The MSt in Philosophy of Physics aims to attract students with a strong background in physics at undergraduate level or higher, who wish to learn about philosophy in general and philosophy of physics in particular. This course offers a graduate education in Philosophy of Physics of the highest possible quality, providing a foundation on which candidates can go on to pursue doctoral work in the area.
Oxford is currently the premier centre in the world for Philosophy of Physics, as ranked by the Philosophical Gourmet Report.
The Faculty intends to admit four to five students for this course each year.
For information on how to make an application please see our Admissions Procedure and Entry Requirements webpage.
Students are required to offer three subjects: Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, and an elective component chosen from a list of ‘core’ Philosophy subjects (Metaphysics and Theory of Knowledge, Philosophy of Mind and Action, Philosophical Logic and Philosophy of Language, and Philosophy of Mathematics). Assessment is by a total of four essays of up to 5,000 words (two essays are submitted for Philosophy of Physics, and one each for the other two options).
Subject (i) Philosophy of Physics
Philosophy of physics concerns the conceptual analysis of the content and meaning of physical concepts and theories, particularly relating to the fundamental and established theories of quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, statistical thermodynamics, and special and general relativity. If it differs from foundations of physics, it is because its scope includes historically important theories in physics (like Newtonian gravity), and because it engages more deeply with contemporary philosophy. Central problems in the field include the measurement problem of quantum mechanics, relationalism vs absolutism in the philosophy of space and time, and the arrow of time in statistical mechanics.
This subject should be taught via (i) the undergraduate lecture courses in Intermediate and Advanced Philosophy of Physics; (ii) a dedicated graduate class running once per week across the first two terms; and (iii) individual supervisions, across the first two terms.
The philosophy of physics component is examined by two essays of no more than 5,000 words on topics that will be prescribed by the examiners.
Subject (ii) Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of science concerns both scientific method and the philosophical examination of the nature and scope of scientific knowledge, as well as the content of specific sciences, principally physics, but also mathematics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and linguistics. As such it overlaps with metaphysics and epistemology, in which it has always played a central role, particularly in the early modern period, and in the history of analytic philosophy. It is taught with special emphasis on this context in philosophy.
This subject is taught via (i) the undergraduate lecture courses in philosophy of science; (ii) individual supervisions; and (iii) a graduate class in philosophy of science, to be held regularly during the second term.
This philosophy of science component is examined by one essay of no more than 5,000 words on a topic of your own choosing (but excluding the topics specifically laid out by the examiners as part of the philosophy of physics component).
Subject (iii) Elective
Students will be required to select one subject from the following list:
- Metaphysics and the Theory of Knowledge;
- Philosophy of Mind and Action;
- Philosophical Logic and the Philosophy of Language;
- Philosophy of Mathematics
Each subject should be taught via (i) undergraduate lecture courses and graduate classes, as available; and (ii) individual supervisions held during the final term.
This subject is examined by one essay of no more than 5,000 words on a topic of your own choosing.
It should be noted that although the official deadline for selecting the elective subject is not until late in the second term of study, in practice candidates will need to decide much sooner in order to attend relevant lectures and classes.