LSE has a long tradition of leading work in the philosophy and foundations of physics. You may notice the flurry of physics-related activity bustling around the department. If you’re an MSc student with a physics course or two under your belt, or are just interested in seeing what the philosophy of physics is, why not check it out? You can sit in on the first lecture before deciding.
Philosophy of Physics at LSE
The Philosophy of Physics historically developed hand-in-hand with the philosophy of science, with early philosophers of science taking their inspiration (and in some cases explicit instruction) from Einstein’s radical new physical theories. Today, philosophy of physics is an extremely rich and broad field, covering foundational issues in all the major areas of physics, as well as general philosophical question about how the laws of physics work. These are some of the deepest and most exciting questions that have ever been asked.
The Philosophy of Physics courses at LSE are a broad and cheerful tour of some of these exciting questions.
In the first term, you will study a question as old as Newton that is still bringing new insight to both physicists and philosophers: is space a substance in and of itself, or is it nothing more than the relations between material objects? You will next discuss some of the new insight that Einstein’s relativity theory brought to the understanding of space and time. We will finally move on to consider more abstract spaces, known as “phase spaces”, in order to discuss the prospects for determinism, predictability, and chaos.
In the second term, you will learn about the radical new concepts underlying the ever-surprising theory of quantum mechanics, as well as how the quantum world involves a puzzling “non-local” behaviour, and how a deep paradox known as the “measurement problem” lies at the heart of this theory. You will then continue to study the nature of heat, and how a series of brilliant conceptual advances due to physicists like Boltzmann and Gibbs led to a subtle understanding of how the macroscopic and microscopic worlds are related.