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Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology

Unit code: PHIL10622
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 1
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit?: Y




The course aims to:

- To introduce some of the central problems of metaphysics and epistemology
- To introduce some of the central positions, theories, and arguments in metaphysics and epistemology
- To introduce some of the central modal, epistemic and logical concepts in metaphysics and epistemology, such as: necessity, possibility, contingency, a priori knowledge, a posteriori knowledge, necessary and sufficient conditions, etc.


This course concerns key topics in the theory of knowledge (or epistemology, as it is known) and in metaphysics (the study of reality at its most general).

The topics in epistemology concern such questions as: What is knowledge? What is it to perceive something? Can we know anything through the use of reason alone? What is it for our beliefs to be justified? What is the scope of our knowledge?

The topics in metaphysics concern such questions as: What is it for one event to cause another? What is it to be a person? What makes you now the same person as you were ten years ago? What is time? Does it flow? Do we have free will? What is it for something to be possible?

Teaching and learning methods

One 2 hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial weekly.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, you should be able to:

- Explain some of the central problems of metaphysics and epistemology
- Understand and apply key concepts in the critical analysis of these problems and more widely
- Explain and critically assess some of the central theories and approaches to metaphysical and epistemological problems and understand their implications for wider issues
- Construct and critically analyze arguments and philosophical and other theoretical positions that bear on metaphysical and epistemological issues
- Interpret and evaluate complex philosophical texts

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Oral communication
  • Research
  • Written communication

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 67%
  • Written assignment (inc essay) - 33%

Recommended reading

Earl Conee and Theodore Sider, Riddles of Existence. A Guided Tour of Metaphysics
Duncan Pritchard (2006) What is this thing called knowledge? Routledge

Feedback methods

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student's work. The main forms of feedback on this course are written feedback responses to assessed essays and exam answers.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lecture); presenting a question on the discussion board on Blackboard; and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Study hours

  • Lectures - 20 hours
  • Tutorials - 10 hours
  • Independent study hours - 170 hours

Teaching staff

Christopher Daly - Unit coordinator

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