PH223      Half Unit
Mind and Metaphysics

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christian List


This course is available on the BSc in Philosophy and Economics, BSc in Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students must have completed The Big Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy (PH103).

Course content

Short description:

Some central topics in metaphysics and the philosophy of mind and action. Topics may vary by year.

More detailed description:

This course will cover selected key questions from metaphysics and the philosophy of mind and action. Illustrative questions include:

Metaphysics: Is "physicalism" – the thesis that everything is ultimately grounded in physical processes – philosophically defensible? Are there any features of the world that go beyond physical ones? What are the arguments for and against a reductionistic worldview? Is the world deterministic? Could there be true randomness? What is the nature of causation and causal laws? What is the role of time? 

Mind and action: What does it mean to have a mind? What is an intentional agent? How can we make sense of the emergence of human and animal minds against the background of a physical world? Can mental states cause physical effects? What is consciousness, and how does it relate to physical properties? Do we have free will, and how should we think about this issue? Could agency be instantiated in entities other than biological organisms, such as robots or corporations?

The emphasis will be on developing a sharp understanding of key concepts, arguments, and the logical relationships between different ideas, rather than providing an encyclopaedic historical or exegetical coverage. We aim to give students a conceptual toolbox for a rigorous analysis of some central philosophical questions in the areas of metaphysics and the philosophy of mind.


15 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to participate actively in their classes and to write one formative essay. This may not be a draft of the summative assignment. They subsequently write a second essay, which is summative, to be submitted at the beginning of the next term.

Indicative reading

  • David Chalmers, The Conscious Mind;
  • Jaegwon Kim, Physicalism, or Something Near Enough;
  • L. A. Paul and Ned Hall: Causation: A User’s Guide.


Exam (50%, duration: 1 hour) in the summer exam period.
Essay (50%, 1500 words) in the ST Week 1.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2019/20: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills