PHIL 451.001 – Philosophy of Physics

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Instructor: John T. Roberts. This course meets M 4:00 – 6:30 p.m. in CW 213.

This course will be an introduction to the philosophy of quantum mechanics aimed primarily at philosophy graduate students.  Quantum mechanics is arguably the most empirically successful scientific theory ever, but it harbors deep and unsettling conceptual and interpretative problems.  We will learn the basic principles of the theory in Dirac’s helpful formalism, which abstracts away from almost all of the mathematical details and brings out in sharp relief the features of the theory that make it so puzzling.  We will confront the Measurement Problem, the problem of interpreting “superpositions,” the issue of non-locality, the Einstein-Podolski-Rosen argument, Bell’s Theorem, the Everett version of quantum mechanics (a.k.a. the Many-Worlds Interpretation), spontaneous collapse theories, Bohm’s hidden-variables theory, and other assorted issues and problems.

There are no formal math or physics prerequisites.  There will be a bit of mathematics in the course, but I won’t presume any background over and above moderate comfortability with (high-school) algebra, a wee bit of trigonometry, and the basics of probability.