PH223      Half Unit
Mind and Metaphysics

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr. Alexandria Boyle


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.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to participate actively in their classes and to write one formative essay. This may be a draft, or an essay plan, of the summative assignment.

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 


Essay (80%, 2500 words) in the LT.
Class participation (10%).
Continuous assessment (10%) in the MT.

The assessment for this module will have three components.

The first is a 2500 words summative essay, counting for 80% of the final mark 

The second is a class participation mark (10%)

The third consists of two weekly short answer questions, one on the material covered in the lecture, and one on the weekly class reading (10%).


Key facts

Department: Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method

Total students 2021/22: 13

Average class size 2021/22: 7

Capped 2021/22: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills