This course will consider some key issues in contemporary metaphysics and the philosophy of biology, especially as they relate to living things. Some general metaphysical questions will be considered, and how these apply to the biological domain. For example, we will consider what living things are, the distinction between living and non-living things, what parts living things have, under what conditions do smaller things such as atoms, cells and organs make up larger living things such as human beings, and whether organisms can have other organisms as parts, for example, foetuses and symbiotic bacteria. We will also tackle the more general question of what life is. Students will become acquainted with organism-centred views which hold that organisms are paradigm composites objects, and views which deny this intuition. There are, for example, views which hold that there is nothing metaphysically special about organisms compared to mountains and tables, and even views which hold that there are no organisms at all. These questions will lead us to consider more general metaphysical questions about the nature of all material objects.
Students will get a sense of how empirical science can be of relevance to answering traditional metaphysical questions concerning the material world.
The course should be of interest to students who are keen to learn about the nature of the world and living things, and will also appeal to students interested in the philosophy of science, epistemology, logic and biology. No previous background in metaphysics or biology is required.
This module is also available to undergraduates as PHI302.
If there are three or more postgraduates taking the module, a separate seminar will be scheduled for them.