This module covers selected topics in contemporary metaphysics, thereby illustrating its range of questions and its methods: (1) material objects; (2) universals and particulars; and (3) modality. Sample questions to be discussed are, respectively: Should we accept that there are such things as properties? If so, are material objects anything over and above their properties? What is the difference between an essential and an accidental property?
If you want to see whether you might enjoy thinking about metaphysical questions, try the following delightful little dialogue. While we won’t talk about holes in the course, we will see some similar argumentative moves being made in other metaphysical debates. (Don’t worry if you can’t understand all of it yet.)
- David Lewis and Stephanie Lewis, “Holes”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 48 (1970): 206-212. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00048407012341181#.UekK822DnTp
If you want to do some background reading more directly pertinent to the course material, try:
- Katherine Hawley, How Things Persist, Oxford University Press
- David Armstrong, Universals: An Opinionated Introduction, Westview Press
If you would like to read more, there are also a number of very good textbooks, such as:
- Carroll, J.W., and Markosian, N. 2010. An Introduction to Metaphysics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Jubien, M. 1997. Contemporary Metaphysics. An Introduction, Oxford: Blackwell.
- Loux, M. 1998. Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction, London: Routledge. (Later editions are also available.)
- Lowe, E. 2002. A Survey of Metaphysics, Oxford: OUP.
- MacDonald, C. 2005. Varieties of Things: Foundations of Contemporary Metaphysics, Oxford: Blackwell.
Teaching resources for this course will be made available on the Philosophy Moodle site.
Further course information
This module is an introduction to contemporary metaphysics. Students will acquire a good understanding of the nature and methods of metaphysics. They will be familiar with a number of central metaphysical questions, debates and theories and will have engaged in these debates themselves, both orally and in writing.
Intended Learning Outcomes
By the end of the course, students should be able to
- explain and contrast different theories on a range of metaphysical questions
- state and evaluate influential arguments for and against such theories
- explore how defenders of such a theory might respond to such arguments
- independently find and engage with literature relevant to a given topic in metaphysics.