The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics

Watch The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics

  • 2020
  • 1 Season

The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics is a fascinating and thought-provoking series from The Great Courses Signature Collection. In this series, renowned philosopher and physicist Steven Gimbel explores some of the most fundamental questions of human existence, from the nature of reality and the meaning of life to the origins of the universe and the ultimate fate of the cosmos.

Gimbel's approach is both accessible and rigorous, drawing on insights from philosophy, physics, and other fields to shed new light on age-old questions. He begins by exploring the nature of reality, examining how we can know anything at all about the world around us and whether there is a fundamental basis for reality that underlies everything else.

From there, Gimbel delves into questions of ethics and morality, asking whether there is a universal set of moral principles that can guide our actions and decisions, or whether ethics is simply a matter of personal preference and social convention. He also explores the concept of human nature, asking whether there are inherent qualities or characteristics that define what it means to be human, or whether we are simply the products of our environment and experiences.

Moving beyond human concerns, Gimbel also tackles some of the biggest questions in physics and cosmology, examining the origins of the universe, the nature of time, and the ultimate fate of the cosmos. He explores some of the most cutting-edge ideas in physics, from quantum mechanics and string theory to the search for dark matter and the possibility of multiple universes.

Throughout the series, Gimbel challenges viewers to think deeply and critically about these questions and to come to their own conclusions. He does not shy away from difficult or controversial topics, and he presents a wide range of perspectives and viewpoints to encourage discussion and debate.

One of the most striking aspects of The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics is Gimbel's ability to connect seemingly disparate fields of study and show how they are all interconnected. By drawing on ideas and insights from philosophy, physics, biology, psychology, and other fields, he creates a comprehensive picture of the world and our place in it.

Overall, The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics is an engaging and enlightening series that will appeal to anyone with an interest in the big questions of human existence. Whether you are a lifelong learner or a professional in a related field, you are sure to find something to challenge and inspire you in this fascinating series.

The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics is a series that is currently running and has 1 seasons (12 episodes). The series first aired on April 24, 2020.

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The Physics of God
12. The Physics of God
April 24, 2020
The laws of physics have been invoked on both sides of the debate over the existence of God. Professor Gimbel closes the series by tracing the history of this dispute, from Newton's belief in a Creator to today's discussion of the fine-tuning of nature's constants and whether God is responsible. Such big questions in physics inevitably bring us back to the roots of physics: philosophy.
The Dream of Grand Unification
11. The Dream of Grand Unification
April 24, 2020
After the dust settled from the quantum revolution, physics was left with two fundamental theories: the standard model of particle physics for quantum phenomena and general relativity for gravitational interactions. Follow the quest for a grand unified theory that incorporates both. Armed with Karl Popper's demarcation criteria, see how unifying ideas such as string theory fall short.
Wanted Dead and Alive: Schrödinger's Cat
10. Wanted Dead and Alive: Schrödinger's Cat
April 24, 2020
The most famous paradox of quantum theory is the thought experiment showing that a cat under certain experimental conditions must be both dead and alive. Explore four proposed solutions to this conundrum, known as the measurement problem: the hidden-variable view, the Copenhagen interpretation, the idea that the human mind collapses a quantum state, and the many-worlds interpretation.
Waves, Particles, and Quantum Entanglement
9. Waves, Particles, and Quantum Entanglement
April 24, 2020
Quantum mechanics rests on an apparent category mistake: Light can't be both a wave and a particle, yet that's what theory and experiments show. Analyze this puzzle from the realist and empiricist points of view. Then explore philosopher Arthur Fine's natural ontological attitude, which reconciles realism and antirealism by demonstrating how they rely on different conceptions of truth.
Quantum States: Neither True nor False?
8. Quantum States: Neither True nor False?
April 24, 2020
Enter the quantum world, where traditional philosophical logic breaks down. First, explore the roots of quantum theory and how scientists gradually uncovered its surpassing strangeness. Clear up the meaning of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which is a metaphysical claim, not an epistemological one. Finally, delve into John von Neumann's revolutionary quantum logic.
Are Atoms Real?
7. Are Atoms Real?
April 24, 2020
Compare proof for the reality of atoms with evidence for the existence of Santa Claus. Both are problematic hypotheses! Trace the history of atomic theory and the philosophical resistance to it. End with Bas van Fraassen's idea of constructive empiricism, which holds that successful theories ought only to be empirically adequate since we can never know with certainty what is real.
The Beginning of Time
6. The Beginning of Time
April 24, 2020
Continue exploring time by winding back the clock. Was there a beginning to time? Einstein's initial equations of general relativity predicted a dynamic universe, one that might have expanded from an initial moment. Einstein discarded this idea, but since then evidence has mounted for a Big Bang. Is it sensible to ask what caused the Big Bang and what happened before?
The Nature of Einstein's Time
5. The Nature of Einstein's Time
April 24, 2020
Consider the weirdness of time: The laws of physics are time reversable, but we never see time running backwards. Theorists have proposed that the direction of time is connected to the order of the early universe and even that time is an illusion. See how Einstein deepened the mystery with his theory of relativity, which predicts time dilation and the surprising possibility of time travel.
The Reality of Einstein's Space
4. The Reality of Einstein's Space
April 24, 2020
What's left when you take all the matter and energy out of space? Either something or nothing. Newton believed the former; his rival, Leibniz, believed the latter. Assess arguments for both views, and then see how Einstein was influenced by Leibniz's relational picture of space to invent his special theory of relativity.
Can Physics Explain Reality?
3. Can Physics Explain Reality?
April 24, 2020
If the point of physics is to explain reality, what counts as an explanation? Professor Gimbel goes deeper to probe what makes some explanations scientific and whether physics actually explains anything. Along the way, he explores Bertrand Russell's rejection of the notion of cause, Carl Hempel's account of explanation, and Nancy Cartwright's skepticism about scientific truth.
Why Mathematics Works So Well with Physics
2. Why Mathematics Works So Well with Physics
April 24, 2020
Physics is a mathematical science. But why should manipulating numbers give insight into how the world works? This question was famously posed by physicist Eugene Wigner in his 1960 paper, The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences. Explore proposed answers, including Max Tegmark's assertion that the world is, in fact, a mathematical system.
Does Physics Make Philosophy Superfluous?
1. Does Physics Make Philosophy Superfluous?
April 24, 2020
Trace the growth of physics from philosophy, as questions about the nature of reality got rigorous answers starting in the Scientific Revolution. Then, see how the philosophy of physics was energized by a movement called logical positivism in the early 20th century in response to Einstein's theory of relativity. #Science & Mathematics
Where to Watch The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics
The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics is available for streaming on the The Great Courses Signature Collection website, both individual episodes and full seasons. You can also watch The Great Questions of Philosophy and Physics on demand at Apple TV Channels, Amazon Prime, Amazon and Kanopy.
  • Premiere Date
    April 24, 2020