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Study information


Module titleMetaphysics
Module codePHL2016
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Adrian Currie (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Metaphysics has been concerned with philosophy’s most fundamental questions and traditionally was thought of as drawing upon distinctively philosophical methods to answer questions that the sciences could not answer.  For much of the 20th century “metaphysics” was seen as an outdated and moribund pursuit by philosophers who believed that philosophy lacks any distinctive knowledge-begetting methods of its own.  By the turn of the 21st century however, metaphysics had rebounded to become the fastest growing sector within philosophy. The module will provide you with an in depth study of the meaning of 'metaphysics', basic concepts of metaphysics and the nature of metaphysical inquiry into a variety of contemporary problems.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to introduce you to the place of metaphysics in the history of philosophy, to the challenges associated with the practice of metaphysics in contemporary thinking and with the principal problems that are presently addressed under the heading of metaphysics.  You will become well versed in the nature of these problems and how one goes about addressing them from ‘analytic’, ‘naturalistic’ and ‘critical’ points of view.  

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. articulate an understanding of the meaning of metapyhysics, the place of metaphysics in philosophy, various philosophical challenges to the status of metaphysics, and a familiarity with some range of particular topics in metaphysics and the reasons why they have merited philosophical attention;
  • 2. analyze the metaphysical presuppositions of truth claims;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. expose and explore the metaphysical presuppositions at play in other areas of philosophy;
  • 4. begin to consolidate philosophical concepts from other modules and begin to convey a sense of the unity of philosophy as a discipline;

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. begin to identify the substantive presuppositions of worldly truth claims beyond philosophy; and
  • 6. write coherently and cogently about the conceptual context of real-world beliefs.

Syllabus plan

After an initial introductory overview the module will proceed to consider the following basic philosophical topics:

  • Causation
  • Identity
  • Emergence
  • Supervenience
  • Personal Identity
  • Time
  • Material and Abstract Objects
  • Properties

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity27.511 x 2.5 hours per week comprising of lectures and seminars
Guided Independent Study33Assigned readings associated with each lecture
Guided Independent Study10Preparation for class discussion
Guided Independent Study35Preparation of Assigned Essay
Guided Independent Study44.5Exam Revision and Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay Plan250 words1-6Written

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination501 hour1-6Written
Essay501500 words1-6Written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExamination (1 hour)1-6August/September reassessment Period
EssayEssay (1500 words)1-6August/September reassessment Period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading:

The core reading for the course is Kim &Sosa (eds): Metaphysics: An Anthology (1999). This includes almost all of the key readings for the course and I recommend that you purchase a copy. Also, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which is free and online, contains many useful entries whichwill give you an appropriate grounding in each topic, but should not be used as a replacement for key readings. I will recommend additional readings in class.

1 Introduction -what the course is about, structure of teaching and assessment.

2 Existence


W.V. Quine (1948): 'On What There Is'; Review of Metaphysics.

(In Kim &Sosa; and here:

3 Realism and Anti-Realism


M. Dummett (1982): 'Realism'; Synthese, 52, pp55-112.

(In Kim & Sosa).

4 Supervenience and Emergence


J. Kim (1999): 'Making Sense of Emergence'; Philosophical Studies, 95

J. Kim (1990): 'Supervenience as a Philosophical Concept'; Metaphilosophy, 21

(In Kim & Sosa).

5 Identity over time


R.Chisholm (1976): 'Identity Through Time'; originally published in his Person & Object.

W.V. Quine (1953): 'Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis'; originally published in his From a Logical Point of View.

(Both in Kim & Sosa).

6 Persons and persistence


D. Parfit (1971): 'Personal Identity'; Philosophical Review, 80

(In Kim &Sosa)

E. Olson (2007): 'What are We?' Journal of consciousness studies.

(and here:

7 Causation


J.L. Mackie (1965): 'Causes and Conditions'; American Philosophical Quarterly, 5

D. Lewis (1973): 'Causation'; Journal of Philosophy, 70

(Both in Kim & Sosa).

8 Mental Causation


L. R. Baker (1993): 'Metaphysics and Mental Causation'; in Heil & Mele. (eds), 1993: Mental Causation; Oxford. (other entries in this volume are extremely good, too).

Block, N. (2003) 'Do Causal Powers Drain Away?'; Philosophy and Phenomenological Research


9 Abstract and Puzzling Entities


R. Sorensen (1999): 'Seeing Intersecting Eclipses'; The Journal of Philosophy, 96

R. Sorensen (2008): Seeing Dark Things. The Philosophy of Shadows,Oxford: OUP

G. Bealer (1993): 'Universals'; Journal of Philosophy, 90

10 Modality and Possible Worlds


A. Plantinga (1974): 'Modalities: Basic Concepts and Distinctions; in his The Nature of Necessity, Oxford.

D. Lewis (1986): 'Counterparts or Double Lives?'; in his On the Plurality of Worlds, Oxford.

(Both in Kim & Sosa).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Lectures and Powerpoints will be available on ELE

Key words search

Metaphysics, Existence, Identity, Ontology, Causation, Emergence, Truth, Knowledge, Being

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date