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MSt in Philosophy of Physics

The MSt in Philosophy of Physics aims to attract students with a strong background in physics at undergraduate level or higher, who wish to learn about philosophy in general and philosophy of physics in particular. The course will offer a graduate education in Philosophy of Physics of the highest possible quality, providing a foundation on which candidates can go on to pursue doctoral work in the area.

Oxford is currently the premier centre in the world for Philosophy of Physics, as ranked by the Philosophy Gourmet Report. The Faculty intends to admit four to six students for this course each year.

The course
Continuing to the DPhil
Applications
More about Philosophy of Physics at Oxford
Funding
Oxford Funding Search
Teaching Opportunities
Graduate Placement Scheme
Recent Placement Record

The course

The course consists of three components: philosophy of physics, philosophy of science, and an elective philosophy option. All three are normally taught via a combination of one-to-one supervisions, attendance at undergraduate lectures, and specialist graduate classes. Supervisions should be based around topics covered in classes and lecture courses.

Philosophy of Physics component
Philosophy of physics concerns the conceptual analysis of the content and meaning of physical concepts and theories, particularly relating to the fundamental and established theories of quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, statistical thermodynamics, and special and general relativity. If it differs from foundations of physics, it is because its scope includes historically important theories in physics (like Newtonian gravity), and because it engages more deeply with contemporary philosophy. Central problems in the field include the measurement problem of quantum mechanics, relationalism vs absolutism in the philosophy of space and time, and the arrow of time in statistical mechanics.

This subject should be taught via (i) the undergraduate lecture courses in Intermediate and Advanced Philosophy of Physics; (ii) a dedicated graduate class running once per week across the first two terms; and (iii) individual supervisions, across the first two terms.

Philosophy of Science component
Philosophy of science concerns both scientific method and the philosophical examination of the nature and scope of scientific knowledge, as well as the content of specific sciences, principally physics, but also mathematics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and linguistics. As such it overlaps with metaphysics and epistemology, in which it has always played a central role, particularly in the early modern period, and in the history of analytic philosophy. It is taught with special emphasis on this context in philosophy.

This subject is taught via (i) the undergraduate lecture courses in philosophy of science; (ii) individual supervisions; and (iii) a graduate class in philosophy of science, to be held regularly during the second term.

Elective component
Students will be required to select one subject from the following list:

  • Metaphysics and the Theory of Knowledge;
  • Philosophy of Mind and Action;
  • Philosophical Logic and the Philosophy of Language;
  • Philosophy of Mathematics.

Each subject should be taught via (i) undergraduate lecture courses and graduate classes, as available; and (ii) individual supervisions, held during the final term.

Continuing to the DPhil

The course will allow candidates the opportunity to continue to the Faculty’s DPhil programme, initially as a Probationary Research Student (PRS). Candidates who achieve a distinction on the MSt in Philosophy of Physics are automatically eligible to progress to the DPhil, provided only that the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee is satisfied that their proposed thesis topic and outline indicates that they can be adequately supervised by members of the Philosophy Faculty. Candidates who pass the MSt without a distinction can be admitted to the DPhil at the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee’s discretion. To achieve a distinction, candidates must achieve an average of 70 or above on the four assessed essays. During their PRS year students will be required to satisfy certain formal conditions to progress to full DPhil status. They will then be required to apply for confirmation of DPhil status (see the University's Examination Regulations for details). It is envisaged that a typical student might finish a doctoral thesis within three years of passing the MSt.

Philosophy of Physics Track in the BPhil

Students interested in Philosophy of Physics might also wish to note the possibility of a ‘Philosophy of Physics track’ in the BPhil in Philosophy, Oxford's flagship (two-year) postgraduate philosophy course. This is not a separate course, but a way of studying Philosophy of Physics within the existing BPhil structure.

Students on such a track would study primarily philosophy of physics and philosophy of science in the first two terms, study more general philosophical topics in the third and fourth term, and write a 30,000-word thesis on philosophy of physics or philosophy of science in the final two terms. They may also apply to the Philosophy Graduate Studies Committee for a waiver from one essay’s worth of the BPhil distribution requirement.

Applicants for the BPhil are normally expected to have studied philosophy at undergraduate level, but the Philosophy of Physics track is also suitable for students with a very strong physics background who wish to move into the philosophy of physics or science, as an alternative to the MSt in Philosophy of Physics.

Those applying for the Philosophy of Physics track should state their intention clearly when applying.

Transfer to BPhil in Philosophy

The Faculty of Philosophy has now made it possible for excellent MSt in Philosophy of Physics students to apply to transfer to the second year of the BPhil in Philosophy. In such cases, the MSt in Philosophy of Physics will de facto act as a conversion course from Physics to Philosophy.

MSt in Philosophy of Physics students who want to transfer to the BPhil in Philosophy will be required to submit a formal application for transfer to the BPhil (on a GSO.28 form) by Friday of Week 4 of the third term preceding the Michaelmas Term in which they wish to transfer to the BPhil. Approval of the transfer by the Philosophy Faculty’s Graduate Studies Committee shall normally be conditional on achievement of a distinction in the examination for the MSt in Philosophy of Physics.

MSt in Philosophy of Physics students who have successfully transferred to the second year of the BPhil in Philosophy shall not be awarded an MSt in Philosophy of Physics degree but will in fact be deemed to have completed the first year of the BPhil in Philosophy and the four essays submitted for their MSt examination shall be deemed to replace the first four essays required of BPhil students in the first year of their studies. In their second year, transferred students will consequently be required to follow the assessment pattern as specified for the BPhil in Philosophy. As a result, they will be required to submit to the Examinations Schools two 5,000-word essays at the beginning of the second term and the 30,000-word thesis at the end of the third term in their second year of study.

As all other BPhil students, these transfer students will be required to give notice of the subject area of each essay, in accordance with the procedures and deadlines specified in the Graduate Student Handbook. When selecting essay subject areas they should ensure that they meet the BPhil in Philosophy assesment distribution requirement. However, applications for a waiver from the distribution requirement may with good reason be made to the Graduate Studies Committee.

MSt in Philosophy of Physics students who successfully transferred to the second year of the BPhil in Philosophy, may apply for the award of MSt in Philosophy of Physics only if they fail or withdraw from the second year of the BPhil in Philosophy.

Applications

For all graduate courses in the Faculty of Philosophy, applications including all supporting material must be submitted by the closing date, for admission in the following October.

The application cycle for entry in October 2017 is now CLOSED.  The deadline for applications to all graduate courses in the Faculty of Philosophy for October 2017 was 12 noon UK time on Friday 6 January 2017, and no late applications will be accepted.  An Open Day will be held on Wednesday 15 March 2017 for all successful applicants who are offered a place on any Faculty of Philosophy graduate course for entry in October 2017. Applicants are not normally interviewed and late applications will not be considered.

The online application form and other application information are available from the Applying to Oxford website.

For an application to be considered, it needs to be complete with all required supporting documents and be submitted online or received by the Graduate Admissions and Funding Office by the specified deadline.

The Graduate Admissions and Funding contact details are:

Graduate Admissions Office
University Offices
Wellington Square
Oxford OX1 2JD
Email: graduate.admissions@admin.ox.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 1865 270059
Fax: +44 (0) 1865 270049

International applicants should take into account the English Language Test Requirements for admissions to graduate courses at the University of Oxford, as well as the visa advice, available on the University’s International Student webpages.

Entry Requirements

For a detailed description of the entry requirements for each course, please click on the relevant course link below:

Enquiries

If you have any further questions regarding graduate courses or admissions in Philosophy, please contact:

Academic Administrator for Graduate Studies
Faculty of Philosophy
Radcliffe Humanities
Woodstock Road
Oxford, OX2 6GG
UK

Tel: + 44 1865 276933
Fax: + 44 1865 276932
Email: graduate@philosophy.ox.ac.uk

For any questions related to how to apply for GAF to answer, please submit a question to Graduate Admissions and Funding (GAF) via www.graduate.ox.ac.uk/ask  

More about Philosophy of Physics at Oxford

Oxford is currently the premier centre in the world for Philosophy of Physics, as ranked by the Philosophy Gourmet Report. For an overview of Philosophy of Physics at Oxford visit the Philosophy of Physics website.

Members of the Faculty with a primary research interest in Philosophy of Physics include Harvey Brown, Hilary GreavesOliver Pooley, Simon Saunders, Christopher Timpson, and David Wallace. Active research interests include the foundations of quantum mechanics, especially the Everett interpretation, quantum field theory, quantum information theory, statistical mechanics and thermodynamics and space-time theory, especially Newtonian gravity, Machian gravity, and general relativity. They also include general theories of symmetries, structuralism, the history of classical space-time theory and of modern physics, and topics in the foundations of probability.

The Philosophy of Physics community at Oxford meets weekly at the Thursday Research Seminar, which invites guest speakers from inside and outside Oxford. For listings for the Seminar series in recent years visit the Philosophy of Physics Research Seminars webpage.

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