Philosophy of cosmology

Galaxies

A group of galaxies as seen by Hubble. Image courtesy NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScl/AURA).

The mind wants to discover by reasoning what exists in the infinity of space that lies out there, beyond the ramparts of this world
Lucretius

Over the millennia many philosophers must have been inspired by the stars and mused about our role in this vast Universe. But how can philosophy inspire cosmology? Will we ever know everything about the Universe, what do our models of its evolution really tell us, and what does the strange physics that underlies them mean?

Establishing the philosophy of cosmology is a joint project of the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford bringing together philosophers and physicists to do just that. Plus has been following its progress. On this page you can find articles and podcasts based on interviews with participants in the project.

Do the dramatic advances in cosmology in the last century herald a new golden age of philosophy? A new collaborative project between cosmologists and philosophers is leading the way.

Is the Universe finite or infinite? Is there infinity inside a black hole? Is space infinitely divisible or is there a shortest length? We talk to philosophers and physicists to find out.

Why does time only ever move in one direction? We talk to philosophers of physics Jeremy Butterfield and David Wallace, as well as the eminent Roger Penrose about the puzzle time poses to physicists and what it has to do with the Big Bang and the second law of thermodynamics.

David Sloan calculates how likely it is that our Universe exists. He explains to us how, and why the answer can help shape our theories of physics.

A 1 in 14 million chance to win the lottery, a 5% risk of cancer, a 50:50 chance of heads on a coin — we deal with probabilities all the time, but do they actually mean anything? We explore the philosophy of probability and ask whether the probabilities that come up in physics differ from those in every day life.

Are there objective chances in the world?