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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Philosophy and the Sciences: Introduction to the Philosophy of Physical Sciences by The University of Edinburgh

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About the Course

What is the origin of our universe? What are dark matter and dark energy? This is the first part of the course 'Philosophy and the Sciences', dedicated to Philosophy of the Physical Sciences. Scientific research across the physical 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 physical 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. 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. 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. Develop critical skills to evaluate and assess these problems. Suggested Reading To accompany 'Philosophy and the Sciences', we are pleased to announce a tie-in book from Routledge entitled 'Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone'. This course companion to the 'Philosophy and the Sciences' course was written by the Edinburgh Philosophy and the Sciences team expressly with the needs of MOOC students in mind. 'Philosophy and the Sciences for Everyone' contains clear and user-friendly chapters, chapter summaries, glossary, study questions, suggestions for further reading and guides to online resources. Please note, this companion book is optional - all the resources needed to complete the course are available freely and listed on the course site....

Top reviews


Jan 28, 2017

Un curso muy completo y fácil de digerir sobre la cosmología y el principio antrópico, muy recomendable para la comprensión que se tiene sobre el universo actualmente y la razón de nuestra existencia.


Jun 1, 2021

The course was really fun and enjoyable. The course offered a lot of information in a very simple way. All the instructors were very fluent with their explanation and I thoroughly enjoyed this course!

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1 - 25 of 196 Reviews for Philosophy and the Sciences: Introduction to the Philosophy of Physical Sciences

By Murtadha A

Aug 10, 2020

While I like how the instructors tried to explain different views of the "origin" of the universe, they seemed rather to explain 'how things work or evolve in the universe' as it was existing. There were some philosophical mistakes such as " because we're not in the center of the universe (or solar system), we're not special or privileged", to give one example. Our location in the universe or how small our planet is has nothing to do with "our privilege". One could argue that our sense of "privilege" is a metaphysical subject to begin with and therefor science has nothing to do with it. What makes us, as human beings, privileged is the part in us that is transcendent to the physical world - it is that what allows us to study the physical world. If we were to be completely bound by the physical laws, we would not be able to study it.

Furthermore, the scientific method unfortunately is bound by certain preferences such as matter, energy, constants and laws - the same things by which the universe is also bound (what makes our universe a universe). Any mathematical calculations require those constants and laws as they exist. Therefore, science cannot exactly explain the origin of such preferences (where they came from) because science requires the existence of these preferences. In addition, multiverse theory does not answer the main questions "why is there existence instead of nothing?", "where did all this come from?", "what gave the constants and laws what they are and how they work among all other possibilities?". One also should ask 'where did all the multiverse come from?' since they'd of a physical matter. In other words, multiverse theory creates more questions that gives answers. In addition, one of the fundamental principles in science is that if there are two explanations for a certain phenomena where one is simpler than the other, the simpler solution is selected. Choosing the multiverse theory (composed of almost infinite defect universes) over a single intelligent Creator is a bizarre move. I believe that this subject is a metaphysical one, unscientific one. I frankly see that many philosophical mistakes were taken from the western world, but no philosophical concepts from the Muslim world, for example, were presented.In addition, theistic western philosophy was not presented well.

In the end, I thank every instructor for presenting their ideas and findings.

By Sandun P

May 3, 2019

it was an amazing experience working through this course, Material and lectures were very interesting and made me want to pursue further in the world of philosophy

By Gonzalo V

Sep 6, 2017

Pretty good, but some of the positions were a little poor. Judging religion with scientific parameters is simply wrong, as wrong as judging science with religious parameters; the debate between creationism and evolutionary biology is outdated at least in the creationist position; better effort to try to rescue evolutionism, and not the same on creationism. Lastly, reducing religion to "religious experience" or "tradition" or "book" or "culture" is as very poor understanding of religion.

I am a fervent and sufficiently knowledgeable catholic, but as an engineer with studies in astrophysics, I'm really open to good arguments. I would recommend one reading and one source, as a way to update some of the arguments: the reading is Fides et ratio, from John Paul II, and the source is (italian) or (english), which is a set of articles made by proffesional scholars, on interdisciplinary matters of science and faith.

Thanks a lot for an otherwise very enjoyable class!

By Doug L

Nov 26, 2017

Many of the mathematical elements were beyond me, but the instructors presented the material in such a way that it really demonstrated the art of philosophical thinking about the field of science.

By Thomas J H

Jun 27, 2018

Great fun! Yes, challenging but also thought-provoking. Very responsible coverage of the science, and useful (not merely clever) philosophical discussions of key related concerns.

By amjad a

Sep 16, 2020

1- not really welcoming

2- i don't see a reason behind using a difficult language, it's like they are reading

3- the videos are really summarized, not enough for a beginner to understand. i know they didn't say it's for beginners (big mistake) but it's called an introduction!

i don't want to say that i regret all the time spent on this, but maybe i do... however, the information was nice and it was somehow useful.

By Guido B

Aug 5, 2017

I did not enjoy this course for the following reasons:

1.In the course presentation it is not specified which are the prerequisites for the learners. In this case it seems to me that the potential learner or student has got to have a good knowledge of modern astrophysics, if he or she wants to fully understand the matter as it is presented.

2. The videoclips by dr. J. Peacock are certainly clever, but are generally rather obscure and uncomprehensible by those who do not have a good knowledge of modern astrophysics. I must confess that I have understood almost nothing from those lectures, and I would not be able to repeat the arguments, even not in detail, to somebody else who does not know the subject.

3. The course slides are oftenj obscure, particularly those of weeks 3 and 4. Week 3 slides from page 13 to 42 inclusive are almost incomprehensible (even when supported by the video lecture), those of week 4 are about 50% unclear. Week 1 and 2 slides are better understandable.

4. In the philosophical part, the stress is on Duhem's, Popper's and Kuhn's theories, but for example, the Hume's critic of the cause concept is not even mentioned.

5. In the videos it is not possible to see what dr. J. Peacock writes on the whiteboard (problem of illumination during making of the videos?)

6. There is no real forum. The majority of threads are either instructor created, and contain reference for additional readings, or are rather old, dating eight monts or one year ago. So, there is no real feedback and discussions with other peers in the course.

7. I found the article, suggested as additional reading, by O. Lahav and M. Massimi, Dark Energy, Paradigm Shift, and the Role of Evidence, as well done and instructive.

By William B S

Jul 21, 2019

Question Your Assumptions

Science is a process, conducted by human beings over many years, decades and centuries. Scientists are influenced by who they are, where they were educated, who influenced them, what they believe, and the assumptions they hold. Yesterdays “science” can sometimes be tomorrows “garbage”. There is a long list of these, dead and abandoned ideas in all scientific professions and fields. This course has demonstrated that scientists are often wrong and for many reasons. This is a good thing because science is self-correcting, and therefore we do not worship science or scientists as it is not a religion, with “gods”. Our concept of the universe, and the “creation” of the universe has changed over many millennia. This is all to the good. It is important to be skeptical, and use critical thinking and logic. Some of the most brilliant scientists, i.e., Einstein, can be wrong or partially wrong. We live in an exciting time, when everything is being questioned (although creating some stress and anxiety): the “big bang”, the cosmological constant, the multiverse, string theory, and many other concepts. This course has made this very clear. It even has implications for religious belief, i.e., concepts as: the “beginning”, “creation”, the concept of “nothing”, quantum mechanics, the concept of cause and effect and others. The presenters did an excellent job in presenting these many controversies, without bias. The presenters also presented good example between theory and experimental evidence. There is bow a controversy that much of astronomy and cosmology is being unduly influenced by mathematics rather than experimental evidence. However, string theory for example is difficult to demonstrate experimentally. Finally, one must always question one’s beliefs and assumption, even thought that can be emotionally and psychologically difficult (i.e., Einstein and Bohr), but that is science, a process not a religion. Therefore, I am also taking the other course, on the philosophy of science: cognition. William B. Secor

By Beatriz A T

Jun 15, 2018

Excellent course! The subject matter is fascinating and so well taught! The lectures are very interesting and the transcripts and PDF files provided, make the understanding of basic cosmological concepts more manageable especially for people like me with no previous knowledge on the subject matter and English not being my native tongue. I really appreciate all the extra links with information for each week topics. I certainly will take time now (that I’ve finished answering all the quizzes), to read the articles and watch the clips from the resources link ! I am definitely taking Part II of this course. C O N G R A T U L A T I O N S!!! Awesome faculty team & content!

By Basalat K

Oct 13, 2021

This was FIRST EVER philosophy of science experience. Never been a part of that field until now. The course was extraordinary great with plenty of knowledge. Although some of the information sorta of advance-level for me and it took me sometime to understand those things. I had to go through some other sources outside of the course to understand what our professors and lecturers are presenting as I am totally a layman in philosophy of science. Thank you so much for such an informative course. Looking forward to continue learning the similar courses.

By Riccardo D C

May 23, 2018

A very enjoyable tour across the history of philosophy and the science, with some very exciting talks on the current state of knowledge. Whets the student's appetite to delve more in depth into the issues postulated throughout the course. Prof. Michela Massimi has mastered the topics so well that she can deliver the lectures effortlessly. This course is a must for the beginner, and highly recommended for those who know the subject but want a fresher perspective.

By Ben B

Oct 6, 2019

This course will interest physics and cosmology buffs as well as philosophy enthusiasts. It discusses deep philosophy-of-science topics, like "how do we know that we know" and "how can cosmology be a science if you can't really create experiments"; it does this through an interesting and accessible explanation of the latest in cosmology.

The course is challenging but accessible and provides a good glimpse into both cosmology and philosophy.

By Haaran A

May 10, 2017

This course is suitable for anyone who is passionate about learning Cosmology in detail because to learn Cosmology, you need to know how it came to being how it is today. History is important, and we should know the history of the things we are passionate about. Thank you for the wonderful experience I had while taking this course's lectures. Good Work by the whole team.

By Christopher L

Sep 21, 2018

Sometimes difficult to follow due to the amount of math, this course is eye-opening and inspiring. It's nice to know that those of us who spend more time questioning and hypothesizing than actually "proving" theories are inspiring more scientifically-minded people; and, it's exciting to know that those people have made such strides in these fields.

By Talal K

Nov 5, 2019

This course challenged the idea of Cosmology as Physical Science and argued whether it should be regarded as physical science or not. This course used Scientific Theory and problem of underdetermination of evidence for modern cosmology to test theories or hypothesis to understand the inflation of universe or existence of dark matter or energy etc.

By Kevin L S

Jun 25, 2018

New terms and definitions are always a challenge, but I really enjoyed this course and I found the course stuck with the important information; I also liked that this course was geared for those interested in Cosmology, as I am. The videos are well done and engaging.

By Małgorzata S

Aug 6, 2017

Extremely interesting with lots of additional readings for further study. For someone whose knowledge of physics is rather limited (and long forgotten from school) it was still accessible, which shows great teaching skills. Highly recommended!

By Edmund B

Sep 5, 2018

High quality presentation and materials for these topics. Haven't had this much fun in a while with philosophy and science. Dark Energy and Dark Matter will continue to be topics I am interested in. Congratulations University of Edinburgh.

By Katherine M K

Jul 4, 2017

I have always felt kind of "Dumb" when it came to physical sciences, but this course gave me a different perspective to understanding the physical science concepts that I was unaware of previously. Very engaging and well put together.

By Emiel d J

Nov 29, 2018

A great course introduction on the philosophy of science and cosmology. I found it to be very complex because I am somewhat unfamiliar with cosmology. But still the explanations were good and eventually I got it.

By Rolando B

Jan 29, 2017

Un curso muy completo y fácil de digerir sobre la cosmología y el principio antrópico, muy recomendable para la comprensión que se tiene sobre el universo actualmente y la razón de nuestra existencia.

By Douglas J A

Feb 13, 2023

I was very pleased with this course. The quality of instruction was superior to any course I've taken to date online. The way the course is set up is very user friendly, and I link the fact that I was able to take the quizzes until I earned 100%. Discussions and other activities were voluntary, thus I could quickly earn my certificate and master the core material. The links to readings and staff publications are excellent resource materials, and I expect to come back to them many times in the future as I continue to pursue studies and research in this area. This is a cutting edge course in philosophy that intersects physics and cosmology; I would like to study at the University of Edinburgh someday soon.

By Jose B

Nov 20, 2022

Somos los observadores de este Universo? El tiempo es una disensión ilimitada, siendo que nosotros los observadores tenemos un tiempo tan limitado? La inteligencia humana puede dar origen a otros universos? Los universos humanos (P.E. la economia), pueden hacer peligrar la existencia real de nuestra especie como observadora de nuestro tiempo/espacio de nuestro universo? Más allá de nuestra presencia en este universo, todos los universos existen… pero a quién afecta si no hay mas observadores probables o sí pero no nos podremos encontrar en estas dimensiones fisicas… Tal vez sòlo nos podamos encontrar en dimensiones mentales o en realidades virtuales.

By Md. A S K

Jul 5, 2020

This was a beautifully structured and comprehensive introductory course to the philosophy of physical sciences. Primarily, being not a student of cosmology or philosophy, I learned a lot from this course. Since when the lectures were recorded many developments have taken place in the field of cosmology, especially regarding the evidence of Gravitational waves. Therefore, I would recommend updating the materials with the latest developments if possible (e.g., by adding or two additional videos). Lastly, I would express my heart-felt gratitude to the course instructor for their efforts to make things easy.

By Aedrian A

Jan 19, 2021

This amazing course highlights the intersection and interaction of philosophy and the physical sciences through the history of the latter fields' understanding of the universe. While, admittedly, the physics (and the mathematics) involved is quite overwhelming for someone like me in the life and biomedical sciences, one can never be wrong in taking note of the illustrative examples in the context of the mental-philosophical processes through which the best minds of our species attempt to make sense of physical entities and forces far greater than ourselves.