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Is it possible to wield a two handed weapon in one hand? If so, what penalties apply? If not, are there circumstances or abilities that would make it possible?

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It is not generally possible

Absent any special feat, class ability, or what have you, it is not generally possible to wield a two-handed weapon in one hand. You can carry one with a single hand, but not fight with it.

Larger creatures can weild smaller creatures’ two-handed weapons in one hand

You can wield the two-handed weapon of a creature one size category smaller than yourself at a −2 penalty. That means you, if we assume you are a Medium creature, could wield a Small two-handed weapon one-handed at a −2 penalty. On average, you generally see a ~1 damage increase for a two-handed weapon over a one-handed weapon, which is not worth a −2 penalty.

Unfortunately, most feats aimed at allowing you to use inappropriately sized weapons without penalty focus on wielding larger weapons. I cannot find any in Pathfinder that work. In 3.5, there were the “web enhancement” kobolds, but as far as I know the Slight Build feature, unique to those kobolds, was literally the only thing that could accomplish it.

Wielding weapons with both hands is typically a good thing

Really must be mentioned: because of the 1½ Str to damage, wielding weapons with both hands is simply better than wielding it in one hand, typically even accounting for the loss of shield or a second weapon.

There may be reasons other than damage that you’re interested in this, but I wanted to point it out.

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Indeed, the player in question wants to gain the magical benefits of the particular 2h weapon, but not have to sacrifice his magical shield. –  Eric B Jun 7 '13 at 3:34
@EricB I'd turn it into a little side-quest to get the sword modified so that it can be used that way. Or the shield, for that matter. The animated property is still a thing in Pathfinder, right? –  KRyan Jun 7 '13 at 4:24

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