Proposed: Introductory Metaphysics

Course Description

 “What is?” The preceding sentence was not a typo, but a central problem of metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that studies, broadly speaking, the kinds of things that exist and how they interact. Is the universe made up of tiny, indivisible atoms? Nothingness? Or maybe it ought to be expressed as a mathematical function? And how do these things interact?

In this course, we will discuss two longstanding problems of metaphysics that involve many of the questions mentioned above, and have significant consequences for how we understand ourselves and our relation to the world around us. First, we will consider the problem of free will versus determinism. Topics will include: the nature of causation; the concepts of freedom and the different forms of determinism; the problem posed by the possible existence of a god or gods; and, our understanding of natural laws. Second, we will consider the mind-body problem. Topics will include: substance; mental states and qualia; the existence or non-existence of time; and, the concept of change.

Required Course Texts

  1. Caroll and Markosian, An Introduction to Metaphysics. Cambridge, 2010.
  2. Various articles, as indicated.

Course Schedule

All information subject to change with notice. 

Week Readings Topic

What Can I Do?

01 AIM: Chapter 1. What is metaphysics?
02 AIM: Chapter 2. Causation
03 AIM: Chapter 3. Freedom and Determinism
04 Aristotle, Hobbes. Varieties of Determinism
05 van Inwagen, James. Varieties of Indeterminism
06 AIM: Chapter 4. Laws of Nature
07 Review & Midterm  

What Am I?

08 AIM: Chapter 5. Personal Identity
09 Descartes, Elizabeth. Mind-Body Dualism
10 AIM: Chapter 6. Mental States
11 Kim, Davidson. Physicalism
12 Nagel, Searle. Against Physicalism
13 AIM: Chapter 7; McTaggart. Time & Change


AIM     Carroll and Markosian, An Introduction to Metaphysics.