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Philosophy, Epistemology and History of Science I+II

SHS Master projects - academic year 2015-16

Wednesday 16-19h, room INR 219

Teacher: Prof. Michael Esfeld

Assistant: Mario Hubert


27.10. There are still some students who haven't made an appointment yet. Please contact your supervisor!

07.10. Minor update of the manual. We added another introductory article to the project 10.5. The deBroglie-Bohm Quantum Theory.

06.10. Major update of the manual. We added two more projects: 8.3. Neo-Newtonian or Galilean Space-Time and 10.8. Quantum Information and QBism. We added a fantastic book by the physicist Robert Geroch to the projects 9.1. The Twin Paradox and 9.3. Space-Time in General Relativity. We added a new video on the different interpretations of quantum mechanics at the beginning of Section 10. We slightly adjusted the literature in project 10.5 The deBroglie-Bohm Quantum Theory.

23.09. We've updated Section 10 on the Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics in the manual. We've added there a new project proposal on the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and we've added some further literature. There is now a project on the self-interaction problem in classical electrodynamics (Section 8).

16.09. We've created a short URL for this website: We've added it to the front page of the manual as well. We changed the title on this website and in the manual so that it matches the one on the SHS list.


How did the visions of space and time change from Galileo via Newton to Einstein? What is matter following the revolution introduced by quantum physics? What is a law of nature? Do mathematical objects really exist? These questions, among many others, will be tackled in the philosophical reflection on the exact sciences and their history that this master course offers. Reflecting on these issues provides intellectual tools for a better understanding of today's science and technologies.

After an introductory teaching, the students work in small groups of 1 to 3 students on a particular project and present their results to the whole group. Students are free to choose the project that interests them most, but we encourage them to work on a project that is about philosophical issues raised in connection with their main branch at EPFL. We propose several interdisciplinary projects in the philosophy of physics in cooperation with professors from the physics department.


16 Sept.:

16h15-17h30 Michael Esfeld: Introduction to the programme.

17h45-18h45 Michael Esfeld: Natural philosophy: Newton on physics and philosophy.

(Download: Slides)

23 Sept.:

16h15-17h30 Michael Esfeld: What is a law of nature?

17h45-18h45 Andrea Oldofredi: Ontology and Mathematics.

30 Sept.:

16h15-17h30 Michael Esfeld: Philosophy of space and time: the classical positions.

17h45-18h45 Antonio Vassallo: Philosophy of space and time after general relativity theory.

07 Oct.:

16h15-17h30 Michael Esfeld: Quantum physics: non-locality and the measurement problem.

17h45-18h45 Michael Esfeld: The ontology of quantum physics.

(Download: Slides, updated 5/10/15) 

14 Oct.:

16h15-17h30 Mario Hubert: Philosophy of mathematics.

17h45-18h45 Mario Hubert: How to write an essay.


By 14 Oct. at the latest: Definite fixing of the groups & essay subjects.

After that work on your essay plan and schedule one meeting with your supervising assistant. Please submit your essay plan to your supervising assistant at least one week before your presentation.


Schedule for the presentations:

18. Nov., 25 Nov., 2 Dec., 9 Dec., 16h15-19h30.

15 minutes presentation, 15 minutes discussion.


Course Manual (ver. 07/10/15, pdf)

Titlepages (English, French, docx)

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