Review of The Philosophy of Cosmology edited by K. Chamcham, J. Silk, J. D. Barrow & S. Saunders

Phillip Helbig

The Observatory, 137, 1261, 301–303 (December 2017)


This is a book review of The Philosophy of Cosmology by K. Chamcham, J. Silk, J. D. Barrow, & S. Saunders. In the words of George Ellis, one of the editors of and also a contributor to this volume, "You cannot do physics or cosmology without an assumed philosophical basis." A few decades ago, partly due to the dearth of observational data, the philosophy of cosmology was not an unusual subject, investigated by cosmologists rather than philosophers. This volume, based on a series of workshops and a conference, brings together contributions by cosmologists and philosophers. Contributions range from the very philosophical, with little actual science, to reviews of cosmological topics having little if any philosophical content, though most are between those two extremes, discussing current scientific topics from a philosophical viewpoint, or vice versa. As expected, topics such as fine-tuning, the arrow of time, the anthropic principle, limits of knowledge, criteria for scientific testability, the role of observers, the multiverse, Boltzmann brains, the holographic principle, entropy, etc. are covered. Although occasionally referring to one another, the chapters are largely self-contained. Much of the book is rather technical; "philosophy" should not be confused with armchair cosmology. Copious references make it a good starting point for those wishing to delve deeper.


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