, M., Quantum Chance and Non-Locality (Cambridge University Press, 1999) *
- DiSalle, R., 'On Dynamics, Indiscernibility, and Spacetime Ontology', The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 45 (1994), pp. 265-87
- Earman, J., 'Who's afraid of Absolute Space?, Australasian Journal of philosophy, 48 (1970), pp. 287-319
- Earman, J., World enough and space-time (Cambridge University Press, 1989)
- Einstein, A. Relativity (Methuen and Co., 1920)
- Fine, A., The Shaky Game (University of Chicago Press, 1986, 2nd edition 1996)
- Friedman, M., Foundations of Space-Time Theories (Chicago University Press, 1983)
- Grünbaum, A., 'The falsifiability of the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction hypothesis', British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 10, 1959
- Grünbaum, A., Philosophical Problems of Space and Time (Reidel, 1973)
- Hughes, R.I.G., The Structure and Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics (Harvard University Press, 1989) *#
- Heisenberg, W., Physics and Philosophy (Harper and Row, 1962)
- Hoefer, C., 'The Metaphysics of Space-Time Substantivalism', Journal of Philosophy, XCIII (1996), pp. 5-27
- Hoefer, C., 'Absolute versus Relational Spacetime: For Better or Worse the Debate Goes On', The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 49 (1998), pp. 451-467
- Jammer, M., The Conceptual Development of Quantum Mechanics (McGraw-Hill, 1966)
- Jarrett, J., 'Bell's theorem: A guide to the implications', in Cushing, J. and McMullin, E. (eds)
- Maudlin, T., Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity (Blackwell, 1994) *
- Kosso, P., Appearance and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics (Oxford University Press, 1998) *
- Koyré, A. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1957)
- Lange, M., An Introduction to the Philosophy of Physics: Locality, Fields, Energy and Mass (Blackwell, 2002)
- Laymon, R., 'Newton's Bucket Experiment', Journal of the History of Philosophy, 16 (1978), pp. 399-413
- Lockwood, M., Mind, Brain and the Quantum: The Compound ?I? (Blackwell, 1989)
- Mach, E., The Science of Mechanics, chapter 2, sections VI and VII, Open Court
- Maudlin, T., 'Buckets of Water and Waves of Space: Why Spacetime is Probably a Substance', Philosophy of Science, 60 (1993), pp. 183-202
- Murdoch, D. Niels Bohr's Philosophy of Physics Cambridge University Press, 1987)
- Nerhlich, G., The Shape of Space, Cambridge University Press *
Poincaré, H., Science and Hypothesis (Dover, 1955)
- Redhead, M., Incompleteness, Nonlocality and Realism (Cambridge University Press, 1989) *#
- Reichenbach, H., The Philosophy of Space and Time (Dover, 1958)
- Reichenbach, H., The Direction of Time (University of California Press, 1956)
- Sklar, L., Philosophy of Physics (Westview, 1992) *
- Sklar, L., Space, Time and Spacetime (University of California Press, 1974) *
- Shoemaker, S., 'Time Without Change', Journal of Philosophy, 66, 1969
- Salmon, W., Scientific Explanation and the Causal Structure of the World (Princeton University Press, 1984)
- Satori, J. Understanding Relativity, A Simplified Approach to Einstein's Theories (University of California Press)
- Smart, J.C.C. (ed.), Problems of Space and Time (Macmillan, 1964)
Van Fraassen, B.C. Quantum Mechanics: An Empiricist View (Oxford University Press, 1991) *
- Van Fraassen, B.C. 'The Charybdis of realism: Epistemological implications of Bell's inequality', in Cushing and McMullin (eds)
- Van Fraassen, B.C. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Time and Space (Random House, 1970)
- Von Neumann, J. Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics (Princeton University Press, 1955)
- Wigner, E. 'Remarks on the Mind-Body question', 1961, in Wheeler and Zurek (eds)
- Wheeler, J.A. and Zurek, W.H. (eds) Quantum Theory and Measurement (Princeton University Press, 1983)
- Zahar, E., 'Why did Einstein's Programme Supersede Lorentz's?, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 24, 1973
- Zahar, E., Einstein's Revolution: a study in heuristic (Open Court, 1989) *
For electronic journals have a look at:http://www.bristol.ac.uk/philosophy/department/resources/journals.html
and for useful philosophy links try: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/philosophy/department/resources/weblinks.html
Indexing and abstracts from books and over 400 journals. A major source of information in the area of aesthetics, epistemology, ethics, logic, and metaphysics, and the philosophy of various disciplines e.g. education, history, law, religion and science. Further information and search help are available on the CD-ROM which is available from the Arts and Social Sciences Library or can be searched on the CD-ROM network of databases which is available on PCs in all the branch libraries, in the Philosophy department library (in the basement) and also accessible from the Arts Faculty Graduate Centre, 7 Woodland Road, and the Psychology Department. To access a particular CD-ROM database from one of these PCs click on:
Start > Programs > DiscPort Launch > CD menu
The networked CD-ROM menu should then open and you can double click on the particular database that you wish to use to start it up.
Routledge Encycopaedia of Philosophy On-Line (REP Online):
Stanford on-line Encyclopaedia of Philosophy at: http://plato.stanford.edu/