PHI302 - Metaphysics



This year’s module will begin with questions about the ontology of material things and its implications for personal identity broadly construed. What is a material thing? Is it perhaps a sort of compound of matter and form, as Aristotelians say? What material things are there? For instance, is there a thing made up of you, my left foot, and the northern hemisphere of Mars? Can the same matter make up more than one material thing at the same time? Do theories about material things clash with views about personal identity? And do these metaphysical questions really have answers that we can discover or get wrong, or are the answers somehow up to us to decide? And seeing as we ourselves appear to be material things, how do these matters bear on our own nature?

The rest of the module will be devoted to the philosophy of time--in particular the passage of time and nature of the present. The present time appears to have a special status that the past and future haven't got.  Even if current events are of no special historical interest, they seem intrinsically different from past and future events simply because they are going on now.  And this special status that present events have must always be 'moving' from earlier events to later ones.  This 'movement' is time's passage.  But most philosophers of time believe that this passage, and the special status of the present, are an illusion.  This is the debate we will examine.

Preparatory Reading

A good place to start is E.J. Lowe, A Survey of Metaphysics (OUP).


One coursework essay (50%) and one two hour examination (unseen, 50%); or one long essay.


Eric Olson

Lectures: Autumn Semester 2016-17

Tues 3-4 and 5-6


Thurs 3-4
Portobello B51d