This annotated bibliography is intended for graduate students or other researchers in philosophy or physics who want to acquaint themselves with the essentials in the philosophy of cosmology. Click on an entry to see a brief summary. Bold entries are contributions from investigators on the New Directions in Philosophy of Cosmology Project.
Overviews and Anthologies
※ K. Chacham, J. Silk, J.D. Barrow, and S. Saunders. The Philosophy of Cosmology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2017.
This anthology provides an in-depth and cutting-edge survey of issues of philosophical interest in modern cosmology. Featuring chapters from leading cosmologists, theoretical physicists, and philosophers of physics, it covers topics specific to the philosophy of cosmology – including structure formation, the structure of the standard model of cosmology, and tensions between gravity and quantum theory – as well more general philosophical issues that appear in the study of cosmology – including time’s arrow, the existence of the universe, confirmation of theories, and probability. This is the recommended starting place for graduate students familiar with philosophy of physics.
※ S. Dodelson, Modern Cosmology. Amsterdam: Academic Press, 2003.
A good textbook treatment that does not presume knowledge of general relativity and covers a variety of topics in addition to relativistic models. This text is a great starting point to understand the theoretical foundations of cosmology as a mature, autonomous theory.
※ G.F.R. Ellis “Issues in the Philosophy of Cosmology.” In Handbook in Philosophy of Physics. Edited by J. Butterfield and J. Earman. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Elsevier, 2006.
A detailed review article aimed at mathematically adept philosophers of physics, Ellis emphasizes the status of cosmology as a historical science with a unique object of study – the universe as a whole. Ellis defends an explanatorily ambitious role for the science of cosmology, beyond fixing some number of physical parameters in the best cosmological models. The article outlines in detail the state of cosmology at the time – both theoretically and observationally – and outlines 34 ‘theses’ detailing the assumptions, limits, and goals of cosmology.
※ R. Geroch, General Relativity from A to B. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
A clear introductory text on the conceptual foundations of general relativity. Highly recommended for philosophers looking to get acquainted with the field.
※ D.B. Malament, Topics in the Foundations of General Relativity and Newtonian Gravitation Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
A formal textbook on both general relativity and Newtonian gravity. Philosophers with a background in physics should read this as a background on many results in the foundations of general relativity.
※ B. Ryden, Introduction to Cosmology. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
Advanced undergraduate level textbook for physics students, this text provides an introduction to cosmology that does not presuppose background knowledge of general relativity.
※ C. Smeenk, “Philosophy of Cosmology.” In The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Physics. Edited by R. Batterman. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
This article provides an overview of the foundations of the standard model of cosmology, its modern quantitative applications, and philosophical issues related to cosmology. Topics include dark matter, dark energy, early universe cosmology, the uniqueness of the universe, and anthropic reasoning. The article is meant to serve as an introduction to philosophy of cosmology for philosophy graduate students.
※ C. Smeenk, and G.F.R. Ellis. “*Philosophy of Cosmology [https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/cosmology/]*.”In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by E.N. Zalta. Stanford, CA: Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University, 2017.
A recent review of the field, Smeenk and Ellis provide a detailed survey meant as a reference for working philosophers. This article covers the technical background for understanding the standard model of cosmology, in the manner of an encyclopedia article. Details regarding philosophical issues are up-to-date, and include topics such as underdetermination, the origins of the universe, testing cosmological models, and anthropic reasoning.
※ R. Torretti, “Spacetime Models for the World.”Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 31.2: 171–186, 2000.
A critique of the standard cosmological modelling practices. Toretti argues that the scientific tradition starting from Galileo and Newton is ill-suited to understanding the universe as a whole. He also argues that the origins of modern cosmology are shaky; Einstein’s first cosmological model was motivated in order to satisfy a philosophical principle, rather than to explain empirical phenomena. Further, he argues that the evidence for current models of cosmology is mediated through a formalism that is incompatible with the FLRW spacetimes it is meant to support.
※ H. Zinkernagel, ed.Special Issue: Philosophy of Cosmology Part A. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 46, 2014.
This special issue highlights the diversity of issues that might fall under the philosophy of cosmology. Starting with an overview of philosophical issues in cosmology, the papers in this issue cover topics in early universe cosmology, local implications of global expansion, testability, underdetermination, and alternatives to the ΛCDM model. This issue does not provide a systematic treatment of the field as a whole, but rather highlights particular avenues of research that fall within the philosophy of cosmology.