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Unit code: PHIL30212
Credit Rating: 20
Unit level: Level 3
Teaching period(s): Semester 2
Offered by Philosophy
Available as a free choice unit?: N



Additional Requirements

Pre-requisites: 40 PHIL credits at Level 2

40 PHIL credits at Level 2.


This course aims to:

(i) give a detailed understanding of some important debates within contemporary metaphysics;
(ii) enable students to engage critically with some recent contributions to these debates; and
(iii) enhance students' powers of critical analysis, reasoning and independent thought.


This course will introduce students to some of the most lively debates in contemporary metaphysics. We will be considering the following questions. What is the nature of material objects? How do we deal with the paradoxes that they generate? Should we believe in properties (such as wisdom or triangularity)? How should we account for possibility and necessity? Are there such things as possible worlds or merely possible objects?

Teaching and learning methods

One 2-hour lecture and one 1-hour tutorial per week

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course unit, students will be able to demonstrate:

(i) a detailed critical understanding of some important debates within contemporary metaphysics;
(ii) a thorough knowledge of some recent contributions to these debates; and
(iii) an ability to present carefully-argued and independent lines of thought in this area.

Employability skills

  • Analytical skills
  • Innovation/creativity
  • Leadership
  • Project management
  • Oral communication
  • Problem solving
  • Research
  • Written communication

Assessment methods

  • Written exam - 100%

Recommended reading

A gentle introduction to all of the course:

Conee, Earl and Ted Sider 2005. Riddles of Existence: A Guided Tour of Metaphysics. See chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10.

On material objects:

Van Inwagen, Peter 1990. Material Beings. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. See chapters 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, and 14.

On properties:

Loux, Michael J. 1998. Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction.

           See chapters headed ‘The Problem of Universals’

On possibility and necessity:

Melia, Joseph 2003. Modality. Chapters 1, 5, 6, and 7.


Feedback methods

There will be a compulsory three-hour take-home mock exam on which you will receive written feedback.

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 lectures); and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

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.

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

David Liggins - Unit coordinator

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