PH223      Half Unit
Mind and Metaphysics

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Mr Giacomo Giannini


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, including existence; modality; properties; the metaphysics of consciousness and the mind-body relation.

More detailed description:

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


a) Existence and Non-existence: what exists, and what does it mean to say that something exists or not? How can we talk intelligibly  about something that does not exist? Why is there anything at all, rather than nothing?

b) Modality: what does it mean for something to be possible or necessary? In virtue of what is something possible or necessary?

c) Properties: what are properties? Can they be shared by many things at the same time? Can there be uninstantiated properties? How do they relate to the laws of nature? 


Philosophy of Mind:

a) The hard problem of consciousness: What is consciousness? How can we make sense of the emergence of human and animal minds against the background of a physical world? Can science answer that question?

b) Physicalism and its foes: Is the thesis that everything is ultimately grounded in physical processes defensible, or should we think that there is fundamental mental phenomena? Can mental states cause physical effects? 

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

Quine, W. V. O. (1948). On What There Is

Crane, T.  The Objects of Thought

Bernstein, S. Omissions as Possibilities.

Lewis, D. On The Plurality of Worlds

Vetter, B. Modality Without Possible Worlds

Lowe, E.J. The Four-Category Ontology

Armstrong, D.M. A World of States of Affairs

Chalmers, D. The Conscious Mind

Ney, A. Defining Physicalism. 

Goff, P. Consciousness and Fundamental Reality 


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

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 12

Average class size 2020/21: 6

Capped 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills