Philosophy and the Sciences

Learn about the historical and philosophical foundations of contemporary science. Explore cutting-edge debates in the philosophy of the physical sciences and philosophy of the cognitive sciences.

About The Course

What is the origin of our universe? What are dark matter and dark energy? What is our role in the universe as human agents capable of knowledge? What makes us intelligent cognitive agents seemingly endowed with consciousness?

Scientific research across both the physical sciences and the cognitive 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 sciences. The course is structured around two broad areas: 

  1. Philosophy and the Physical Sciences
  2. Philosophy and the Cognitive 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. Areas you’ll learn about will include:

  • Philosophy of cosmology, where 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.
  • Philosophy of psychology, among whose issues we will cover the evolution of the human mind and the nature of consciousness.
  • Philosophy of neurosciences, where we’ll consider the nature of human cognition and the relation between mind, machines, and the environment.

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 and cognitive sciences.

Develop critical skills to evaluate and assess these problems.


Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will I get a certificate after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

  • Do I earn University of Edinburgh credits upon completion of this class?

    No. The Statement of Accomplishment is not part of a formal qualification from the University. However, it may be useful to demonstrate prior learning and interest in your subject to a higher education institution or potential employer.

  • What resources will I need for this class?

    No resources needed.

  • What are the learning outcomes of this course and why should I take it?

    You will learn about the historical and philosophical foundations of contemporary science through cutting-edge debate.



Recommended Background

No background required.