PHIL 2040 - Metaphysics: Identity, Time and Freedom

North Terrace Campus - Semester 1 - 2015

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that asks the most general questions about the nature of reality. It deals with the nature of what there is, abstracting away from the particular details of goings on in our world, in an attempt to undercover the underlying structure of fundamental classification and of reality. Traditionally, metaphysics has been concerned with issues such as the identity of objects through time, the existence of abstract entities such as properties, the freedom of the will, the existence of God, the reality of time and the nature of causation. In this course, we will approach some of these issues by examining several discussions of them in contemporary analytic philosophy. Most of the readings we will refer to are therefore by contemporary philosophers even though, occasionally, we will look at discussions of metaphysical issues in ancient philosophy and modern philosophy.

  • General Course Information
    Course Details
    Course Code PHIL 2040
    Course Metaphysics: Identity, Time and Freedom
    Coordinating Unit Philosophy
    Term Semester 1
    Level Undergraduate
    Location/s North Terrace Campus
    Units 3
    Contact Up to 3 hours per week
    Available for Study Abroad and Exchange Y
    Prerequisites At least 12 units of level 1 Arts courses or equivalent, including 3 units in Philosophy
    Incompatible PHIL 2027
    Course Description Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that asks the most general questions about the nature of reality. It deals with the nature of what there is, abstracting away from the particular details of goings on in our world, in an attempt to undercover the underlying structure of fundamental classification and of reality. Traditionally, metaphysics has been concerned with issues such as the identity of objects through time, the existence of abstract entities such as properties, the freedom of the will, the existence of God, the reality of time and the nature of causation. In this course, we will approach some of these issues by examining several discussions of them in contemporary analytic philosophy. Most of the readings we will refer to are therefore by contemporary philosophers even though, occasionally, we will look at discussions of metaphysical issues in ancient philosophy and modern philosophy.
    Course Staff

    Course Coordinator: Dr Antony Eagle

    Course Timetable

    The full timetable of all activities for this course can be accessed from Course Planner.

  • Learning Outcomes
    Course Learning Outcomes

    This course aims to

    1. Introduce students to the main positions on the following issues in metaphysics: The nature of time, the persistence of material objects through time and change (including the persistence of persons), and the nature and existence of free will.
    2. Develop an understanding of several philosophical theories in the area of metaphysics. For example: presentism about existence, the B-theory of temporal properties, perdurantism as a theory of identity through time, and incompatibilism about free will.

    After successfully completing this course, students should be able to

    1. Display an awareness of the main philosophical positions in contemporary metaphysics regarding the issues mentioned above.
    2. Analyse texts from contemporary analytic philosophers on metaphysics and extract the relevant arguments from them.
    3. Evaluate an argument by a contemporary analytic philosopher working on metaphysics (as valid, or sound).
    4. Be able to identify and use relevant evidence to provide reasons for and against the adoption of various metaphysical hypotheses.
    University Graduate Attributes

    This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attribute(s) specified below:

    University Graduate Attribute Course Learning Outcome(s)
    Knowledge and understanding of the content and techniques of a chosen discipline at advanced levels that are internationally recognised. 1–3
    The ability to locate, analyse, evaluate and synthesise information from a wide variety of sources in a planned and timely manner. 4–6
    An ability to apply effective, creative and innovative solutions, both independently and cooperatively, to current and future problems. 1–6
    Skills of a high order in interpersonal understanding, teamwork and communication. 3–6
    A proficiency in the appropriate use of contemporary technologies. 1–6
    A commitment to continuous learning and the capacity to maintain intellectual curiosity throughout life. 1–6
    A commitment to the highest standards of professional endeavour and the ability to take a leadership role in the community. 1–6
    An awareness of ethical, social and cultural issues within a global context and their importance in the exercise of professional skills and responsibilities. 1–6
  • Learning Resources
    Required Resources

    The majority of readings for this course will be available electronically through MyUni. However, the unit on free will (lectures 18–24) will focus on this text:

    • van Inwagen, Peter (1983) An Essay on Free Will. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Students will find it important to have unimpeded access to a copy of this book. A copy will be put on reserve in the Barr Smith Library.

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    Recommended Resources
    A selection of additional resources will be outlined in the syllabus, available from MyUni in early February.
    Online Learning
    Lecture notes and recordings will be available via MyUni. There will also be a monitored discussion board hosted on MyUni.
  • Learning & Teaching Activities
    Learning & Teaching Modes

    This course meets for two lectures each week. Students are expected to attend lectures or view the lecture recordings hosted on MyUni, as well as review the lecture notes. The focus in lectures is on situating readings in their broader intellectual context and modelling disciplinary approaches to the material.

    The lectures are supported by tutorials, 10 per semester. There is a tutorial task set for each tutorial (usually involving reading and responding to a short passage extending the material covered in lecture). Each tutorial involves a student presentation on the tutorial task.

    Note: There is no tutorial attendance requirement in this course, though students are of course strongly encouraged to make use of tutorials to consolidate and deepen their understanding. The tutorial presentation, while similarly optional, is worth 5% of the final mark.

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    Workload

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements.

    The information below is provided as a guide to assist students in engaging appropriately with the course requirements. The actual hours spent on the course will vary from week to week, and will of course be higher in those weeks immediately prior to the submission of an assignment; please be sure to plan your time carefully.

    Workload ActivityAnticipated Time Required
    2 x 1 hour lecture per week 24 hours
    1 hour tutorial per week 10 hours
    4 hours lecture preparation and revision per week 48 hours
    2 hours tutorial preparation per week (tutorial tasks and reading) 20 hours
    3 hours assessment work (completion of written tasks, essay reading and preparation, essay writing) 54 hours
    Total per semester 156 hours
    Learning Activities Summary

    A detailed lecture plan will be included in the syllabus, available through MyUni in early February. An indicative division of lecture topics is as follows:

    LecturesTheme
    1 Introduction
    2–9 Time
    10–17 Persistence and Identity over Time
    18–24 Free Will
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    Small Group Discovery Experience
    Two lectures will be devoted to small group discovery, in weeks 4 and 8. Details will be available in the syllabus, available through MyUni in early February.
  • Assessment

    The University's policy on Assessment for Coursework Programs is based on the following four principles:

    1. Assessment must encourage and reinforce learning.
    2. Assessment must enable robust and fair judgements about student performance.
    3. Assessment practices must be fair and equitable to students and give them the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned.
    4. Assessment must maintain academic standards.

    Assessment Summary
    Assessment TaskTypeDue DateWeight
    Tutorial Tasks Formative Weekly 0%
    Tutorial Presentation Summative Allocated tutorial 5%
    Essay 1 (1800 words) Summative End of Week 7 40%
    Essay 2 (2500 words) Summative Start of Week 14 55%

    Full details of due dates and submission procedures will be outlined in the syllabus, available from MyUni in early February.

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    Assessment Detail

    This course involves both formative and summative assessment. There are weekly tutorial tasks, and two essays.

    Summative assessment consists of two essays and a presentation. The essay details are as follows:

    • Essay 1 is an 1800 word essay on set topics covering the first half of the course. Questions will be made available by the end of week 4.
    • Essay 2 is a 2500 word essay on set topics covering the second half of the course. Questions will be made available by the end of week 9.

    Essays are marked in accordance with the standard University of Adelaide grade descriptors.

    The tutorial presentation will take place in a week mutually agreed by you and your tutor, and is also connected to formative assessment through tutorial tasks. There will be one tutorial task set each week in which there is a tutorial, and made available through MyUni (under ‘Tutorials’). Typically these tasks take the form of an investigation of a topic touched on in lecture; they are designed to extend your knowledge of the course material and of the techniques and topics that are used in the disciplines of formal semantics and philosophy of language. Each week one pair of students will kick start tutorial discussion of these topics by presenting some preliminary ideas and conclusions in the first ten minutes of tutorial. It would be a good idea to prepare a brief handout (no more than 1 side of A4) to anchor your presentation. The joint presentation will be given a mark out of 5 by your tutor. In addition, every student should prepare answers to the set task, and come prepared to discuss them in tutorial. While tutorials are structured around these set tasks, there will also be time for student-driven questions about the lecture material.

    Allocation of students to pairs for the tutorial presentation, and decisions about which pair will present on which topic, will take place at the first tutorial in week 2.

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    Submission

    All essays must be submitted electronically through MyUni. In this course, work will be submitted and marked through Turnitin.

    Further details of submission requirements, required format of submitted work, late policies, extensions, &c. will be found in the course syllabus, available through MyUni in early February.

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    Course Grading

    Grades for your performance in this course will be awarded in accordance with the following scheme:

    M10 (Coursework Mark Scheme)
    Grade Mark Description
    FNS   Fail No Submission
    F 1-49 Fail
    P 50-64 Pass
    C 65-74 Credit
    D 75-84 Distinction
    HD 85-100 High Distinction
    CN   Continuing
    NFE   No Formal Examination
    RP   Result Pending

    Further details of the grades/results can be obtained from Examinations.

    Grade Descriptors are available which provide a general guide to the standard of work that is expected at each grade level. More information at Assessment for Coursework Programs.

    Final results for this course will be made available through Access Adelaide.

  • Student Feedback

    The University places a high priority on approaches to learning and teaching that enhance the student experience. Feedback is sought from students in a variety of ways including on-going engagement with staff, the use of online discussion boards and the use of Student Experience of Learning and Teaching (SELT) surveys as well as GOS surveys and Program reviews.

    SELTs are an important source of information to inform individual teaching practice, decisions about teaching duties, and course and program curriculum design. They enable the University to assess how effectively its learning environments and teaching practices facilitate student engagement and learning outcomes. Under the current SELT Policy (http://www.adelaide.edu.au/policies/101/) course SELTs are mandated and must be conducted at the conclusion of each term/semester/trimester for every course offering. Feedback on issues raised through course SELT surveys is made available to enrolled students through various resources (e.g. MyUni). In addition aggregated course SELT data is available.

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