PHIL2109 Contemporary Metaphysics

Time: Tuesdays 9am – 12pm, MorvB G4
Lecturer: Dr Wylie Breckenridge
Contacts:, 0428175034
Consultations: Mondays 1pm – 2pm, Tuesdays 12pm – 1pm, and by appointment
Website: (go to the 'Teaching' section)
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This course is an introduction to the central issues in contemporary metaphysics. We will work our way systematically through the book A Survey of Metaphysics by E. J. Lowe, covering one or two chapters each week. We will also read and carefully discuss eight of the most important papers in metaphysics.

There are three hours of class each week. In the first two hours we will talk about the topic for the week, allowing plenty of time for discussion. In preparation for these first two hours, students should read the relevant chapter(s) of Lowe. In the third hour we will discuss the week’s paper. In preparation for this hour, students should carefully read the paper in advance (this is very important). In some weeks there will be no paper to read; rather, we will discuss an assessment task from the previous week. These weeks will also be a chance to discuss anything that we feel needs to be discussed.

One of the aims of the course is to get an understanding of what metaphysics is, to gain some knowledge of the history of the subject, and to get a feel for some of the central problems and what we might say about them. But a more important aim is for us to just get better at doing philosophy. Students should thus work at developing the various skills central to being a philosopher: questioning things, especially the apparently obvious; thinking carefully about possible answers; listening to others and discussing with them; reading thoughtfully; speaking and writing clearly; and so on. Even if we never again consider the particular problems that we consider in this course, most of us will continue to philosophize throughout our lives, so learning how to do that well is one of the most important aspects of the course.

Weekly schedule (subject to slight changes)

Week 2 Introduction Lowe: Chapter 1
Week 3 Identity and Parthood Lowe: Chapter 2
Black (1952): ‘The Identity of Indiscernibles’
Week 4 Qualitative change Lowe: Chapter 3
Quine (1950): ‘Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis’
Week 5 Substantial change Lowe: Chapter 4
(discussion of task 1)
Week 6 Possibility & Necessity Lowe: Chapters 5 and 6
Kripke (1971): ‘Identity and Necessity’
Week 7 Possible worlds Lowe: Chapter 7
Stalnaker (1976): ‘Possible Worlds’
Week 8 Causation Lowe: Chapters 9 and 10
Lewis (1973): ‘Causation’
Week 9 Events Lowe: Chapters 12 and 13
(discussion of task 2)
Week 10 Space Lowe: Chapters 14 and 15
Reading TBA
Week 11 Time Lowe: Chapters 17 and 18
Lewis (1976): ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel’
Week 12 Properties & relations Lowe: Chapter 19
Armstrong (1989): ‘Universals as Attributes’
Week 13 Abstract objects Lowe: Chapter 20
(discussion of task 3)

Required texts

Other useful resources