Metaphysics

This course will introduce students to three topics in metaphysics: (i) persistence and the nature of time, (ii) personal identity, and (iii) free will.

We will start by reading the first half of Barry Dainton’s Time and Space (2nd ed.). Dainton’s book covers a variety of topics having to do with time and space but we will focus on time. In doing so, we will look at our common sense understanding of time, theories of time (moving spotlight theory, block theory, presentism, growing block theory), whether there is a flow or movement to time, whether there is anything unique or objective about the present moment, and conclude with a discussion of the possibility of time travel. At the end of this unit, you should be able to articulate several ways that our commonsense (intuitive) conception of time differs from a theory of time.

Next, we will turn to Amy Kind’s Persons and Personal Identity. This short book is easy to read, engaging, and covers a number of important topics concerning the metaphysics of personhood. The book considers three central questions about personal identity: (i) The synchronic identification question: what properties must a being have in order to be a person? (ii) The diachronic identification question: what properties must a person have at a later time in order to be the same person at an earlier time? (iii) The individuation question: What makes a person an individual? At the end of this unit, you should be able to articulate a number of different theories about the criteria of personhood and what makes a person the same person through time.

Finally, we will conclude the course with a discussion of free will. We will read parts of A Contemporary Introduction to Free Will by Robert Kane. In reading this book, we will look at contemporary debates and theories concerning whether there is free will at all, how our intuitions concerning our choices conflict with our conception that everything is determined by prior events and the laws of nature, and whether there is a way to reconcile being free in a determined world.

Slides

Unit 1: Time

Unit 2: Personal Identity

Unit 3: Freedom