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PROF. THOMAS PYNE                 MND-3032   278-7288



PHILOSOPHY DEPT.                    MND-3032   278-6424

                                                            FAX               278-5364


OFFICE HOURS:  M 11:00-12:00;  W 3:00-4:00; By Appt.



The course is designed to give a systematic introduction to philosophical problems that are metaphysical;  to show what distinguishes metaphysical problems from other philosophical problems. 

We will then investigate a restricted sampling of metaphysical problems which are under active investigation in the present.

This investigation will involve study of contributions to the solution of metaphysical  problems by contemporary philosophers.

Finally, the course will require some metaphysical investigation by the student, as well as some writing.


TEXT:      Peter van Inwagen & Dean W. Zimmerman, editors.  Metaphysics:  The Big           Questions.  Basil Blackwell (Oxford, 1998).


                  Metaphysics Tookit 


Two exams at assigned times (15% each)

                  A final exam  (15%)

Three papers:  Paper 1 & 2, 4 pages (15% each);  paper 3, 7-10 pages (20%).

                  Reading Quizzes  (5%)


PHIL 181:  Metaphysics is the department-designated class for information competency assessment of Philosophy majors.  Thus there will be assignments designed to assess your ability to use information resources like the library resources, databases, reference works, etc. 



Class Meetings

I expect attendance at every class meeting.  If for some excellent reason you cannot make class, let me know – preferably in advance.  If this is impossible let me know by 5:00 on the day you miss.  I will lower you a grade increment for every unexcused absence.


Class meetings will begin at 10:00 with a calling of the roll.  Be on time. Anticipate.  Excuses don’t cut it:  I will treat a pattern of late arrival as an unexcused absence.


I expect silent attention during class periods.  If there is a class discussion I will serve as moderator;  please wait to be recognized before making a contribution.    


If you wish to ask a question, answer a question, or make a contribution to the class, please ask to be recognized.  There is no excuse for conducting a private discussion during class time.  I will treat a pattern of talking in class as an unexcused absence.


Reading Assignments

You will be responsible for the entirety of all readings assigned.  However, at times I will indicate that I will pay particular attention to some part of a reading.  As a result, it may happen that other parts of the reading will not be treated in class. You will be responsible for them anyway.  If you don’t understand something, ask a question.  Remember, students’ questions help me too.



Exams will be administered on the date and time scheduled in the syllabus (unless I change it for pedagogical reasons).    I will allow you a one-page "cheat sheet" for each exam.

We will review the material for each exam briefly during the class preceding, explaining what concepts and abilities the exam will test for.  I welcome questions, even at times outside that review period.


There will be no makeup exams.  Organize your life so that you can take the exams at the times and dates indicated. 



Follow the directions for argumentative papers found in the “Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers” at the Philosophy Department website.  Go to the Main Page (, click on “Dept. Program and Requirements,” then click on “Guidelines…”  Or go directly to:


Papers will be graded according to the “Grading Guidlines for Philosophy Papers.”  Go to the same menu as for the paper guidelines, or go directly to:



To submit papers: 

-           Turn in at the class period on the due date;

-           FAX or E-mail;

-           Old-fashioned mail, making sure it arrives on time;

-           Turn in at the Philosophy Department office

(MND-3032) by 5:00.

Late papers will be lowered a grade increment for every day past the due date. 

Keep a copy of your paper.  If you still use an iron-age typewriter, make a photocopy -- it's cheap insurance.  Two reasons for this:

            (i)   It’s cheap insurance in case you paper is lost.  This happens from time to time.

            (ii)  In cases where I suspect plagiarism I have no intention of scouring the library or googling the original.  If I think you’ve plagiarized, the burden of proof will be on you.  You can sustain that burden by showing me the work you did preparing the paper:  notes, early drafts, etc.  Keep what you need to show me that it’s your work.



Exams will be graded on the following scale:


A         100-94

A-        93-92

B+       91-90

B         89-84

B-        83-82

C+       81-80

C         79-74

C-        73-72

D+      71-70

D         69-64

D-        63-62

F          61-

Papers will be graded by the criteria in “Grading Guidelines for Philosophy Papers”.


Quizzes will be given a grade of 2 (good or adequate), 1 (inadequate), or 0 (not turned in.)  You have to bepresent at a class meeting to take a quiz.  An average above 1.5 will give you 100 for that component (5%) of your final grade.


The course grade will be determined by the weighted average of the exams and papers.




[Page numbers refer to Text]


Introduction:  Metaphysical Questions Among Philosophical Questions


What we are supplying are really remarks on the natural history of human beings;  we are not contributing curiosities however, but observations which no one has doubted, but which have escaped remark only because they are always before our eyes.

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations


Week 1:     1/23       What is a Philosophical Question?  Which Philosophical Questions are Metaphysical?  

                                 [Metaphysics Toolkit;  Van Inwagen & Zimmerman, “Introduction,” 1-7)


                  1/25       Metaphysical Questions (cont.)


                  1/27       Metaphysical Answers



Part I:  The Nature of Space and Time

6.4312.   The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time.

Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus


Week 2:     1/30       The Earliest Metaphysicians:  Parmenides and Zeno



                  2/1         Is Space Discrete or Continuous? 

                                            [Max Black, “Achilles and the Tortoise,”  120-9] 


                  2/3         Can Anything Concrete Actually Be Infinite?

                                 [Wesley Salmon, “A Contemporary Look at Zeno’s Paradoxes,”  129-149]



Week 3:     2/6         Is Space Substantial or Relational?

[Martin Gardner, “The Fourth Dimension,”  108-111]


2/8         Is Space Three-Dimensional?

[James Van Cleve, “Incongruent Counterparts and Higher Dimensions,”  111-120]


2/10       What Must Be in the World for Anything to be “Left” or “Right” of Anything Else?



Week 4:     2/13       The Unreality of Time

                                 [J.M.E. McTaggart, from The Nature of Existence, 67-74]


                  2/15       McTaggart (cont.)


                  2/17       Objections to McTaggart’s Argument

[C.D. Broad, “McTaggart’s Arguments…,” 74-79]



Paper #1 due Friday, February 17.


Week 5:     2/20       Is There Anything Special About the Present?

[A.N. Prior, “The Notion of the Present,” 80-82;  C.D. Broad, from Scientific Thought, 82-93]


                  2/22       A Tenseless World

                                 [J.J.C. Smart, from Philosophy and Scientific Realism, 94-101;  Ian Hinckfuss, “Topis, Soris, Noris,”  from The Existence of Space and Time, 101-3]


2/24       “Thank heavens, That’s Over!”

[A.N. Prior, “Some Free Thinking About Time,”  104-7]

Part II:  The Furniture of Reality

1.1  The world is the totality of facts, not of things

Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logic-Philosophicus



Week 6:     2/27       Exam #1


3/1         The Problem of Universals:  Universalia ante Res;  Universalia in Rebus

                                 [Metaphysics Toolkit;  Van Inwagen & Zimmerman, Introduction, 7-13 )


                  3/3         Nominalism and Other Forms of Reduction



Week 7:     3/6         Resemblance vs. Universalia in Rebus

                                 (H.H. Price, “Universals and Resemblances,” from Thinking and                                   Experience, 23-40]


                  3/8         Tropes

                                 [D.C. Williams, “The Elements of Being,”  40-52]

                  3/10       Tropes (Cont.)

                                 [“The Elements of Being”]


Week 8:     3/13-3/17 Spring Recess



Week 9:     3/20       The “Problem of Individuals”

                                 [Bertrand Russell, “The Principle of Individuation,”  52-58]


                  3/22       Leibniz’s Principle (cont.)

[Max Black, “The Identity of Indiscernibles” (Copy)]


                  3/24       Leibniz’s Principle  and the Two Spheres Problem (Cont.)       



Week 10:   3/27       The Two Spheres Problem (Cont.)


                  3/29       The Two Spheres Problem Updated

                                 [Dean Zimmerman, “Distinct Indiscernibles and the Bundle Theory,”  58-66]


                  3/31       Cesar Chavez Birthday


Part III:  Identity

6.371      The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural phenomena.

Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus


Week 11:   4/3         The Ship of Theseus:  What is Persistence?

                                 [Antoine Arnauld and Pierre Nicole, “Of Confused Subjects which are Equivalent to Two Subjects…,”  171-173;  Roderick Chisolm, “Identity through Time,”  173-185]


                  4/5         Mereological Essentialism

                                 [Chisolm, cont.]


Paper #2 due:  Wednesday, April 5.


                  4/7         Four-Dimensional “Time Slices”

                                 [W.V.O. Quine, “Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis,” 186-188;  W.V.O. Quine, “Identity,” from Quiddities, 188-190; David Lewis,  “In Defense of Stages,” 190-2]


Week 12:   4/10       “Babies’ legs on one end and old-people’s legs on the other”:  Tralfamadorian Ontology (Cont.)

                                 [David Lewis, “The Problem of Temporary Intrinsics,” from On The Plurality of Worlds, 204-6]


                  4/12       Criticisms of the 4-D Ontology I

[Peter Geach, “Some Problems About Time,”  192-204]          


                  4/14       The Ontological Importance of the Present

[Dean Zimmerman, “Temporary Intrinsics and Presentism,” 206-219]




5.632  The subject does not belong to the world:   rather, it is a limit of the world.

Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus



Week 13:   4/17       Exam #2


                  4/19       Identity of Persons:  Physicalism

[Roderick Chisolm, “Which Physical Thing Am I?”  291-296;  Sydney Shoemaker, “Personal Identity:  A Materialist Account,”  296-310]


                  4/21       The Unity of Consciousness

                                 [Derek Parfit, “Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons,” 310-17]



Week 14:   4/24       Bodies and Souls

                                 [Richard Swinburne, “Personal Identity:  The Dualist Theory,” 317-333]


                  4/26       The Recalcitrance of the Problem

                                 [David Chalmers, “The Puzzle of Conscious Experience,”  333-341.]

Part IV:  Realism and Anti-Realism

4.2211  Even if the world is infinitely complex,  so that every fact consists of infinitely many states of affairs and every state of affairs is composed of infinitely many objects, even so there must be objects and states of affairs.

Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus


You can’t get behind the rules, because there isn’t any behind.

                                                                Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar


                  4/28       What is Realism?



Week 15:   5/1         The Inscrutability of Reference and Ontological


                                 [W.V.O. Quine, “Speaking of Objects,”  385-388]


                  5/3         Putnam’s ‘Internal’ Realism

                                 [Hilary Putnam, “After Metaphysics, What?” 388-392;  Hilary Putnam, “Truth and Convention,”  392-399]


                  5/5         Conceptual Relativism

                                 [Ernest Sosa, “Nonabsolute Existence and Conceptual Relativity,” 399-407;  Ernest Sosa, “Addendum…,” 407-410]



Week 16:   5/8         “Just More Metaphysics”           


                  5/10       What about Good Old Aristotelian Hylomorphism?


                  5/12       Concluding Thoughts


Paper #3 due:  Friday, May 12.



Final Exam:  Monday, May 15, 10:15-12:15 




Paper #1 (4 pages):  Due Friday, February 17.

Given what we have discussed in metaphysics class thus far…

 Choose an entity (or kind of entity)* which is widely believed to exist, but which you discountenance.


The paper should consider the following points:

a)      Why do some people countenance it?  That is, what role does it play in their ontology?  (No disparaging psychological remarks:  give their reasons.

b)      Why do you not accept it?  Give your argument for its nonexistence. 

c)      On your account, what takes its place, or plays its role in your ontology.  (Alternatively, explain why nothing need play that role.)   

d)      Where did the believers go wrong?  What motivates your superior view of the matter?

(*Not Santa Claus, UFOs, Bigfoot, or anything like that. They don’t raise metaphysical problems.)


Paper #2 (4 pages): Due Wednesday, April 5.

Give your account of Max Black’s “Two Spheres” problem presented in his essay, “The Identity of Indiscernibles” and updated in Zimmerman’s “Distinct Indiscernibles and the Bundle Theory.”

Within the constraints of the thought experiment, comment in particular on the following questions:

a.       How does a relationalist with regard to space conceive of the situation?

b.      How can a substantialist with regard to space conceive of the situation                differently?

c.       Could the sphere(s) be distinguished by any modal, temporal, indexical, or frame-          referential properties?

d.      Which is more coherent, in your view?  That there are two spheres, or just one in a universe very different from our own (in metaphysically possible ways) possessing a space with some interesting properties?  Justify your answer.




Paper # 3 (7-10 pages):  Due Friday, May 12.

Take on a metaphysical problem of your choice.  It doesn’t have to be one we’ve studied in class.

Clear your topic with me first.