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Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Philosophy of Cosmology

01:090:294:04 Index# 12091
Professor Barry Loewer, SAS - Philosophy 
TH 09:50A - 12:50P
Honors College, Rm S126
College Ave Campus


Course WILL count for major and minor credit in Philosophy

This course concerns issues in the philosophy of cosmology. Cosmology is the scientific study of the nature and history of the universe as a whole. In the last hundred years there have been astonishing developments in cosmology. Among these are that 13.72 billion years ago the universe was very small, dense, and hot (the “Big Bang” state) and from which it has been expanding. A widely accepted addition to the Big Bang Theory posits that during the first few instants the universe “inflated” at an incredible rate. While inflationary theory apparently explains some features of our universe (including what caused the expansion) it also seems to imply that our universe is a part of multiverse of universes. We will explore the philosophical consequences of this idea. Also, the debate among cosmologists concerning inflationary cosmology involves many important issues in the philosophy of science and our discussion of these will serve as an introduction to philosophy of science. . Among the other philosophical issues and questions we will discuss are “Can the existence of the universe be explained? Is the universe “fine-tuned” for life? If so what explains this? What, if anything, existed prior to “the Big Bang”? What are space and time? What explains the apparent directionality of time? What is the nature of fundamental laws? Is determinism true? What is the relationship beween mind and cosmos? What are the relationships between cosmology and theology? The course will present developments in cosmology at a non-technical level and then delve more deeply into philosophical issues. Philosophy of cosmology is not (yet) a standard part of the philosophy curriculum. As part of a project in philosophy of cosmology ( I am organizing a reader for an undergraduate course in philosophy of cosmology. The reader consists of papers and book excerpts on issues in philosophy of cosmology. Included are classic readings from Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Kant, Laplace, Mach, Einstein, and more recent readings from Parfit, Lewis, Loewer, Penrose, Hawking, Guth, Steinhardt, Carroll, and others.

BARRY LOEWER is a graduate of Amherst College and Stanford University.  He attended graduate school at Stanford intending to do logic and philosophy of physics with Patrick Suppes. He ended up writing a dissertation on modality and the semantics of names with Jaakko Hintikka. His first job was at the University of South Carolina where he met David Albert and got back to Philosophy of Physics co-authoring with David papers on philosophy of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. Currently he and David are co-PIs for a big project in Philosophy of Cosmology.  He moved to Rutgers in 1989 and have been chair and grad director. He usually teaches courses and seminars in philosophy of science and philosophical logic.

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