An Overview of Metaphysics
Metaphysics is the study of the most general and foundational concepts in philosophy. It concerns the framework of human conceptual schemes, on the assumption that getting the basics right is the key step towards better human understanding of our existence The subject has been revived in recent years, after a wave of major criticisms.
We will first expand on the nature of the subject, and then consider why it arouses some hostility. We will then look at two of its greatest thinkers, and then three Americans who have explored the main modern views. The second half of the course will plunge into the best known problems.
On each topic we will look at the famous examples and principal theories, and edge our way towards a broad view which is both coherent and accurate. It is hoped that tidying up the attic of your intellectual life will be a liberating experience.
Term Starts: 2nd October
Background Reading List
Politis, Vassilis., Aristotle and the Metaphysics
Leibniz, Gottfried., Monadology, in Philosophical Essays ed. Ariew and Garber (Hackett)
Quine, Willard., 'On What There Is', in From a Logical Point of View
Nolan, Daniel., David Lewis
Lowe. E.J., A Survey of Metaphysics
If you are planning to purchase books, remember that courses with too few students enrolled will be cancelled. The Department accepts no responsibility for books bought in anticipation of a course.
If you have enrolled on a course starting in the autumn, you can become a borrowing member of the Rewley House library from 1st September and we will try to ensure that as many titles as possible are available in the Library by the start of each term. If you are enrolled on a course starting in other terms, you can become a borrowing member once the previous term has ended.
All weekly class students may become borrowing members of the Rewley House Continuing Education Library for the duration of their course. Prospective students whose courses have not yet started are welcome to use the Library for reference. More information can be found on the Library website.
There is a Guide for Weekly Class students which will give you further information.
Availability of titles on the reading list (below) can be checked on SOLO, the library catalogue.
Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.
To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.
Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.
Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from between January 1st and July 31st after the current academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.
Course fee: £205.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
Peter taught Philosophy to sixth formers, and has since done a PhD in metaphysics at Birkbeck, University of London. He is Secretary of the Philosophical Society at Rewley House. His website is philosophyideas.com.
To understand the most general principles and concepts that constitute our mental scheme for relating to the world (and how we might possibly improve it).
1. To grasp an outline history of metaphysics
2. To understand the main concepts of metaphysics, and the debates that surround them
3. To attempt a critical evaluation of the main approaches, in search of a perfect conceptual scheme
Teaching will be by lecturing, with plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion. Each session will focus on a handout about that topic, which will summarise the main concepts and issues. The ten handouts will give a concise survey of metaphysics.
By the end of this course students will be expected to:
1. Be familiar with the notable philosophers, concepts and theories involved in metaphysics.
2. Have understood the focal issues in the subject, and learned the methods of argument required.
3. Have made some progress towards a clearer and more confident grasp of how to understand existence.
Either a single 1,500 word essay towards the end of the course, or three 500-word pieces at intervals.
Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.
To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.
Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.
Level and demands
The course should suit beginners, though some acquaintance with philosophical ways of thinking will help.
Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support