Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Philosophy of Cosmology

Philosophy of Cosmology

01:090:296:H4

Index# 10966

Professor Barry Loewer

M 11:30-2:30

HC E128 College Ave Campus

Will Count Towards SAS – Philosophy MAJOR
Will Count Towards SAS – Philosophy MINOR

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 (what put the “bang” in the Big Bang Theory”) 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 between mind and cosmos? What are the relationships between cosmology and theology?

About Professor Loewer

When I was an undergraduate (at Amherst College) I was bugging my physics professor about what probability means and my history professor about counterfactuals (“if Kennedy had not be assassinated then the Vietnam war…..” and they sent me to the philosophy department. There they took such questions seriously but they didn’t provide answers. One of my teachers (Joe Epstein) told me that I would have to find answers for myself and that it would take a long time if ever. I am still thinking about them. On Epstein’s advice I went to grad school at Stanford intending to do logic and philosophy of physics with Patrick Suppes. I ended up writing a dissertation on modality and the semantics of names with Jaakko Hintikka. My first job was at the University of South Carolina where I met David Albert and got back to Philosophy of Physics co-authoring with David papers on philosophy of quantum mechanics and statistical mechanics. Currently David and I are co-PIs for a big project in Philosophy of Cosmology. . I moved to Rutgers in 1989 and have been chair and grad director. I usually teach courses and seminars in philosophy of science and philosophical logic.