Academic year
Antonio Vassallo and Albert Solé
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
2019-02-12 - 2019-05-21
Tuesdays: 09:30 - 12:00
UB, Philosophy Faculty, room 409


Foundations of Philosophy of Science: Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics


The goal of this course is to introduce students to contemporary philosophical debates in philosophy of science, and to build the analytical and critical skills needed to contribute to those debates. This year the topic chosen is the philosophy of quantum mechanics.


The advent of quantum mechanics completely changed our worldview: not only have our concepts of matter and space-time been deeply affected by the theory, but it has raised a great number of epistemological and methodological issues that contributed to shape the philosophical discussion of the twentieth century. This course aims to provide an elementary -but rigorous- introduction to the conceptual difficulties besetting quantum theory. Our goal is to answer the question: what would the world be like, if the theory were true? As we will see, there are many answers to this question, all of them involving important revisions in our concept of nature.


No special mathematics or physics knowledge is presupposed, beyond high-school level mathematics.



Structure and Contents

  1. Introduction to some quantum phenomena
  2. Structure and interpretation of classical mechanics.
  3. Introduction to the formalism of quantum mechanics.
  4. Why quantum mechanics needs an interpretation: the measurement problem.
  5. Interpretations of quantum mechanics I: Collapse theories.
  6. Interpretations of quantum mechanics II: De Broglie-Bohm theory.
  7. Interpretations of quantum mechanics III: Many worlds and other no collapse interpretations.
  8. Space and time meet the quantum: the problem(s) of quantum gravity. 


Class will be organized as lectures with time for discussion and practice with some exercises.  In most weeks students will be given a homework assignment, due the following class, intended to complement the lectures and solidify understanding of the basic concepts. Students will also be expected to attend and participate in class discussions, and complete two tests during the course.




Homeworks: 20%

Class participation: 20%

Writting exam: 60%


Learning outcomes:

  • Students should be conversant with the fundamental concepts and laws of quantum mechanics.
  • Students should be acquainted with the most important interpretations of quantum theory being able to assess their relative merits.
  • Students should be able to critically understand central texts in the philosophy of physics. 
  • Students should be able to communicate their knowledge and their arguments in a clear and articulate way. 
  • Students should be able to work both independently and in a team in an international environment. 
  • Students should be able to identify fallacies and methodological errors in reasoning.
  • Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of contemporary philosophy of physics.
  • Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of a particular philosophical debate, and form a reasoned view, even if provisional, about it.



  • Albert, D., 1994, Quantum Mechanics and Experience, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Barrett, J. A., 1999, The Quantum Mechanics of Minds and Worlds, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Lewis, P.J., 2016, Quantum Ontology: A Guide to the Metaphysics of Quantum Mechanics. Oxford University Press.
  • Maudlin, T. (2017). Philosophy of Physics: Matter. Princeton University Press (forthcoming).
  • Saunders, S., Barrett, J., Kent, A., and D. Wallace, 2010. Many Worlds?: Everett, Quantum Theory, Reality. Oxford University Press.