Philosophy | Topics in Metaphysics
P310 | 25671 | O'Connor

Metaphysics is that branch of philosophy that considers the basic
types of constituents of reality. It asks -- in *very* general terms -
- what those entities are like intrinsically and how they 'hang
together.' (Truth to tell, it's the very root of the philosophical
enterprise, since if you push any philosophical question hard enough,
you'll find yourself doing metaphysics.)

We will contemplate global questions such as these:
- Is reality a unity, in some basic way, or is it just a collection
of a whole lot of things?
- Can we speak properly of the way the world is, objectively,
independently of how we may happen to think about it?
- Why is the world the way it is, and not some other way? (Why does
anything exist at all?)
- What is the fundamental nature of the physical world? What is
space? What is time?
- What is the fundamental nature of mind?
- What is the nature of causation, the 'glue' that binds together
events through time?

We will also contemplate a particular aspect of reality that we're
all keenly interested in -- *ourselves* -- and will ask:
- What kind of things are we?
- Am I the same person as the little rug rat my parents called by my
name thirty-some years ago? In virtue of what is this true?
(Come to think of it -- and we will think about it -- what grounds
the supposed persistence of an *inanimate* physical object through
various adventures?)
- What could it possibly mean to *freely* choose from among a range
of options?
(Do we have this capacity, supposing there could be such a thing?)

Our method will be to study very closely thoughtful arguments on all
these matters and then to devote most of our class time to discussing
them and considering alternatives. Grading will be based on a mixture
of papers, exams, and classroom participation.