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Maudlin Final

The Philosophy of Quantum Theory

Tim Maudlin

How can we make sense of quantum mechanics? NYU philosopher of science and author of The Metaphysics of Physics puts forward his view of the philosophical insights hidden in the theory.

About the Course

In the early 20th century, certain observations were made that seemed to contradict the model given by classical physics. These new observations eventually gave rise to a new and controversial interpretation of reality: the Copenhagen Quantum Theory.

Why did Einstein claim that God didn’t play dice? What does it mean for two particles to be in an entangled state? Is the world necessarily deterministic, or is it possible that some processes are truly random? What is spooky action-at-a-distance, and how was it proved with simple maths?  Can the measurement of a result affect the result itself? Is an electron a particle, a wave, or both?

NYU philosopher of science and author of The Metaphysics of Physics looks at the experiments of the early quantum physicists and the letters they exchanged, in order to provide a coherent and easy-to-understand history of quantum theory, and evaluate the many interpretations it has spawned.

By the end of the course, you will have learned:

• why Einstein implored fellow scientists to ‘try to hold on to physical reality’
• why you can never prove that physics is indeterministic
• what it means for something to be ‘quantized’
• what exactly the double slit experiment showed
• what Schrodinger’s Cat was meant to rule out
• how the many-worlds theory negates the concept of probability

As part of the course there are in-video quiz questions to consolidate your learning, suggested further readings to stimulate a deeper exploration of the topic, discussion boards to have your say and an end-of-course assessment set by Tim Maudlin.

IAI Academy courses are designed to be challenging but accessible to the interested student. No specialist knowledge is required.

About the Instructor

  • Tim Maudlin

    Tim Maudlin is professor of philosophy at New York University and a world-leader in the field of philosophy of physics. He is the author of the recently published Philosophy of Physics: Quantum Theory and made his name studying the mysterious behaviour of entangled quantum particles. Maudlin warns that we should be wary of physical theories that contradict our direct impression of reality, especially when it comes to the nature of time.

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: The Problem of Non-Locality
    Einstein famously disputed some of quantum theory’s findings, claiming that God does not play dice with the universe. Here Maudlin reviews the arguments and ideas that have since stemmed from that debate.
  • Part Two: Making Sense of Quantum Theory
    How can experiments not have a single unique outcome, such as Schrödinger’s cat ending up dead or alive? Hear Maudlin’s take on the “Measurement Problem” and what it really means.

Suggested Further Readings

At a popular level:

  • What Is Real? By Adam Becker, which goes through the history of the theory.
  • Quantum Reality by Nick Herbert, which covers many different conceptual aspects


Academic books about quantum theory:

  • Quantum Mechanics and Experience by David Albert
  • Philosophy of Physics: Quantum Theory by Tim Maudlin


At a more specialized level:

  • Quantum Dialogue by Mara Beller goes through the history in more detail
  • Foundations of Quantum Mechanics by Travis Norsen is a textbook written at the level of an undergraduate physics course.