University of Bristol

Arts and Humanities

MA Philosophy of Physics


Wills Memorial Building, Queen's Road

Second Floor, Union Building, Queen's Road, Clifton

Bristol, England

United Kingdom

Program Information

Degrees Offered:

MA Philosophy of Physics

Format: Campus

Program Description:

The Department of Philosophy has exceptional research strength in philosophy of physics, and very strong links with the School of Physics. Our MA draws on these strengths. It is intended both for students who wish to specialise in philosophy of physics at a higher level, and for individuals with a background in physics or mathematics who wish to make a transition to philosophy and foundations of physics. The course consists of five taught units in philosophy, two taught master's units in physics, and a 15,000-word dissertation.

As a postgraduate student, you will be an active member of the department’s flourishing research culture. You will be encouraged to attend and participate in both the weekly departmental research seminar and in the Philosophy and History of Science seminars, which often feature well-known scholars in the field, from Bristol and beyond. There is also a weekly postgraduate seminar, where you may present your own work before your peers and learn to develop your argumentative strategies in a supportive environment.

Programme structure

The MA consists of taught components in philosophy and physics, as well as a dissertation.

Core units

  • Philosophical Writing and Research Methods (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    A mandatory, two-hour weekly seminar developing ideas, bibliographical and writing skills necessary for philosophical research. The unit is assessed by seminar contributions and presentations.
  • Scientific Methodology and Epistemology (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    This unit concerns core topics in scientific epistemology and metaphysics. The unit is examined on the basis of an essay of 5,000-6,000 words. As with all assessed essays, you may meet with a supervisor to discuss your work and to receive feedback on a draft essay.
  • Philosophy of Physics (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    This unit covers philosophical issues related to basic physical theories, focusing on conceptual issues in the foundations of quantum theory and special relativity. We will cover topics such as the relativity of simultaneity; geometry and the causal structure of relativity physics; the conceptual structure of quantum mechanics, the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen argument; the measurement problem and Schrödinger’s cat paradox of; locality and action-at-a-distance.
  • Advanced Philosophy of Physics (Philosophy, 20-credit unit)
    This unit will examine a selection of conceptual issues in the foundations of physical theory with particular focus on the physics of the mid-to-late 20th century. We cover topics such as: the arrow of time in thermal physics; the interpretation of quantum field theory; emergence and universality in condensed matter physics; fine tuning problems and inflationary cosmology; spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs mechanism; and time in quantum gravity.
  • Foundations of Modern Physics (Physics, 10-credit unit)
    Emphasis is placed on students developing an appreciation of the foundations of different areas of physics, and the unit assessment involves students writing an essay whose detailed subject is partly decided by the student. The lectures are divided into Classical, Spacetime and Quantum Physics.
  • Relativistic Field Theory (Physics, 10-credit unit)
    This course will give an account of the modern approach to special relativity and Lagrangian field theory, and their role in the covariant description of the classical electromagnetic field, and the relativistic quantum Klein-Gordon and Dirac equations. Formative assessment is through problem sheets discussed in problems classes. Summative assessment is through a 2 hour written examination

Optional units (all Philosophy 20-credit units)

  • History of Science
  • Logic
  • Philosophy and History of Mathematics
  • Philosophy and History of Medicine
  • Philosophy of Biology
  • Philosophy of Psychology
  • An individual, supervised research project

Please be aware that optional units may vary from year to year.

International Student Requirements:

IELTS English language 6.5 overall, minimum 6.5 in all bands or equivalent

Facts & Figures

Out State Tuition (per year): 15,500 GBP

Classification: Higher Education Institution (Not Carnegie Classified)

Locale: Midsize City

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