Metaphysics in Comparative Perspective

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1 or Year 2
Term 2
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Religions and Philosophies

Module overview

Metaphysics is the area of philosophy which addresses broad questions which cannot be easily adjudicated via empirical inquiry such as: What is the ultimate nature of reality? What is it that exists and what are its constituents? What is it to be?

Alongside these kinds of ontological questions, metaphysics has also traditionally been the area where more specific issues are discussed, such as Is there causation in the universe? Is time absolute or a relation? Is the universe deterministic, and if so, is there free will? Are there universals like beauty or only particulars like beautiful things? Is an individual whole, be it an object or a living person, or more of the sum of its constituent parts?

In various forms, metaphysical arguments can be found throughout the world’s philosophical traditions, reflecting universal concerns regarding the role and purpose of human beings in the universe. In this course we will examine approaches to metaphysical questions from both western (from classic Greek philosophy through to analytic and continental discussions) and non-western sources (specifically the various philosophical schools of India, Tibet, the Middle East, and China), critically approaching metaphysical arguments from a variety of philosophical traditions by emphasising the permeable nature of the borders between what only subsequently become known as the separate domains of religion and philosophy.

Students will gain familiarity with the most fundamental metaphysical questions, and develop the ability to differentiate metaphysics from other branches of philosophical inquiry.

Objectives and learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

  • identify the basic methods and problems of contemporary metaphysics
  • understand how metaphysical problems are related to other philosophical issues in logic, the philosophy of language, ontology, and mind
  • explain core arguments in metaphysics and epistemology across a range of philosophical traditions
  • reconstruct, compare, and analyse philosophical arguments or positions across a range of traditions
  • analyse and evaluate validity and soundness of these positions
  • identify background principles and assumptions of metaphysical arguments as well as to draw out the consequences of certain philosophical commitments
  • formulate arguments concisely and accessibly in in written and verbal form


2-hours lecture and one hour tutorial per week over 22 weeks.

Method of assessment

  • A short Essay or video essay, multimedia presentation (30%)
  • A long Essay or video essay, multimedia presentation (70%)

Suggested reading

  • Carroll, J. and Markosian, N. (2010): An Introduction to Metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Loux, Michael J., ed. (2008) Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings, 2nd edition. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Philosophy Compass
  • Sider, Theodore, Hawthorne John, Zimmerman, Dean W. eds. (2008): Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy ( - Open Access)



Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules