Final Honours School in Physics and Philosophy: Informal Syllabuses for FHS Subjects in Philosophy
Note: Only subjects which can be taken by PP finalists are documented.
In what follows you will find that some subjects are named as normal prerequisites for the study of others. For instance: 112 The Philosophy of Kant (NP 101) means that those studying 112, Kant, would normally be expected to have studied 101 (History of Philosophy from Descartes to Kant). In some cases alternatives are given as the prerequisite, e.g. 107 Philosophy of Religion (NP 101 or 102) means that those studying 107, Philosophy of Religion, would normally be expected to have studied either 101 (History of Philosophy) or 102 (Knowledge and Reality). It may be inadvisable to study a subject if you have not met the designated prerequisite, and if you propose to do so you must consult your tutor beforehand.
101. History of Philosophy from Descartes to Kant
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to gain a critical understanding of some of the metaphysical and epistemological ideas of some of the most important philosophers of the early modern period, between the 1630s to the 1780s.
This period saw a great flowering of philosophy in Europe. Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz, often collectively referred to as "the rationalists", placed the new "corpuscularian" science within grand metaphysical systems which certified our capacity to reason our way to the laws of nature (as well as to many other, often astonishing conclusions about the world). Locke wrote in a different, empiricist tradition. He argued that, since our concepts all ultimately derive from experience, our knowledge is necessarily limited. Berkeley and Hume developed this empiricism in the direction of a kind of idealism, according to which the world studied by science is in some sense mind-dependent and mind-constructed. Kant subsequently sought to arbitrate between the rationalists and the empiricists, by rooting out some assumptions common to them and trying thereby to salvage and to reconcile some of their apparently irreconcilable insights.
A knowledge of the writings of these philosophers will be of immense use to you in all your further work in modern philosophy. It constitutes 'the canon'; every philosopher working subsequent to this time will have studied it intensively, and will have had his or her ideas shaped in part by it.
Reading the primary texts is of great importance. Since you are required to show knowledge of "at least two" of the philosophers listed, choice is wide, although those taking paper 111 may not answer questions on Descartes, Spinoza or Leibniz, and those taking Paper 112, may not answer questions on Kant. If you are offering 102 as well as 101, you should avoid repetition of material across examinations, but you may assume that good answers to questions would not involve repetition for which you might be penalised.
R.S.Woolhouse, The Empiricists; J.Cottingham, The Rationalists (both O.U.P. Opus series).
102. Knowledge and Reality
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to examine some central questions about the nature of the world - metaphysics - and the nature and extent to which we can have knowledge of it - epistemology, or 'theory of knowledge'.
In considering knowledge you will examine whether it is possible to attain knowledge of what the world is really like. Is our knowledge of the world necessarily limited to what we can observe to be the case? Indeed, are even our observational beliefs about the world around us justified? Can we have knowledge of what will happen based on what has happened? Is our understanding of the world necessarily limited to what we can prove to be the case? Or can we understand claims about the remote past or distant future which we cannot in principle prove to be true?
In considering reality you will focus on questions such as the following. Does the world reallycontain the three-dimensional objects and their properties - such as red buses or black horses - which we appear to encounter in everyday life? Or is it made up rather of the somewhat different entities studied by science, such as colourless atoms or four-dimensional space-time worms? What is the relation between the common sense picture of the world and that provided by contemporary science? Is it correct to think of the objects and their properties that make up the world as being what they are independently of our preferred ways of dividing up reality? These issues are discussed with reference to a variety of specific questions such as 'What is time?', 'What is the nature of causation?', and 'What is perceptual evidence?'
The examination paper also contains a section called 'Philosophy of Science', from which PP candidates must answer at least one question. In the broadest sense the philosophy of science is concerned with the theory of knowledge and with associated questions in metaphysics. What is distinctive about the field is the focus on "scientific" knowledge, and metaphysical questions - concerning space, time, causation, probability, necessity, and realism - that follow in their train. As such it is concerned with distinctive traits of science: testability, objectivity, scientific explanation, and the nature of scientific theories. It is also concerned with major schools in the philosophy of science. Among these the school known as logical positivism (later logical empiricism) has a special importance: it was the chief vehicle for the introduction of Frege's ideas into modern philosophy, and very largely set the agenda for analytic philosophy in the first half of the twentieth century.
There are themes which thread their way through both parts of the Knowledge and Reality paper, and you are advised to explore them under the guidance of your tutor. You may well have tutorials on the philosophy of science with a different person from your tutor in metaphysics and theory of knowledge: if so, you should remind each tutor of the importance of finding such common themes. Examples include causation and induction, necessity and the nature of physical laws, space, theories of truth, including analytic truth, and philosophical foundationalism and naturalism. Note that in studying such topics as reference, truth and definition, there is the possibility of overlap with subject 108. Candidates taking the latter as their optional subject in philosophy should avoid repetition of material across examinations, though it is safe to assume that good answers to questions would not involve repetition for which you might be penalised.
Jonathan Dancy, Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology (Oxford), chs. 1-3
Michael J. Loux, Metaphysics (Routledge)
Don Gillies, Philosophy of Science in the Twentieth Century (Blackwells)
W. V. Quine, The Pursuit of Truth (Harvard)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to come to grips with some questions which exercise many people, philosophers and non-philosophers alike. How should we decide what is best to do, and how best to lead our lives? Are our value judgements on these and other matters objective or do they merely reflect our subjective preferences and viewpoints? Are we in fact free to make these choices, or have our decisions already been determined by antecedent features of ourenvironment and genetic endowment? In considering these issues you will examine a variety of ethical concepts, such as those of justice, rights, equality, virtue, and happiness, which are widely used in moral and political argument. There is also opportunity to discuss some applied ethical issues. Knowledge of major historical thinkers, e.g. Aristotle and Hume and Kant, will be encouraged, but not required in the examination.
John Mackie, Ethics (Penguin), chs. 1-2
104. Philosophy of Mind (NP 101 or 102)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to examine a variety of questions about the nature of persons and their psychological states, including such general questions as: what is the relation between persons and their minds? Could robots or automata be persons? What is the relation between our minds and our brains? If we understood everything about the brain, would we understand everything about consciousness and rational thought? If not, why not? Several of these issues focus on the relation between our common sense understanding of ourselves and others, and the view of the mind developed in scientific psychology and neuroscience. Are the two accounts compatible? Should one be regarded as better than the other? Should our common sense understanding of the mind be jettisoned in favour of the scientific picture? Or does the latter leave out something essential to a proper understanding of ourselves and others? Other more specific questions concern memory, thought, belief, emotion, and perception.
Paul Churchland, Matter and Consciousness (Cambridge) chs. 1-3
Note: Papers 105. Philosophy of Science and Philosophy of Psychology and Neuroscience, and 106. Philosophy of Science and Social Science may not be taken by PP finalists.
107. Philosophy of Religion (NP 101 or 102)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to examine claims about the existence of God and God's relationship to the world. What, if anything, is meant by them? Could they be true? What justification, if any, can or needs to be provided for them? The paper is concerned primarily with the claims of Western religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), and with the central claim of those religions, that there is a God. God is said to be omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good, a source of moral obligation and so on. But what does it mean to say that God has these properties, and are they consistent with each other? Could God change the past, or choose to do evil? Does it make sense to say that God is outside time? You will have the opportunity to study arguments for the existence of God - for example, the teleological argument from the fact that the Universe is governed by scientific laws, and the argument from people's religious experiences. Other issues are whether the fact of pain and suffering counts strongly, or even conclusively, against the existence of God, whether there could be evidence for miracles, whether it could be shown that prayer "works", whether there could be life after death, and what philosophical problems are raised by the existence of different religions. There may also be an optional question in the exam paper about some specifically Christian doctrine - does it make sense to say that the life and death of Jesus atoned for the sins of the world, and could one know this? There is abundant scope for deploying all the knowledge and techniques which you have acquired in other areas of philosophy. Among the major philosophers whose contributions to the philosophy of religion you will need to study are Aquinas, Hume and Kant.
M. Peterson and other authors, Reason and Religious Belief, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press)
108. The Philosophy of Logic and Language (NP Prelims/Mods Logic)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to examine some fundamental questions relating to reasoning and language. The philosophy of logic is not itself a symbolic or mathematical subject, but examines concepts of interest to the logician. If you want to know the answer to the question 'What is truth?', this is a subject for you. Central also are questions about the status of basic logical laws and the nature of logical necessity. What, if anything, makes it true that nothing can be at the same time both green and not green all over? Is that necessity the result of our conventions or stipulations, or the reflection of how things have to be independently of us? Philosophy of language is closely related. It covers the very general question how language can describe reality at all: what makes our sentences meaningful and, on occasion, true? How do parts of our language refer to objects in the world? What is involved in understanding speech (or the written word)? You may also investigate more specific issues concerning the correct analysis of particular linguistic expressions such as names, descriptions, pronouns, or adverbs, and aspects of linguistics and grammatical theory. Candidates taking 102 as well as 108 should avoid repetition of material across examinations, though it is safe to assume that good answers to questions would not involve repetition for which you might be penalised.
Mark Sainsbury, 'Philosophical Logic', in Philosophy, a Guide through the Subject, edited by A. C. Grayling (Oxford)
109. Aesthetics (NP 101 or 102 or 103 or 104 or 115)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to study a number of questions about the nature and value of beauty and of the arts. For example, do we enjoy sights and sounds because they are beautiful, or are the beautiful because we enjoy them? Does the enjoyment of beauty involve a particular sort of experience, and if so, how should we define it and what psychological capacities does it presuppose? Is a work of art a physical object, an abstract object, or what? Does the value of a work of art depend only upon its long or short-term effects on our minds or characters? If not, what sorts of reasons can we give for admiring a work of art? Do reasons for admiring paintings, pieces of music and poems have enough in common with one another, and little enough in common with reasons for admiring other kinds of things, to support the idea that there is a distinctive sort of value which good art of every sort, and only art, possesses? As well as general questions such as these ones, the subject also addresses questions raised by particular art forms. For example, what is the difference between a picture and a description in words? Can fiction embody truths about its subject-matter? How does music express emotions? All of these questions, and others, are addressed directly, and also by examining classic texts, including Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Poetics, Hume's Essay on the Standard of Taste and Kant's Critique of Aesthetic Judgement.
Malcolm Budd, Values of Art (Penguin)
110. Medieval Philosophy
The purpose of this subject is to provide you with the opportunity for the critical study of some of the writings either of Thomas Aquinas or of Duns Scotus and Ockham.
Does God exist? What is the nature of God? Are we immortal? Are we free? How does human action differ from the behaviour of animals? What is happiness, and where can we find it - on earth or in heaven? Should I do what my conscience tells me is right or what is in fact right? These are some of the questions raised in the writings of the great medieval theologian and philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. These are studied in translation rather than the Latin original, though a glance at Aquinas's remarkably readable Latin can often be useful. Aquinas's writings are not treated as sacred texts, and candidates are encouraged to criticise them as well as to understand them.
A choice of texts and issues within Aquinas's philosophy is offered. Paper 116, Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, goes well with this option.
B. Davies, The Thought of Thomas Aquinas (O.U.P.)
You can, as an alternative, study the philosophy of Duns Scotus and Ockham, two influential writers on issues in logic and metaphysics. For this option 101 or 108 or Aristotle's Physics (131(b)) are a good background.
F. Copleston, A History of Philosophy vol 2 part II: Medieval Philosophy, Albert the Great to Duns Scotus
111. Continental Philosophy from Descartes to Leibniz (NP 101 or 102 or 103 or 112)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to study some of the metaphysical ideas, and the theories of knowledge, of a group of seventeenth-century philosophers leading up to Leibniz which includes most of those who had a dominant influence upon him. Leibniz in turn has a special place in the philosophy of physics, as you will have appreciated in your study of the Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence in the first year of your degree.
Descartes, Spinoza, Malebranche and Leibniz are often called "rationalists", because they all held that we have a capacity for purely rational thinking, independent of sense-experience, by which we can achieve an understanding of the world and of our place in it. They differed considerably in what they took this to imply, and as a result held radically different views on the nature of the world. Spinoza for example argued that there is really only one genuinely individual thing, or "substance", which could be equated with God or Nature; Leibniz held that there are infinitely many substances, all of them (in a sense) mental. Gassendi was a vigorous opponent of rationalist thinking in any form, holding knowledge to be grounded on sense-experience, and in consequence very limited in extent.
You do not have to know the work of all these authors in equal detail; in the examination you have to show knowledge of at least three of them.
R. S. Woolhouse, The Concept of Substance in Seventeenth-Century Metaphysics (Routledge)
Buchdahl, Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science
112. The Philosophy of Kant (NP 101)
The purpose of this paper is to enable you to make a critical study of some of the ideas of one of the greatest of all philosophers.
Immanuel Kant lived from 1724 to 1804. He published the 'Critique of Pure Reason' in 1781, and the 'Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals' in 1785. The 'Critique' is his greatest work and, without question, the most influential work of modern philosophy. It is a difficult but enormously rewarding work. This is largely because Kant, perhaps uniquely, combines in the highest measure the cautious qualities of care, rigour and tenacity with the bolder quality of philosophical imagination. Its concern is to give an account of human knowledge that will steer a path between the dogmatism of traditional metaphysics and the scepticism that, Kant believes, is the inevitable result of the empiricist criticism of metaphysics. Kant's approach, he claims in a famous metaphor, amounts to a "Copernican revolution" in philosophy. Instead of looking at human knowledge by starting from what is known, we should start from ourselves as knowing subjects and ask how the world must be for us to have the kind of knowledge and experience that we have. Kant thinks that his Copernican revolution also enables him to reconcile traditional Christian morality and modern science, in the face of their apparently irreconcilable demands (in the one case, that we should be free agents, and in the other case, that the world should be governed by inexorable mechanical laws).
The Critique has a special significance for the philosophy of physics, for it is in many respects the outcome of Kant's lifelong attempt to reconcile Leibniz's natural philosophy with Newton's. In Kant's last work in 'theoretical' philosophy (as opposed to 'practical' or moral philosophy), the Critique was to be used as a kind of underpinning for Newton's laws of motion (in Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science). Kant remained enormously influential among nineteenth century physicists such as Helmholtz, Hertz and Poincaré; the logical positivists were likewise indebted to him; even Frege, who broke decisively Kant's with philosophical ('transcendental') logic, continued to uphold broadly Kantian principles in the context of geometry.
Texts: Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith (Macmillan)
Groundwork of the metaphysics of Morals, trans. H. J. Paton (Hutchinson)
Roger Scruton, Kant
M. Friedman, Kant and the Exact Sciences (Harvard)
113. Post-Kantian Philosophy (NP 101 or 102 or 103 or 112)
Many of the questions raised by German and French philosophers of the 19th and early 20th centuries were thought to arise directly out of Kant's metaphysics, epistemology and ethics: Hence the title of this subject, the purpose of which is to enable you to explore some of the developments of (and departures from) Kantian themes in the work of Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Husserl, Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. Students typically focus their study on only two chosen authors.
Hegel and Schopenhauer delineate global, metaphysical systems out of which each develops his own distinctive vision of ethical and (especially in the case of Hegel) political life. Nietzsche's writings less obviously constitute a 'system', but they too develop certain ethical and existential implications of our epistemological and metaphysical commitments. Husserl will interest those pupils attracted to problems in ontology and epistemology such as feature in the Cartesian tradition; his work also serves to introduce one to phenomenology, the philosophical method later developed and refined by Heidegger, Sartre and Merleau-Ponty.
In Heidegger and Sartre, that method is brought to bear on such fundamental aspects of human existence as authenticity, social understanding, bad faith, art and freedom. Merleau-Ponty (who trained as a psychologist) presents a novel and important account of the genesis of perception, cognition and feeling, and relates these to themes in aesthetics and political philosophy. While this is very much a text-based paper, many of the questions addressed are directly relevant to contemporary treatments of problems in epistemology and metaphysics, in aesthetics, political theory and the philosophy of mind.
Robert C. Solomon, Continental Philosophy since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self (O.U.P.)
114. Theory of Politics (NP 103)
In order to understand the world of politics, we also need to know which views of politics and society people have when they make political decisions, and why we recommend certain courses of action rather than others. This purpose of this subject is to enable you to look at the main ideas we use when we think about politics: why do we have competing views of social justice and what makes a particular view persuasive, possibly even right? What happens when a concept such as freedom has different meanings, so that those who argue that we must maximise freedom of choice are confronted with those who claim that some choices will actually restrict your freedom? Is power desirable or harmful? Would feminists or nationalists give a different answer to that question? Political theory is concerned with developing good responses to problems such as: when should we obey, and when should we disobey, the state? But it is also concerned with mapping the ways in which we approach questions such as: how does one argue in favour of human rights? In addition, you will explore the main ideologies, such as liberalism, conservatism and socialism, in order to understand their main arguments and why each of them will direct us to different political solutions and arrangements.
Will Kymlicka, Contemporary Political Philosophy: An Introduction (O.U.P.)
115. Plato, Republic
Plato's influence on the history of philosophy is enormous. The purpose of this subject is to enable you to make a critical study of The Republic, which is perhaps his most important and most influential work. Written as a dialogue between Socrates and others including the outspoken immoralist Thrasymachus, it is primarily concerned with questions of the nature of justice and of what is the best kind of life to lead. These questions prompt discussions of the ideal city - which Karl Popper criticised as totalitarian - of education and art, of the nature of knowledge, the Theory of Forms and the immortality of the soul. In studying it you will encounter a work of philosophy of unusual literary merit, one in which philosophy is presented through debates, through analogies and images, including the famous simile of the Cave, as well as rigorous argument, and you will encounter some of Plato's important contributions to ethics, political theory, metaphysics, philosophy of mind and aesthetics.
You are expected to study the work in detail; the examination contains a question requiring comments on chosen passages, as well as a choice of essay questions.
Julia Annas, An Introduction to Plato's Republic, introduction and ch. 1
Set translation: Plato: Republic, tr Grube, revised Reeve (Hackett)
116. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
The purpose of this subject is to give you the opportunity to make a critical study of one of the most important works in the history of philosophy. Like Plato in the Republic, Aristotle is concerned with the question, what is the best possible sort of life? Whereas this leads Plato to pose grand questions in metaphysics and political theory, it leads Aristotle to offer close analyses of the structure of human action, responsibility, the virtues, the nature of moral knowledge, weakness of will, pleasure, friendship, and other related issues. Much of what Aristotle has to say on these is ground-breaking, highly perceptive, and still of importance in contemporary debate in ethics and moral psychology.
You are expected to study the work in detail; the examination contains a question requiring comments on chosen passages, as well as a choice of essay questions.
J. L. Ackrill, Aristotle the Philosopher, ch. 10. Set translation: Aristotle: Nicomachean Ethics translated and with notes by T.H. Irwin (Hackett)
117. Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein (NP Prelims/Mods Logic)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to study some classic texts from which emerged modern logic and philosophy of language. Frege invented and explained the logic of multiple generality (quantification theory) and applied this apparatus to the analysis of arithmetic. Russell continued this programme, adding some refinements (the theory of types, the theory of descriptions), and he applied logic to many traditional problems in epistemology. Wittgenstein's Tractatus outlined an ambitious project for giving a logical account of truths of logic (as tautologies).
The texts are dense and sophisticated, but they are elegant and full of challenging ideas. Ability to understand logical symbolism is important, and previous work in philosophical logic would be advantageous. There are also profound links between all of these writings and the writings of the logical positivists, particularly those of Rudolf Carnap, and hence with philosophy of science in the first half of this century.
Anthony Kenny, Frege (Penguin) and Wittgenstein (Penguin)
118. The Later Philosophy of Wittgenstein (NP 101 or 102 or 108 or 117)
The purpose of this subject is to enable you to study some of the most influential ideas of the 20th century. The main texts are Wittgenstein's posthumously-published Philosophical Investigations and The Blue and Brown Books. These writings are famous not just for their content but also for their distinctive style and conception of philosophy. There is much critical discussion about the relation between those aspects of Wittgenstein's work.
Wittgenstein covers a great range of issues, principally in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind. In philosophy of language, one key topic is the nature of rules and rule-following. What is involved in grasping a rule; and how can I tell, in a new case, what I have to do to apply the rule correctly? Indeed, what makes it the case that a particular move at this stage is the correct way of applying the rule; is there any standard of correctness other than the agreement of our fellows? Other topics include: whether language is systematic; the relation between linguistic meaning and non-linguistic activities; whether concepts can be illuminatingly analysed. In the philosophy of mind, Wittgenstein is especially famous for the so-called "private language argument", which tries to show that words for sensations cannot get their meanings by being attached to purely internal, introspective, "private objects". Other, equally important, topics include the nature of the self, of introspection and of visual experience, and the intentionality (the representative quality) of mental states. Most generally, can we (as Wittgenstein thought) avoid Cartesianism without lapsing into behaviourism?
The texts: try Philosophical Investigations paras 1-80; Blue Book pp. 1-17
Saul Kripke: Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (Blackwell)
119. Formal Logic (NP Prelims/Mods Logic)
This subject is precisely what its name suggests, an extension of the symbolic logic covered in the Prelims/Mods logic course. Only in highly exceptional circumstances would it be appropriate to do this subject without first having done Prelims/Mods logic, indeed without first having done it very well. Formal Logic is an extremely demanding and rigorous subject, even for those who have Mathematics A Level. If you lose your way in it, there is liable to be no way of avoiding disaster. But granted these caveats, the subject is a delight to those who enjoy formal work and who are good at it. Its purpose is to introduce you to some of the deepest and most beautiful results in logic, many of which have fascinating implications for other areas of philosophy. There are three sections. The first, Propositional and Predicate Logic, is compulsory, and is the most closely related to the material covered in the Prelims/Mods course. You can then concentrate on either of the other two sections: Set Theory, which includes the rudimentary arithmetic of infinite numbers; and Metamathematics, which includes some computability theory and various results concerning the limitations of formalization, such as Gödel's theorem.
George S. Boolos and Richard C. Jeffrey, Computability and Logic (Cambridge, 3rd edn.)
120. Intermediate Philosophy of Physics (NP 102, Physics 1, Fundamental Principles 1)
This forms the backbone of Part A of the FHS in Physics and Philosophy. It consists of an in-depth philosophical study of the central ideas of modern physics. The syllabus falls naturally into two parts. The first concerns the origins, concepts and structure of Einstein's special theory of relativity. This in many ways marked the culmination of classical physics and provided a final synthesis of the Maxwell-Lorentz theory of electrodynamics with the principles of mechanics, modified in the light of Einstein's discoveries. You will study not only the details of Einstein's arguments, but of alternative conceptions of the meaning of the transformation laws of special relativity, including a careful analysis of the significance of the observable empirical phenomena, especially the well-known dilation and contraction effects. Much of the philosophy of space and time written in the twentieth century has been influenced by Einstein's theory of special relativity: the basic lines of philosophical thought, including realism, instrumentalism and conventionalism, will be examined with care.
The second part of the syllabus is concerned with the concepts and foundations of quantum mechanics. As with relativity theory, you will be building on your knowledge of physics, including a study of the history of the subject and of its interpretation. Unlike the philosophy of space and time, the philosophy of quantum mechanics is dominated by a single, over-arching problem: the problem of measurement. Much of the syllabus on quantum mechanics is given over to a study of this problem and of purported solutions to it, ranging from hidden-variable theories (such as that of Louis de Broglie and David Bohm), theories of state-reduction (such as the Ghirrardi, Rimini and Weber theory), and more philosophical approaches, such as the once-orthodox Copenhagen interpretation and the Everett relative-state interpretation.
D. Albert, Quantum Mechanics and Experience (Harvard)
M. Redhead, Quantum Mechanics, Non-Locality, and Realism (Cambridge)
121. Advanced Philosophy of Physics (NP 102)
As the name suggests, this paper is effectively a continuation of subject 120, but it differs from it in two respects. First, topics in space-time theory and quantum mechanics are pursued with much greater emphasis on topics in metaphysics, in particular concerning time, reference, and identity. Second, you will be studying new topics in physics, in particular foundational questions in thermodynamics and statistical mechanics.
In both cases you will be dealing with fundamental symmetry principles and their proper interpretation: in the case of thermodynamics, with the emergence of a directedness to time from a formal framework which is manifestly time symmetric.
Unlike your other philosophy subjects the paper for Advanced Philosophy of Physics is a two hour paper. Correspondingly, it is weighted at only two thirds of the weight of a Part B Philosophy Subject.
G. Nerlich, The Shape of Space (Cambridge, 2nd Ed.)
D. Albert, Time and Chance (Harvard University Press, 2000).
122. Philosophy of Mathematics (NP 101 or 102 or 108 or 117 or 119 or 120)
What is the relation of mathematical knowledge to other kinds of knowledge? Is it of a special kind, concerning objects of a special kind? If so, what is the nature of those objects and how do we come to know anything about them? If not, how do we explain the seeming difference between proving a theorem in mathematics and establishing something about the physical world? The purpose of this subject is to enable you to examine questions such as these. Understanding the nature of mathematics has been important to many philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, as a test or as an exemplar of their overall position, and has also played a role in the development of mathematics at certain points. While no specific knowledge of mathematics is required for study of this subject, it will be helpful to have studied mathematics at A-level, or similar, and to have done Logic in Prelims/ Mods.
Stephen F. Barker, Philosophy of Mathematics (Prentice-Hall)