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.


The Astronomer Royal examines the evolution of our Universe and the important role of the constants of nature in this filmed public talk.

Cormac O' Raifeartaigh recently made a surprising discovery – an unpublished paper by Albert Einstein that sheds light on how Einstein's thinking about the Universe changed as he tackled some of the big questions in cosmology at the time.

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?

Is the Universe finite or infinite? Is there infinity inside a black hole? Is space infinitely divisible or is there a shortest length? Can infinity occur at all in the cosmos or is it a mathematical construct? Find out more in our podcast with Anthony Aguirre, John D. Barrow and George Ellis.