Philosophy of cosmology
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.
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.
Observers are, of course, vital in physics: we test our theories by comparing them to our observations. But in cosmology, as Jim Hartle explains, we could be one of many possible observers in the Universe and knowing which one we are is vital in testing our theories.
There are many theories in particle physics that cannot be tested in experiments. Does this make it unscientific? This debate, featuring one of our favourite theoretical physicists, David Tong, explores the question.