BA in Philosophy & Physics

With this joint major, the Physics and Philosophy departments enable students to explore the rich relationship between theoretical physics and the philosophy of science, including fundamental questions about the nature of space, time, and matter. The course requirements are designed to prepare students for further research into the conceptual and philosophical foundations of modern physics. Students with this joint degree can go on to pursue graduate work in a number of fields, including physics, philosophy, history and philosophy of science, or science journalism.

Learning Outcomes

Students completing the program are expected to have:

  • Understanding of a brief history and current discussions of some fundamental questions in metaphysics (ontology and causality) and philosophy of science (realism and instrumentalism, theory change and theory assessment, reduction and emergence).
  • Familiarity with some of the basic questions in philosophy of physics and the approaches addressing them: nature of space time (absolute or relative, substantial or relational, static or dynamic) in relativity theories, and the substantival, relationist, and constructivist approaches to dealing with them; nature of probability and irreversibility in statistical mechanics; duality, measurement, and entanglement in quantum mechanics and the Copenhagen and the hidden variable approaches to these questions; locality, divergence, and renormalizability in quantum field theory, and the structural realist approach to handling them.
  • Familiarity with the core areas in current research in foundational physics where philosophical interventions are most visible: quantum gravity and cosmology (especially the applicability of the second law of thermodynamics and the quantum principles to its specific subject: the whole universe).
  • Skills of critical thinking, analytical thinking, and written and oral communication, as expected for majors in Philosophy.

Requirements

All students entering as freshmen in Fall 2018 and after will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, a general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements are flexible and can be satisfied in many different ways, through coursework in and beyond the major and, in some cases, through co-curricular activities. Students majoring in Philosophy & Physics will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in areas such as Philosophical, Aesthetic, and Historical Interpretation; Scientific and Social Inquiry; Quantitative Reasoning; Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship; Communication; and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements may be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, co-curricular experiences.

All required courses are 4 credits unless otherwise indicated.

Prerequisites

  • One course in philosophy (PH) at the 100 level
  • CAS PY 251 Principles of Physics 1
  • CAS PY 252 Principles of Physics 2
  • CAS MA 123 Calculus 1
  • CAS MA 124 Calculus 2

Course Requirements

At least five courses in philosophy and eight courses in physics/mathematics, with a grade of C or higher, are required.

The following philosophy courses are required:

  • CAS PH 270 Philosophy of Science or CAS PH 487 Topics in the Philosophy of Science
  • CAS PH 300 History of Ancient Philosophy
  • CAS PH 310 History of Modern Philosophy
  • Either CAS PH 360 Symbolic Logic or PH 468 Philosophical Problems of Logic and Mathematics
  • CAS PH 470 Philosophy of Physics, or a directed study in philosophy

The following physics and mathematics courses are required:

  • CAS MA 225 Multivariate Calculus
  • CAS PY 351 Modern Physics I
  • CAS PY 355 Methods of Theoretical Physics
  • CAS PY 405 Electromagnetic Fields and Waves I
  • CAS PY 406 Electromagnetic Fields and Waves II
  • CAS PY 408 Intermediate Mechanics
  • CAS PY 451 Quantum Physics I
  • CAS PY 452 Quantum Physics II