alone in the universe

Unveiling Reality

Bryan Roberts

Are there mysteries that science cannot explain? Do we still need philosophy in order to understand the universe? Philosopher of physics Bryan Roberts explores the limits of our greatest source of knowledge.

About the Course

Does science still need philosophy? In a world of hadron colliders and global telescopes, what can’t science tell us? From the birth of the scientific method to the limits of black holes, philosopher of science Bryan Roberts takes us to the very limits of science and philosophy.

Scientists have achieved things that were simply unimaginable in centuries gone by. With physicists now delving into the intricacies of quantum mechanics and searching for dark energy, philosophy seems to have been left far behind.

In this two-part course, Bryan Roberts argues that scientists need philosophy now more than ever.  Drawing on theories at the cutting-edge of physics, he contends that scientists cannot help but think philosophically about the relationship between theory and reality.

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

  • How the modern scientific method came about
  • Why the ‘Shut up and calculate’ dictum is troubling
  • Why particle physicists will soon need to rethink the relationship between theory and data in their field
  • What science can’t do
  • How we draw the distinction between human limits and hard limits
  • Why there are some things we’ll never be able to prove


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 Dr Roberts.


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

About the Instructor

  • Bryan Roberts

    Professor of Philosophy of Science at LSE and winner of the Rob Clifton Memorial Book Prize, Bryan Roberts works on the philosophy of physics.

Course Syllabus

  • Part One: Why Science Needs Philosophy
    Roberts traces the history of the scientific method and explains why science needs philosophy.
  • Part Two: The Limits of Science
    Roberts draws a distinction between human limits and hard limits before revealing the limits of black holes.

Suggested Further Readings

Roberts, Bryan. Philosophico-Scientific Adventures. 2017.

Okasha, Samir. Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2002.