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University of Edinburgh

Philosophy and the Sciences: Introduction to the Philosophy of Physical Sciences

University of Edinburgh via Coursera


What is the origin of our universe? What are dark matter and dark energy? This is the first part of the course 'Philosophy and the Sciences', dedicated to Philosophy of the Physical Sciences. Scientific research across the physical sciences has raised pressing questions for philosophers. The goal of this course is to introduce you to some of the main areas and topics at the key juncture between philosophy and the physical sciences. Each week we will introduce you to some of these important questions at the forefront of scientific research. We will explain the science behind each topic in a simple, non-technical way, while also addressing the philosophical and conceptual questions arising from it. We’ll consider questions about the origin and evolution of our universe, the nature of dark energy and dark matter and the role of anthropic reasoning in the explanation of our universe. Learning Objectives Gain a fairly well-rounded view on selected areas and topics at the intersection of philosophy and the sciences Understand some key questions, and conceptual problems arising in the natural sciences. Develop critical skills to evaluate and assess these problems. Suggested Reading To accompany 'Philosophy and the Sciences', we are pleased to announce a tie-in book from Routledge entitled 'Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone'. This course companion to the 'Philosophy and the Sciences' course was written by the Edinburgh Philosophy and the Sciences team expressly with the needs of MOOC students in mind. 'Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone' contains clear and user-friendly chapters, chapter summaries, glossary, study questions, suggestions for further reading and guides to online resources. Please note, this companion book is optional - all the resources needed to complete the course are available freely and listed on the course site.


  • What is this thing called science? (Michela Massimi and Duncan Pritchard)
    • Introduction to philosophy of science: the nature of scientific knowledge, the debates about the scientific method and the problem of underdetermination.
  • Week 2: The origins of our universe (Michela Massimi and John Peacock)
    • How did our universe form and evolve? Was there really a Big Bang, and what came before it?
  • Week 3: Dark Matter and Dark Energy (Michela Massimi and John Peacock)
    • According to the currently accepted model in cosmology, our universe is made up of 5% of ordinary matter, 25% cold dark matter, and 70% dark energy. But what kind of entities are dark matter and dark energy?
  • Week 4: The anthropic principle and multiverse cosmology (Alasdair Richmond and John Peacock)
    • Anthropic reasoning attempts to understand peculiarities of the physical universe via context-sensitive observers in a multiverse of different distinct universes. What are the problems and prospects of this view?
  • Philosophy and the Sciences Part 2

Taught by

Michela Massimi, Alasdair Richmond, Suilin Lavelle, David Carmel, Mark Sprevak, Duncan Pritchard, Andy Clark, John Peacock, Barbara Webb and Kenny Smith


4.9 rating, based on 9 Class Central reviews

4.7 rating at Coursera based on 903 ratings

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  • This amazing course highlights the intersection and interaction of philosophy and the physical sciences through the history of the latter fields' understanding of the universe. While, admittedly, the physics (and the mathematics) involved is quite overwhelming for someone like me in the life and biomedical sciences, one can never be wrong in taking note of the illustrative examples in the context of the mental-philosophical processes through which the best minds of our species attempt to make sense of physical entities and forces far greater than ourselves.
  • This course consists of two parts - philosophy of cosmology and philosophy of mind. You can take it as one track (either of these) or both (if you aim for distinction). Course includes peer-reviewed essays, and if you have prior background in philos…
  • very important course about epistemology and the relationships between sciences and philosophy because it will allow you to reflect on how we relate to our world, universe and how we try to know things.
  • Stephane Mysona
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