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PHILOS 3HH3 Metaphysics

Academic Year: Fall 2015

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Matthew Grellette


Office: University Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23475

Office Hours: Thursdays, 5:30pm - 6:30pm by request or appointment

Course Objectives:

This course provides an introduction to modern topics in metaphysics.  It will begin by considering the nature and role of this philosophical enterprise and will then proceed through an examination of six issues of contemporary interest, including:  identity and change, necessity and essence, the nature of causation, agency and events, space and time, and universals and particulars.  In this way, students will come to consider some of “the deepest questions that can be raised concerning the fundamental structure of reality as a whole”.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

1. E.J. Lowe, A Survey of Metaphysics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)

2. Selected readings available on Avenue to Learn (

Method of Assessment:

Weekly Response Papers………………………………10%

Take Home Exam..……………………………………..20%


Final Exam……………………………..……………….35%


Explanation of Requirements


Weekly Response Papers:

Students are required to hand in 8 response papers (300 words each) over the course of the term.  These should seek to raise a critical point or question concerning a given week’s reading.  These must be handed in at the beginning of the class to which they pertain.  No more than one response may be handed in per week.  More detail will be provided in class.


Take Home Exam:

Students will be assigned an essay style take-home assignment, based on the first month’s readings.  Students will be assigned the exam on October 8, 2015, and are to submit it at the beginning of class on October 22, 2015.  The assignment length is 1000 words.  More detail will be provided in class.



Students will be assigned a series of essay questions, of which they must answer only one.  These questions will be assigned on October 22nd, 2015.  The essay is due on November 25th, 2015, and the length is 2500 words.  More detail will be provided in class.



The final exam will cover all of the material assigned after October 8th.  It will be comprised of both short answer and essay style questions.  More detail will be provided in class.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Course Schedule:


Week 1: Sept. 10        Introductory Lecture


Week 2: Sept. 17        Nature of Metaphysics

                                    Lowe: Ch. 1

                                    Unger Interview (Avenue)


Week 3: Sept. 24        Identity and Change

                                    Lowe: Ch. 2


Week 4: Oct. 1                       Change/Necessity and Identity

                                    Lowe: Ch. 3


Week 5: Oct. 8                       Necessity

                                    Lowe: Ch. 5

                                    * Mid-Term Assigned


                        Week 6: Mid-Term Break - No Class


Week 7: Oct. 22         Essentialism

                                    Lowe: 6

                                    * Mid-Term Due

                                    * Essay Assigned      


Week 8: Oct. 29         Possible Worlds

                                    Lowe: 7                                 


            Week 9: Nov. 5  No Class Dr. Grellette is away


Week 10: Nov. 12      Event and Agent Causation

                                    Lowe: 11


Week 11: Nov. 19      The Reality of Time 

                                    Lowe: 17                               


Week 12: Nov. 26      Causation and the Direction of Time


                                    * Essay Due


Week 13: Dec. 3         Universals and Particulars

                                    Lowe: 19

Other Course Information:

1. 5 marks (out of 100) will be deducted from Essay grades for every 100 words in excess of the prescribed limit.


2. 5 marks per day (out of 100) will also be deducted for late Essays. Exceptions will be made only if you have a legitimate excuse.


3 . Essays must not be submitted to the Philosophy Department Office. They must be submitted directly either during class or during office hours.  You are required to keep copies (electronic or hard) of all work submitted.


4. The scale used by the Registrar's Office will be used to convert number grades to final letter grades.


5. Course evaluations will be done at the end of the course.


6. It is the policy of the Philosophy Department that all email communication  between students and instructors must originate from  their official McMaster University email accounts. This policy protects  the confidentiality and sensitivity of information and confirms the identities of both the student and instructor. Philosophy department instructors will delete messages that do not originate from McMaster email accounts.


7. Academic dishonesty consists of misrepresentation by deception or by other fraudulent means and can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: “Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty”), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university. It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various kinds of academic dishonesty please refer to t he Academic Integrity Policy,  located at:


The following illustrates only two forms of academic dishonesty:

(a) Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.

(b) Improper collaboration on essays or critical reflections.


8.  This syllabus is provisional, and may be adjusted due to changing circumstances.