Foundations of philosophy of science



The advent of quantum mechanics completely changed our worldview. Not only have our concepts of matter and space-time been deeply affected by the theory, but it has also raised a great number of epistemological and methodological issues that contributed to shaping the philosophical discussion of the twentieth century. Therefore, a certain familiarity with the theory is essential for contemporary metaphysicians, epistemologists, and philosophers of science. This course aims to provide an elementary but rigorous introduction to the conceptual difficulties associated with (non-relativistic) quantum theory. Our goal is to answer the question: What would the world be like if the theory were true? As we will see, there are many answers to this question, all of them involving important revisions in our concept of nature.

The course is a self-contained introduction to the philosophy of quantum mechanics.

No special mathematics or physics knowledge is presupposed, beyond high-school level mathematics.

Course plan

1. Overview of classical mechanics.

2. Introduction to some quantum phenomena

3. Formalism and postulates of quantum mechanics.

4. Non-locality and Bell’s theorem.

5. Why quantum mechanics needs an interpretation: the measurement problem.

6. Interpretations of quantum mechanics I: Collapse theories.

7. Interpretations of quantum mechanics II: De Broglie-Bohm theory.

8. Interpretations of quantum mechanics III: Many worlds and other no collapse interpretations.

9. Methodological considerations: realism and underdetermination in quantum mechanics.

10. Metaphysical considerations: the nature of the wave function.


Roughly half of the sessions will have the format of a lecture given by the professor followed by a discussion with the students. These sessions aim to provide the foundations for understanding the formalism of quantum theory and its philosophical implications. The rest of the sessions will be structured around student presentations and subsequent debates based on book chapters or papers. In most weeks, students will be given a homework assignment, due the following class, intended to complement the lectures and solidify understanding of the basic concepts. Students will also be expected to attend and participate in class discussions.

Homework and class participation: 20%

Presentation: 30%

Written exam: 50%


  • Albert, D., 1994, Quantum Mechanics and Experience, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Barrett, J. A., 1999, The Quantum Mechanics of Minds and Worlds, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Hughes, R. I. G., 1992, The Structure and Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Harvard University Press.
  • Lewis, P.J., 2016, Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford University Press.
  • Maudlin, T. (2017). Philosophy of Physics: Matter. Princeton University Press (forthcoming).

A further selection of bibliographical references will be provided, if needed, in due course.