PHIL 482 A: Philosophy of Physical Science

Meeting Time: 
MWF 9:00am - 9:50am
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Benjamin Feintzeig
Benjamin H. Feintzeig

Additional Details:

Quantum mechanics is our best physical theory of the constitution of matter, but infamously it

only gives probabilistic predictions. Instead of telling us exactly where an electron is, quantum

mechanics can only say, for example, that the electron will be located here with probability one

half. In this class, we’ll ask how one should interpret the probabilistic statements of quantum

mechanics. Could our probabilistic predictions about the electron signify a mere lack of

knowledge about where the electron is? Could we find a better theory of the electron with more

information, or hidden variables, that allows us to predict where the electron is with certainty?

We’ll discuss a number of famous mathematical results, including Bell’s theorem and the

Kochen-Specker theorem, that are sometimes interpreted as showing that the answer is “no”—

quantum mechanics is inherently indeterministic. This course will use mathematical methods:

students will be asked to write mathematical proofs using the theory of probability. However, no

background in mathematics or physics is assumed or required.

Catalog Description: 
Study of philosophical issues raised by theories in physics or chemistry, such as whether space (time) is a substance, how causation and locality are treated in quantum mechanics, temporal anistropy and time travel, the nature of a field of force, the reduction of chemistry to physics. Prerequisite: one PHIL course.
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Natural World (NW)
Last updated: 
February 10, 2021 - 9:14pm