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PI8005 Metaphysics

Module Outline

In this module, we’ll explore metaphysical questions relating to freedom and time. Are we free if scientific laws determine what we do? Why do we control the future and not the past? Do metaphysical views about time explain the openness of the future—or should asymmetries of time and control be explained in scientific terms? We’ll examine the work of a number of contemporary philosophers who use the challenge of reconciling science with metaphysics to develop new ideas about time, agency and the relations between them. Authors and topics to be considered include Jenann Ismael on how ‘epistemic freedom’ explains the apparent openness of the future, Huw Price on how causation depends on the perspective of agents, and Craig Callender on using psychology to explain the specialness of the present. Through exploring this work, students will develop their own views about time, freedom, and agency, as well as the place of science in philosophical theorising.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Explain metaphysical accounts of time and freedom.
  • Discuss and critically evaluate recent revisionist conceptions of time, freedom and their relations.
  • Argue for their own views about how to reconcile our experience of time and freedom with a scientific view of the world.
  • Express their views about the role of science and experience in philosophical investigation.

Recommended Reading List:

As advised/circulated by lecturer during the lecture series.


PhD students will be required to write one substantial essay (3,000-4,000 words). Students should confirm the essay title with their lecturer.

The word count includes footnotes but it does not include the bibliography.

Essays that go over the limit will be liable for a 5 mark deduction.

There will be a 5 mark deduction for each week an essay is late. Students may request an extension by contacting the lecturer of their module.

Students must attach a cover sheet to all Philosophy essays.