Physics and Philosophy BSc

   
   
  

Fact file - 2019 entry

Duration
3 years full-time (available part-time)
A level offer
A*AA-AAA
Required subjects
Maths and physics
IB score
36 (6 in maths, plus 6 in physics and 6 in a third subject, all at Higher Level)
Course location
University Park Campus 
Course places
6
School/department
 
We are still currently taking applications for 2018 entry

Overview

This course allows you to study both physics and philosophy to degree level and emphasises the interplay between these closely related subjects. 
Read full overview

Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to address some of the deeper philosophical questions that modern physics raises, such as the implications of the probabilistic interpretations of quantum mechanics. The degree offers a broad range of core physics modules, coupled with a mix of general and specific philosophy modules.

Year one 

You will take a selected sub-sample of the core physics modules that connect to philosophy and a complementary selection of philosophy modules. You will also be taught the general mathematics that you will need to take physics to a higher level. 

Year two 

You will study more advanced areas in current physics (such as quantum mechanics), and choose from a selection of philosophy modules. 

Year three

In the first semester, you will finish the core syllabus of physics, and in the second semester, you will choose from a wide range of options in advanced physics and related subjects such as astrophysics. On the philosophy side, you will have a wide range of choices from among the more advanced options offered by the University. You will also complete a dissertation-style project in the third year.

More information 

See also the Department of Philosophy

 

Entry requirements

A levels: A*AA-AAA, including physics and maths at A level

English language requirements 

IELTS 6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element)

For details of other English language tests and qualifications we accept, please see our entry requirements page.

If you require additional support to take your language skills to the required level, you may be able to attend a presessional course at the Centre for English Language Education, which is accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK.

Students who successfully complete the presessional course to the required level can progress onto their chosen degree course without retaking IELTS or equivalent.

Alternative qualifications

For details see the alternative qualifications page

Flexible admissions policy

In recognition of our applicants’ varied experience and educational pathways, the University of Nottingham employs a flexible admissions policy. We may make some applicants an offer lower than advertised, depending on their personal and educational circumstances. Please see the University’s admissions policies and procedures for more information.


Notes for applicants 

Scholarships - we offer a range of scholarships designed to assist you in settling in to your studies and meeting the financial requirements of your course. Some of these are means-tested but we also offer special scholarships that reward academic achievement.

The Sir Peter Mansfield scholarship is offered on the basis of performance in the qualifying examinations for university entrance (eg A levels). A scholarship package is also offered to reward good performance in the qualifying first-year examinations. Full details of all scholarship prizes will be provided at the UCAS open days.

For more details about scholarships, please see www.nottingham.ac.uk/physics

 
 

Modules

The following is a sample of the typical modules that we offer as at the date of publication but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and the module information in this prospectus is provided for indicative purposes only.

Typical year one modules

  • Mind, Knowledge, and Ethics 

The module introduces you to several central issues in the philosophy of self, mind and body. These issues are of great importance in the history of philosophy, and they continue to attract significant contemporary philosophical attention.

We will examine Descartes' foundational contributions in his Meditations, with particular attention to his discussions of dualism and mind-body interaction. We will also study several related topics, including contemporary theories of mind.

 
  • Reasoning, Argument, and Logic

This module introduces a series of key skills relevant to the aims and methods of philosophical inquiry. It is designed to help you understand the nature and structure of arguments, acquire critical tools for assessing the arguments of others, and improve your ability to present your own reasoning in a clear and rigorous manner.

The module also aims to assist the development of an independent, reflective and self-managed approach to study, and to familiarise you with the abilities and competences that are expected to be developed during your degree.

 
From Newton to Einstein
This year-long module aims to introduce core topics in physics which will underpin all subsequent physics modules. You’ll discuss classical mechanics in the language of vectors and the key notion of harmonic motion which is extended to cover wave phenomena. You’ll have an introduction to Einstein's special theory of relativity as well as the basic ideas of electromagnetism.  
 
Appearance and Reality 
In this module you’ll examine some of the central themes surrounding the work of John Locke, one of the first philosophers who sought to integrate philosophy with our modern scientific worldview. Topics covered include empiricism and science, perception, justification and scepticism and the nature of objects among others. You’ll have two hours of lectures some weeks and a hour-long lecture with an hour-long seminar on others throughout the semester.
 
Elementary Logic
This module provides an introduction to modern logic including technical vocabulary required to aide your understanding of modern philosophical work. You’ll discuss the symbolism of modern logic, the theory of the structure of thought and practice translation between symbolism and English. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.
 
 

Typical year two modules

The Quantum World 
This module will provide an introduction to the theory and applications of quantum mechanics, a theory that is one of the key achievements of 20th century physics. This module will begin with a discussion of simple systems and develop the mathematical formulation of quantum mechanics. The module will then extend the formalism to cope with the movement of particles and make links to the material that you have seen in the 'From Newton to Einstein' module.
 
Thermal and Statistical Physics 
In this year-long module you’ll learn about the two main themes relating to the description of important physical properties of matter; thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. You’ll discover that they share common features through two hours of lectures weekly and four practical workshops throughout the year.
 
Classical Fields 
In this module, you are introduced to the concepts of scalar and vector fields, and introduced to the mathematics of vector calculus that can be used to describe these fields. The mathematics will then be used to provide a framework for describing, understanding and using the laws of electromagnetism. 
 
Social Philosophy

This module will address some key issues in social philosophy, or key ideas from thinkers in social philosophy. Indicative topics that might be covered include:

  • philosophy of gender
  • philosophy of race
  • philosophy of disability
  • philosophy of relationships and friendship
  • slavery and abolition
  • social and psychological oppression
  • the political thought of Hannah Arendt
 
The Nature of Meaning

The module begins with an exploration of various theories of naming, paying particular attention to the works of Frege, Russell (including the theory of descriptions), and Kripke. We then turn our attention to various puzzles concerning the nature of meaning, including the distinction between analytic and synthetic sentences.

In the final part of the module, we move on to a discussion of some of the mainstream theories of meaning; particularly, a truth-conditional semantics, and we explore how this might be developed to take into account indexical terms such as 'I', 'now', and 'here'. Some of the skills acquired in Elementary Logic will be applied in this module.

 
Freedom and Obligation

This module combines consideration of the political philosophy of Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and J.S. Mill with related themes in contemporary debates. The module is designed to introduce you to each of the thinkers and then to consider how related issues are treated by contemporary writers. Thus the module combines a thinker-based approach to studying political philosophy with a topic-based approach.

 
Mind and Consciousness

This module aims to introduce you to some of the major issues within contemporary philosophy of mind. We will examine four topics and the interactions between them:

  • Intentionality
  • Consciousness
  • Mental causation
  • The status of physicalism
 
History of Philosophy

Philosophers have often contributed to huge advances in science and technology, while at the same time witnessing, and sometimes causing, political and social upheaval on a grand scale. In this module, we shall track the philosophical thoughts and motivations behind some of these advances and upheavals.

The module will proceed via a close reading of primary texts, drawing on additional material by scholars, background material and influential responses. Possible subjects are some of the writings of, for example, Aristotle, Descartes, Margaret Cavendish, Isaac Newton, Thomas Reid, Emilie Du Chatelet, David Hume, Jean Le Rond D'Alembert and Mary Shepherd.

Please note: the module is not a survey of the history of philosophy, and it may focus on the writings of only one philosopher in any given year that it runs.

 
Knowledge and Justification

This module explores contemporary treatments of issues pertaining to knowledge and the justification of belief. It addresses issues such as:

  • the structure of justification and its relation to one's mental states and evidence (foundationalism vs. coherentism; internalism vs.externalism; evidentialism)
  • the justification of induction
  • the notion of a priori justification
  • the relation between your evidence and what you know
  • the natures of perceptual experience and perceptual knowledge
  • safety and contextualist theories of knowledge
  • Moore's response to skepticism
  • testimonial knowledge, "virtue" epistemology and its relation to "reliabilist" epistemology
 
Normative Ethics
 

Normative ethics is the branch of moral philosophy that attempts to systematise everyday judgements about the rightness and wrongness of actions. In everyday life we commonly form opinions about such things as whether euthanasia should be legalised, or how we should balance the competing goals of fighting terrorism and protecting individual liberties, for example.

Are these judgements on diverse topics logically disconnected, or should they conform to some common structure or pattern? The focus of this module is on the three main attempts to systematise them that have been made by moral philosophers.

The first, consequentialism, holds that the rightness or wrongness of actions is wholly determined by their goodness. The second, deontology, holds that there are moral constraints on acting such that it can sometimes be wrong to act in a way that brings about the best results. The third, virtue ethics, emphasises the relationship between right action and good and bad character.

 
Being, Becoming and Reality

We look at some fundamental metaphysical questions about the cosmos. A selection of the following topics will be studied:

  • Objects: concrete vs. abstract; existence and nothingness
  • Sets and mereology
  • Properties, Property bearers, Relations
  • States of affairs and non-mereological composition
  • Modality (including counterfactuals) and possible worlds
  • Time, persistence, change, and the non-present
 
Contemporary Metaethics

Are there moral facts? What is moral truth? Do psychopaths really understand moral language? These are just some of the questions we'll be asking on this module.

Metaethics isn't anything like normative or applied ethics; rather it is about asking how ethics works. This means we'll be thinking about, amongst other things, moral ontology, moral language, moral psychology and moral reasons. 

 
Philosophy of Art

This module is a discussion of some philosophical problems pertaining to art.

Topics will include:

  • definitions of art
  • the objectivity versus the subjectivity of aesthetic evaluations
  • emotional response to art
  • the ontological status of artworks
  • Walton's theory of make-believe
 
 

Typical year three modules

Atoms, Photons and Fundamental Particles
In this year-long module you’ll be introduced to the physics of atoms, nuclei and the fundamental constituents of matter and their interactions. You’ll gain knowledge about the quantum mechanical description of their interactions. Every week, you’ll have two hours of lectures; you'll also have with five 90-minute workshops throughout the year to aid your understanding.
 
 

Typical optional modules

Environmental Ethics
Environmental ethics addresses the issue of how human beings should interact with the non-human natural world. This module will cover a range of topics from contemporary philosophical literature on environmental ethics, including: the scope of moral concern (i.e. whether and how our moral theory should concern itself with animals, plants, rocks, ecosystems); whether nature is intrinsically valuable, or whether it possesses value only by being valuable to us; whether it is reasonable to search for just one overarching ‘environmental ethic’ (i.e. the debate between monism and pluralism in ethics); the metaphysics, ethics and politics of the ‘deep ecology’ movement; whether there is any connection between the twin oppressions of women and nature (as ecofeminists claim); the nature of sustainability and whether it is worth seeking; the ethics of restoring nature after it has been damaged by human development; whether there are any distinct environmental virtues.
 
Free Will and Action
This module will focus on a number of questions, including: what would it take for an action to be free (or an exercise of ‘free will’)? Is there is any way in which our actions could be free in the relevant sense, whether or not determinism is true? How do actions differ from bodily movements that are not actions? Actions are typically (perhaps always) done for reasons, but what exactly is the relation between the reasons and the actions? Do the reasons cause the corresponding actions – and if they do, can this be the same kind of causation as is involved in ordinary ‘mechanistic’ causal explanation? What is the connection between intentional or voluntary action and rational action? In particular, it seems that we sometimes intentionally and voluntarily do things that we ourselves regard as irrational – but how is such ‘weakness of will’ possible? You’ll be taught through a two-hour lecture each week. 
 
Marx

You will be introduced to the thought of Karl Marx thematically via texts selected from the Marx canon. Marxian themes considered will include alienation, the materialist conception of history, ideology and the labour theory of value.

Gaining an overview of Marx's attempt to synthesise German philosophy, French political theory, and British economics will be an important objective for the course.

 
Advanced Logic

This module investigates different kinds of contemporary logic, as well as their uses in philosophy. We will look at logics of possibility and necessity, time, and knowledge, as well as alternative logics, including 'anti-realist' logic and fuzzy logic.

We will apply formal techniques from these logics to philosophical topics including vagueness, the liar paradox and anti-realism. We will also investigate basic set theory, infinity and the limits of formal logic, including soundness, completeness and decidability proofs.

 
Utilitarianism

This module is an extended discussion of utilitarian approaches to moral and political philosophy, including utilitarian accounts of:

  • the nature of wellbeing
  • reasons and rightness
  • rights and justice
  • democracy
  • individual decision-making
  • praise and blame
 
Buddhist Philosophy

The module will focus on a critical examination of core aspects of Buddhist thinking, with emphasis on some of its basic psychological, spiritual, and metaphysical conceptions, in particular, the origin and nature of suffering, the no-self thesis, enlightenment, consciousness, experiential knowing, and the doctrine of Emptiness (lack of inherent nature in all things and impermanence).

The module will focus particularly on Nâgârjuna's philosophy of the 'middle way' and some modern commentaries on it. The module will approach Buddhism as a philosophical world-view, rather than as a religious one. The module will not be involved in detailed exegesis of ancient texts. When possible the module will try to link Buddhist conceptions to contemporary ideas about personhood, consciousness and the fundamental nature of reality.

 
Dissertation

A dissertation of 8,000-words on a philosophical topic approved by the Module Convenor. The supervisor is not permitted to read and comment more than once on one draft of 8,000 words.

 
Metaphysics and Language: Quine, Kripke and Lewis

Typically, this module introduces you to some advanced topics in contemporary analytic metaphysics. The module focuses on important topics, which have received recent attention. The topics covered will include:

  • metaphysical nihilism (why there is something rather than nothing, and the subtraction argument)
  • causation (the counterfactual theory and other accounts)
  • the metaphysics of grounding (and concerns with such a notion)
  • the metaphysics of absolute and relational space and time, and vagueness and indeterminacy

The module presupposes a certain basic familiarity with general issues in metaphysics and the philosophy of language, but is designed to serve as an advanced introduction to new topics that is completely accessible to the uninitiated.

 
Philosophy of Criminal Law

There is perhaps no more vivid example of the exercise of state power over individuals than through the institution of criminal law. The criminal law raises a host of important philosophical questions, such as these:

  • Is there a general obligation to obey the law? If so, what is the basis for this obligation?
  • What sorts of acts should be criminalised, and why?
  • What does it mean for someone to be responsible for a crime, or for the state to hold someone responsible?
  • What is the proper role for the presumption of innocence: Who must presume whom to be innocent of what? Is criminal punishment justified? If so, why?
  • Is the state ever justified in imposing legal restrictions on offenders even after they have completed their punishment?
  • How should the criminal law function in the international context?

Readings will include seminal works by historical figures such as Plato, Bentham, and Kant, as well as prominent work by more contemporary philosophers such as Hart, Hampton, Duff, and others. All reading assignments for this module are accessible to students with no training in criminal law.

 
Communicating Philosophy

This module will teach you how to communicate philosophy through a variety of different mediums, assessing you in each. We will look at how philosophy can be communicated through legal documentation, press releases, handouts, lesson plans, webpages, funding bids and posters (with optional presentations).

A number of the sessions will be delivered by professionals from outside the University, with support from the module convener. Seminars will be used to develop each of the items for assessment. You will be invited to draw upon your prior philosophical learning to generate your assessments, except in the case of handout where you will be set a specific philosophical task and asked to complete some (very basic) independent research.

 
Personal Identity
If you and another person had your brains swapped, would you have swapped bodies? Or should we say that you still exist in your old body, only now your memories, beliefs, personality traits, etc. are different? Would you survive teleportation? What if teleporting worked by recording your body state, destroying your body, and then creating a copy of it elsewhere? Would this copy be morally responsible for your crimes? What if the teleporter created two copies? These puzzles raise the issue of what your continued existence consists of - are you essentially a brain, a soul, a body, a set of mental states, or something else? This is the issue we will examine in this course. We will also examine the moral implications of personal identity.
 
Philosophy of Science

What is science? Is there a scientific method, and if so, what is it? Can science tell us what the world is really like? Is it the only way to know what the world is really like? Does science progress? What is a "paradigm" and when/how does it "shift"? Is science "socially constructed"? Can a sociological study of the practice of science tell us anything about the nature of science? Is science "value-neutral"? Should we "save society from science"? What are "the science wars" and who won?

These are some of the questions we will explore in this module. We will start with the positivism-empiricism of the early 20th century and culminate with the postmodernism-relativism of the late 20th century and its aftermath. Readings will include seminal works by Ayer, Hempel, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyeraband, Bloor, and Laudan.

 
The Structure of Stars
This module will develop your knowledge of the various physical processes occurring in stars of different types. You’ll use this knowledge to build both mathematical models and your qualitative physical understanding of stellar structure and evolution will be enhanced. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.
 
Symmetry and Action Principles in Physics 
Symmetry is a powerful notion, both in the development of theories of physical phenomena and in the solution of physical models. In this module the basic aspects of the mathematical language of symmetry will be introduced and applied to a range of physical phenomena, and the principle of least action, introduced in The Principles of Dynamics module, will be further developed.
 
Theoretical Elementary Particle Physics
In this module you’ll have an introduction to theoretical aspects of the standard model of particle physics. You’ll learn about ideas such as symmetry and conservation laws through a number of different topics including relativistic notation, relativistic particles, Feynman diagrams and discrete symmetries among others. You’ll have two hours per week of lectures studying this module.
 

Philosophy and the Contemporary World 

This module addresses issues of contemporary concern, arising from unattractive features of human life in its current forms. Topics might include: the purpose of education; is there a right to higher education; who should pay for higher education; free speech *why value free speech; censorship and pornography, hate speech and safe spaces; identity and prejudice (race and racial politics; homophobia; transphobia; intersex; class, disability; representation of religion in politics; psychology of bias); civic responsibility (animals and the environment; ‘bullshit’, truth, and post-truth politics; suffrage; media culture); global justice (war; terrorism; world hunger; migration and refugees); ethics and technology (human enhancement; drugs and sport; artificial intelligence).

 
History of Philosophy: Ancient to Modern 

This course offers an introduction to a range of figures, topics, and traditions in the Western philosophical tradition. These might include: conceptions of the good life in ancient Greek ethics; the relation of reason and tradition in classical Islamic philosophy; Renaissance humanism and the rise of science; the education of mind and character; philosophies of gendered, racial, and caste oppression; philosophy and the colonial experience in Afro-Caribbean philosophy; and existentialism and the authentic life.

 
Gender, Justice, and Society
Proposed topics include: what is justice? What is gender justice? What would a just organization of labour and resources look like? How does the gendered distribution of labour and resources affect this? What is autonomy? How does gender affect the way we understand autonomy? What is culture, and why does it matter? How should the state respond to cultural differences? What should feminists say about this? Is violence justified? How can we make sense of gender-based violence? Should there be a distinction between the public and the private? Does it make sense to think of our personal lives as ‘political’?
 
Philosophy of Religions

This module will explore the thought about religion of a few key philosophical thinkers chosen from more than one tradition.  Representative thinkers might include, but are not limited to, atheists such as Feuerbach and Nietzsche, Buddhists such as Śāntideva and Dōgen, Christians such as Augustine, Pascal and Weil, Hindus such as the writers of the Upanisads and Shankara, Jews such as Spinoza and Buber, Muslims such as Mulla Sadra and Nasr, and Taoists such as Zhuangzi; in some years, more contemporary thinkers might be chosen.  The texts will be used to raise issues of wider philosophical significance, such as the variety of conceptions of ultimate reality; goals for the spiritual life; the nature of religious experience; the relations of religion and morality; explanations of suffering and evil; human nature and continuing existence after death; and problems of religious diversity.  While such content may vary from year to year, each year will focus on a few key thinkers and themes.

 
 
 
 

Careers

You will have a sound knowledge of both subjects and an understanding of how the two relate. Throughout the course you will have developed a range of transferable skills including the ability to communicate effectively, study independently, develop and sustain a reasoned argument, process complex information, and to critically analyse data and information.

Professional accreditation

The Institute of Physics accredits bachelor and integrated masters degree programmes for the purposes of the professional award of Chartered Physicist. Chartered Physicist requires an IOP accredited degree followed by an appropriate period of experience during which professional skills are acquired. 

An accredited bachelor degree partially fulfils the academic requirement for Chartered Physicist status. Further study to masters level, or equivalent work-based experience, is required to achieve Chartered Physicist. 

Average starting salary and career progression

In 2016, 93% of first-degree graduates from the School of Physics and Astronomy who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £24,386 with the highest being £55,000.* 

* Known destinations of full-time home and EU first-degree graduates, 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Careers support and advice

Studying for a degree at the University of Nottingham will provide you with the type of skills and experiences that will prove invaluable in any career, whichever direction you decide to take. Throughout your time with us, our Careers and Employability Service can work with you to improve your employability skills even further; assisting with job or course applications, searching for appropriate work experience placements and hosting events to bring you closer to a wide range of prospective employers.

Have a look at our careers page for an overview of all the employability support and opportunities that we provide to current students.  

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers
(Ranked in the top ten in The Graduate Market in 2013-2017, High Fliers Research).

 
 

Fees and funding

Scholarships and bursaries

The University of Nottingham offers a wide range of bursaries and scholarships. These funds can provide you with an additional source of non-repayable financial help. For up to date information regarding tuition fees, visit our fees and finance pages.

Home students*

Over one third of our UK students receive our means-tested core bursary, worth up to £2,000 a year. Full details can be found on our financial support pages.

* A 'home' student is one who meets certain UK residence criteria. These are the same criteria as apply to eligibility for home funding from Student Finance.

International/EU students

Our International Baccalaureate Diploma Excellence Scholarship is available for select students paying overseas fees who achieve 38 points or above in the International Baccalaureate Diploma. We also offer a range of High Achiever Prizes for students from selected countries, schools and colleges to help with the cost of tuition fees. Find out more about scholarships, fees and finance for international students.

 
 
 

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Disclaimer
This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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