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Module VPR-2100:

Module Facts

Run by School of History, Philosophy and Social Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Toby Betenson

Overall aims and purpose

This module introduces the philosophical sub-discipline of ‘metaphysics’. Although this term has had various definitions over the philosophical ages, in contemporary philosophy metaphysics is largely defined by the peculiar set of philosophical questions or problems – problems that aren’t easily included in any other philosophical sub-discipline – with which metaphysicians concern themselves. These questions include: Do I have free will? What makes something ‘possible’? What makes me ‘me’, and do I persist through time? How does an immaterial mind affect the material world? Are there many things in the universe, or is there only one? We will discuss all these questions and more, and we will conclude by asking whether metaphysics is possible.

Course content

This course will cover all the major landmarks in contemporary metaphysics, including: Causation; free will and determinism; modality; personal identity, persistence and continuation; the mind-body problem; ontology. We will conclude by relating this material to the meta-philosophical question of whether or not metaphysics is possible, with particular focus on the critiques of Hume, positivism, and Wittgenstein.

Assessment Criteria


(C- to B+) Work in this band will demonstrate good knowledge and understanding of contemporary metaphysics, and (for the higher grades) will be able to apply that knowledge to the construction of an argument relevant to the content of this course. This argument might show some minor misunderstandings, or might not be presented with impeccable structure, but will nonetheless demonstrate the student's knowledge and understanding of the subject area, and will show that they are capable of constructing a logical and coherent argument.


(A- to A*) Work in this band will demonstrate comprehensive and very detailed understanding of contemporary metaphysics, based on extensive background reading, and will demonstrate an outstanding ability to construct a logical and coherent argument relevant to the content of this course.


(D- to D+) Work in this band will demonstrate a cursory knowledge of the arguments within contemporary metaphysics, but might show a lack of understanding, and will not demonstrate an ability to analyse or evaluate these arguments. Work in this band will fail to develop a successful argument relevant to the content of this course.

Learning outcomes

  1. To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the major themes, concepts, arguments and debates within metaphysics.

  2. To analyse, research, and construct a sustained argument applicable to the content of this course.

  3. To demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the meta-philosophical question of whether or not metaphysics is possible.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Essay 1 50
Essay 2 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Private study 178
Lecture 22

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Articulacy in identifying underlying issues in a wide variety of debates.
  • Precision of thought and expression in the analysis and formulation of complex and controversial problems.
  • Sensitivity in interpretation of religious and philosophical texts drawn from a variety of ages and/or traditions.
  • Clarity and rigour in the critical assessment of arguments presented in such texts.
  • The ability to use and criticise specialised religious and philosophical terminology.
  • The ability to abstract and analyse arguments, and to identify flaws in them, such as false premises and invalid reasoning.
  • The ability to construct rationally persuasive arguments for or against specific religious and philosophical claims.
  • The ability to move between generalisation and appropriately detailed discussion, inventing or discovering examples to support or challenge a position, and distinguishing relevant and irrelevant considerations.
  • The ability to consider unfamiliar ideas and ways of thinking, and to examine critically presuppositions and methods within the disciplines of philosophy and religion.


Reading list

(1) Jaegwon Kim & Ernest Sosa (eds), A Companion to Metaphysics

Courses including this module