The University of Southampton

PHIL2032 Metaphysics

Module Overview

This module will explore some central views and arguments in metaphysics. Metaphysics is the study of what kinds of things there and what they are like in the most general terms. We have both a common sense picture of the world and a scientific picture of the world, and sometimes these two appear to conflict. Part of the job of metaphysics is to try to adjudicate what, if anything, in our picture of the world needs to be given up. Central questions in metaphysics include: ? Time: In what ways, if any, is time like space? Do future and past objects exist, does time flow, is there a privileged time the present, is it possible to travel backwards in time? ? Material Objects: How do ordinary objects persist through time, do they have temporal as spatial parts, can there be two such objects in exactly the same place at the same time? ? Persons: What kind of thing are we, are we animals, souls, or something else? ? Causation: What is it for one thing to cause another? What types of thing are causes and effects?

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • some central questions in metaphysics and influential answers to them.
  • arguments for and against those answers
  • the bearing of issues in metaphysics on issues in other areas of philosophy and on issues in other subjects.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • articulate and evaluate views and arguments systematically and critically.
  • present your theories and those of others in a clear and even-handed fashion orally and in writing.
  • work effectively to deadlines.
  • find ways of reconciling views which appear to be in competition.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop and critically evaluate arguments for and against positions in metaphysics
  • analyse metaphysical views and explore their implications.
  • identify and weigh the theoretical virtues which different metaphysical theories possess, such as simplicity, explanatory power, appeal to common-sense.


Topics covered vary from year to year. Examples of possible topics are: ? Time and space ? Possibility and necessity ? Material Objects ? Personal Identity

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include ? Lectures ? In-class discussion ? One-on-one consultation with module co-ordinator Learning activities include ? Attending lectures ? Contributing to class discussion ? Doing independent research for and writing assessed essays and exams

Follow-up work24
Wider reading or practice24
Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Completion of assessment task22
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

S Mumford (2012). Metaphysics: A Very Short Introduction. 





MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 50%
Examination  (90 minutes) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Examination  (120 minutes) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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