Reality, Being and Existence: An Introduction to Metaphysics (Online)
Metaphysics is the most general investigation into the nature of reality. It has been at the centre of philosophy since the beginning of the western tradition in ancient Greece, and many of its concerns are the same as those of Plato and Aristotle. This course will introduce you to some of the traditional concerns.
Listen to Dr Ilhaam Isaacs talking about the course:
After a brief introduction to the nature of metaphysics, the course will focus on five central and traditional metaphysical questions: do we have free will? What is the nature of the causal relation - cause and effect - that binds our world together? What is the nature of time? How does something (for example, a person) change and remain the same thing? Does reality contain universal features as well as particular entities?
For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.
The areas you will cover in this course are:
Introduction: what is metaphysics? An introduction to the distinctive character of metaphysical questions: the history of the idea of metaphysics, understood as the most general and abstract inquiry into the nature of reality.
Existence: what is existence? What is it to exist? People disagree about what exists; but how can we understand this disagreement? Are there things which do not exist?
Universals and particulars: in addition to particular objects and events, our world seems to contain general or universal features of things, like their colours and their shapes. Is this an illusion or does the world really contain such features, known as 'universals'?
Realism and idealism: does the world exist independently of our minds? Realism is the view that it does; idealism is the view that reality is mind-dependent. Are any features of the world mind-dependent?
The freedom of the will: we think our actions and decisions are free, or up to us, but this idea seems to be in conflict with the apparent fact that everything which happens is determined by what happens before it (this is known as 'determinism'). Does determinism imply that free will is an illusion, or are free will and determinism really compatible after all?
Cause and effect: what is it for one thing to cause another, or to make something happen? Is there more to cause and effect than the mere regularity of things happening after one another? If so, is causation a physical process, or is mental causation also possible?
The nature of time and space: what are time and space? Is there no more to them than the temporal and spatial relations which hold between events and objects? Or should they rather be conceived as the 'containers' in which things exist and events occur? Are the past, present and future genuine aspects of reality, or are they merely 'subjective' features of our experience of time?
We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.
To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following paperback book:
Crane, Tim, & Farkas, Katalin, (Editors), Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology (OUP, Oxford, 2004)
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. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.
For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php
Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. 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.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.
This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.
Home/EU Fee: £280.00
Non-EU Fee: £300.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
Dr Amna Whiston
- To introduce students to some of the central problems of the metaphysical tradition of Western philosophy.
- To introduce students to some central theories of metaphysics.
- To introduce students to the methods of metaphysical thinking.
The majority of the course content will be delivered by textbook with assigned reading for each week. There are also suggestions for optional additional readings or online resources each week. Reading will be guided either by a brief statement or detailed notes.
By the end of this course you will be able to understand:
- The nature of the six problems introduced in the course, and something of their historical background.
- The main arguments for and against the various positions in the metaphysical debates under discussion.
- The sources of metaphysical problems in general.
By the end of this course you will be able to:
- Recognise what counts as a reason for or against a metaphysical position.
- Criticise contemporary and classical metaphysical arguments and theories.
- Analyse certain difficult and historically important texts.
Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.
Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.
Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.
Level and demands
FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 hours.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support