METAPHYSICS
V83.0078-001
MTWTh 3:30pm-5:05pm in 503 Main Building
New York University
Summer 2001



Instructor: James Woodbridge
email address: jw79@nyu.edu
Course Webpage: http://homepages.nyu.edu/~jw79/metaphysics.htm
Office Hours: M 5pm-6pm, Th 10am-11am
Office: Main Building 503-O
Office Phone: 998-8330
Dept. Phone: 998-8320



I. COURSE DESCRIPTION

Metaphysics can be thought of as inquiry into the most basic and general features of reality. Aristotle called this inquiry "first philosophy" and thought of it as the study of being qua being, that is, the study of existence as such. In this course we will approach metaphysics from this more general perspective. After a brief look at the subject of metaphysics itself, we will start with consideration of whether there is any sense to the thought that reality as a whole has a structure that is independent of our minds. This will take us to questions about the nature of truth, including whether there is any such nature. We will then turn to slightly more particular questions of ontology, that is, questions about the kinds of things that exist. After considering the general issue of ontological commitment (what it is to be committed to the existence of some kind of thing), we will take up the traditional question of whether reality is composed entirely of particular things, or if it contains "general" or "repeatable" things (universals) along with particulars. Next we will investigate the nature of particulars, looking at different views about their fundamental structure. Finally we will consider the relationship between particular things and time by examining the persistence of particulars through time and change.

 

II. REQUIRED CLASS MATERIALS

Book:

Hales, Steven D. Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing, 1999.

The book for the course is available at The NYU Book Center located at 18 Washington Place.

There is also a coursepack of additional required readings available at New University Copies located at 11 Waverly Place.



III. CLASS REQUIREMENTS AND GRADING SCHEME


Requirements
.............................................Percent of Final Grade

Class Participation......................................................10%
First Paper..................................................................25%
Midterm Exam............................................................15%
Second Paper..............................................................30%
Final Exam..................................................................20%


About the Requirements:

Class Participation--One thing this requirement covers is your class attendance (if you don't attend class you can't participate in it). However, to get an "A" for class participation you must do more than just show up; you have to contribute to class discussion. You are expected to show up having read the assignment for the day and ready to talk about it.

The First Paper--There will be a 5-8 page paper due at the end of May. Topics will be distributed 1 week before the paper is due. Papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late papers are subject to a substantial grade reduction (you really don't want to find out how much).

The Midterm Exam--There will be an in-class midterm exam on Monday, June 4th. The exam will consisit of short answer questions and an essay based on the readings and lectures.

The Second Paper--There will be a second 5-8 page paper due on the last day of class. Again, topics will be handed out 1 week before the paper is due, and all papers are due at the beginning of class on the due date. Late submission is still not a good idea.

The Final Exam--There will be a final exam given during the scheduled exam time. The exam will cover the whole course, but will heavily emphasize the material since the midterm. As before, the exam will consist of short answer questions and essay questions based on the readings and lectures.


IV. CLASS FORMAT

The class will be a mixture of lecture and discussion, and I want to encourage discussion. I expect you all to show up having read the assignment for that meeting and ready to use it as a point of departure. It is the nature of the issues we will be considering that people's views will differ. You are encouraged to question your classmates (and me) when anyone says something you disagree with, but everyone should always keep in mind that disagreement is not a personal attack. Philosophical discussion thrives under this kind of interaction and often stems from disagreement. At the same time, philosophical discussion aims at reaching some sort of agreement. We probably won't reach agreement every time, but we should aspire toward it.



V. TOPICS AND READINGS

Most of the readings will be from the textbook. They are listed below by author with their chapter numbers (or page numbers) in parentheses. However, many of the readings are from other sources. These are labeled "photocopy" and are available in a coursepack at New University Copies located at 11 Waverly Place.

A note about the readings: Philosophical writing is often subtle and difficult. Most of these readings should be read at least twice. I recommend a first time straight through and then a second time slowly while taking notes. In addition, because of the compressed nature of the term, you will often be required to read more than one article by the next day. We will be moving fast, so it is crucial that you keep up with the reading.

The course units and readings for them are as follows.

1. The Subject of Metaphysics

Hales, "Preface to the Student" (pp. xv-xvi)
Aristotle, from Metaphysics (photocopy)

2. Idealism, Realism and Anti-Realism

Russell, "Idealism" (photocopy)
Blackburn, "Introduction to the Realism Debates" (pp. 47-51)
Putnam, "Why There Isn't a Ready-Made World" (5)
Sosa, "Putnam's Pragmatic Realism" (6)
Devitt, "A Naturalistic Defense of Realism" and "Postscript" (7 and 8)

3. Truth

Schmitt, "Introduction to Truth" (pp. 107-118)
Haack, "The Pragmatist Theory of Truth" (10)
Rescher, "Truth as Ideal Coherence" (11)
David, "Truth as Correspondence" (13)
Horwich, "The Deflationary View of Truth" (12)

4. Ontology and Ontological Commitment

Quine, "On What There Is" (14)
Carnap, "Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology" (15)

5. Universals: Platonism and Nominalism

Plato, from Parmenides (photocopy)
Russell, "The World of Universals" and "Our Knowledge of Universals" (photocopy)
Armstrong, "Universals as Attributes" (19)
Devitt, "'Ostrich Nominalism' or 'Mirage Realism'?" (photocopy)
Armstrong, "Against 'Ostrich' Nominalism: A Reply to Michael Devitt" (photocopy)
Campbell, "The Metaphysics of Abstact Particulars" (photocopy)

6. Particulars

Aristotle, from Categories and Metaphysics (photocopy)
Locke, from An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (photocopy)
Lowe, "Introduction to Substance" (pp. 371-376)
Van Cleeve, "Three Versions of the Bundle Theory" (26)
Rosenkrantz and Hoffman, "The Independence Criterion of Substance" (27)
Simons, "Particulars in Particular Clothing: Three Trope Theories of Substance" (28)

7. Time, Change, and Persistance

Chisholm, "Identity Through Time" (photocopy)
Quine, "Identity, Ostension and Hypostasis" (33)
Heller, "Temporal Parts of Four-Dimensional Objects" (34)
van Inwagen, "Four-Dimensional Objects" (35)