Classes: Tuesday/Thursday 2:30-3:45pm


Course description

Metaphysics studies the fundamental nature of our reality and of our selves. Questions considered are: Is there a fundamental level of reality describable by physics alone? When and how do particles compose larger objects? How can one object constitute another? What constitutes a person or a self? Do we have free will or is free will inconsistent with the laws of nature? What are laws of nature? Why does the universe exist?  



All readings are either linked to below or will be distributed through Blackboard. However, here are some useful introductory metaphysics textbooks:

Earl Conee and Theodore Sider, Riddles of existence: a guided tour of metaphysics. Oxford University Press, 2005.

John W. Carroll and Ned Markosian, An introduction to metaphysics. Cambridge University Press, 2010.




2% will be deducted from the student’s final mark for every unexcused absence. If a student is going to miss a lecture, he/she must contact the instructor prior to that lecture.

Article analysis. Due Monday, October 17. Worth 20%.

Choose an article from the reading list. Summarise what the article is trying to do then critically analyse it. 1000-1500 words. Upload to blackboard before deadline.

Research paper. Due Monday, November 28. Worth 40%.

Choose a topic from the course, write a philosophical essay on it. 2500-3500 words. Upload to blackboard before deadline.

Final exam (exam period is Mon – Sat, Dec 12 – 17). Worth 40%.

No late papers will be accepted, or any missed examination rescheduled, without a doctor’s signed medical excuse or without proof of some other serious emergency. If a student is going to miss a paper deadline or an examination, he/she must contact the instructor in advance to give a reason. Proof of the student’s excuse is due immediately upon the student’s return to class.





Week 1: What is metaphysics?

Tuesday, August 30

Optional reading: “On what grounds what” – Jonathan Schaffer, 2009 (read only section 1).

Thursday, September 1

Required reading: “On what grounds what” – Jonathan Schaffer, 2009 (read only section 1).

Optional additional reading: “On what there is” – W.V.O. Quine, 1948.


Week 2: The idea that everything is physical

Tuesday, September 6

Required reading: “A Definition of Physicalism” – Philip Pettit, 1993.

Optional additional reading: “There is no question of physicalism” – Hugh Mellor and Tim Crane, 1990.

Thursday, September 8

Required reading: (i) “Reply to Pettit” – Tim Crane, 1993; (ii) “Microphysicalism without contingent micro-macro laws” – Philip Pettit, 1994.


Week 3: Supervenience, dependence, and entailment

Tuesday, September 13

Required reading: (i) “Does Physicalism Need Fixing?” – Chris Daly, 1995; (ii) “Microphysicalism, Dottism, and Reduction” – Philip Pettit, 1995.

Thursday, September 15

Required reading: “Armchair metaphysics” – Frank Jackson, 1998 (read only sections 1-4).


Week 4: Conditions for composition I

Tuesday, September 20

Required reading: “Restricted composition” Ned Markosian, 2008.

Thursday, September 22

Required reading: “Restricted composition” Ned Markosian, 2008.


Week 5: Conditions for composition II

Tuesday, September 27

Required reading: “A defence of mereological universalism”  – James van Cleve, 2008.

Thursday, September 29

Required reading: “Moving faster than light” – Hud Hudson, 2002.


Week 6: Composition and identity

Tuesday, October 4

Required reading: “Many-One Identity” – David Baxter, 1988.

Optional additional reading: “Composition is identity: framing the debate” – Aaron Cotnoir, 2014.

Thursday, October 6

Required reading: “Against composition as identity” – Kris McDaniel, 2008.


Week 7: Constitution and identity

Tuesday, October 11

Required reading: “Constitution” – Theodore Sider, 2005.

Thursday, October 13

Required reading: “Why constitution is not identity” – Lynne Rudder Baker, 1997.


Article analysis due: Monday, October 17.


Week 8: Personal identity I

Tuesday, October 18

Required reading: “Personal identity: a materialist account” – Sydney Shoemaker, 1984.

Optional additional reading: “Personal identity” (sections 5.1-5.3) – Carroll and Markosian, 2010.

Thursday, October 20

Required reading: “Personal identity: the dualist theory” – Richard Swinburne, 1984.


Week 9: Personal identity II

Tuesday, October 25

Required reading: “How to determine which is the true theory of Personal Identity” – Richard Swinburne, 2012.

Thursday, October 27

Required reading: “Against simplicity” – Sydney Shoemaker, 2012.


Week 10: Free will I

Tuesday, November 1

Required reading: “The Incompatibility of Free Will and Determinism” – Peter van Inwagen, 1975.

Optional additional reading: “Free will and determinism” – Theodore Sider, 2005.

Thursday, November 3

Required reading: “Are We Free to Break the Laws?” – David Lewis, 1981.

Optional additional reading: “Free will and determinism” – Theodore Sider, 2005.


Week 11: Free will II

Tuesday, November  8

Required reading: TBA

Thursday, November 10

Required reading: TBA


Week 12: Laws of nature

Tuesday, November 15

Required reading: “Laws of nature” (sections 4.1-4.3) – Carroll and Markosian, 2010.


Thursday, November 17

Required reading: “Laws of nature” (sections 4.4-4.5) – Carroll and Markosian, 2010.



Week 13: Thanksgiving recess (nov 21 – 25)


Week 14: Why is there something rather than nothing?

Tuesday, November 29

Required reading: “The puzzle of reality: why does the universe exist?” – Derek Parfit, 1998.

Thursday, December 1

Required reading: “Response to Derek Parfit” – Richard Swinburne, 1998.


Week 15: Revision

Tuesday, December 6

Thursday, December 8

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