PHIL 2000 Introduction to Metaphysics
M/W/F, 1100-1150am, A 2071
Peter Gratton, PhD
Winter 2016
Office Hours: M/W/F 12:00-1:00pm and by appointment, AA3102
Course web site:
e-mail: [email protected]
General Course Description:
This course has the title as an “introduction to metaphysics,” the latter term which can lead you
online and in book stores to the study of the proper alignment of the stars, the right kind of crystals
to place over your dashboard, or the latest Hinduism-by-way-of-Hollywood guidebook on living
well. That should be a first warning for looking up resources online, by the way. Metaphysics is the
study of “being qua being,” a clunky phrase that means we are interested here less in how we should
live (though this is important!) or how humans have thought of their world in various historical
periods (that, too, is important) than the what or how existence ultimately is. Is there a God? Are we
free or determined by various forces? What is the world made up of? These are among the questions
we will take up this semester—the ultimate questions that one could ask. We will begin with
Aristotle, who, by way of a later editor’s presumption (he gave those lectures the title), gave to the
tradition the term “metaphysics.” There is no getting around what legions of students and professors
alike know: these are often knotty sentences that are translated from the Greek, though I will keep
the readings relatively short so that we can cover every main sentence—not just idea—in class,
aloud, with one another. Knowing Aristotle will be all-important for understanding St. Aquinas,
who used Aristotle’s writings to make essential claims about faith and reason as well as the nature
of God and our universe. From there we will move to the writings of Immanuel Kant, who argued
that essentially we should give up on directing ourselves to the real things of the universe and
instead try to gather how we gain access to the world as such and by laying this out, we can come to
certainty about all manner of areas of human existence. In these three figures, it’s fair to say we are
studying the three dominant figures of philosophy ancient, medieval, and modern.
Students coming out of this course, having done the work, will be able to demonstrate competence
discerning the arguments in a text and explaining them in one’s own words
reflecting on and comparing different philosophical positions
articulating one’s own default opinions about existence
responding critically to different metaphysical ideas
supporting an argument with citations and examples
reading and incorporating secondary sources on metaphysical texts
Reading: You must read the assigned texts prior to class and it is highly recommended that you
read any philosophical texts at least twice. Given the breadth of any survey course, but especially
one in philosophy, it will be important for you to keep up with the readings and bring to class any
questions you have about the text(s). Use a dictionary to look up words that you don’t understand,
and come to class with any questions you have.
Class Participation: You will be expected to attend each class having read the relevant materials
and able to comment upon them to other members of the class. Your participation grade will be
assessed with the following in mind: (1) attendance (no more than three absences during the
semester, no exceptions) and (2) level and quality of participation.
Each student is required to write a one-to-two page, single-spaced protocol for one of the days’
reading assignments listed below. The handouts can be a summary of the material, a response to one
of the ideas contained in the reading, or some combination thereof. Since you will be writing these
handouts on readings that we have not gone over, you are not expected to have mastered the
material. Rather, it is more than fair to raise in your handout any passages that were particularly
difficult and that we need to go over. You should send it to me via email so that I can put it up on
the front projector. This assignment is worth ⅓ of your participation points in the course.
Evaluation: Weekly Writing Assignments/quiz
Mid-Term Paper
Final Paper
Class Cancellations: If class is cancelled for any reason, the cancellation will be posted under the
cancellations section of the main page of the Memorial University website.
Intellectual Honesty: Students are reminded of the University policy on intellectual honesty,
especially that part which pertains to plagiarism and self-plagiarism (see the Memorial University
Calendar). Plagiarism and self-plagiarism are forms of academic fraud; complaints or allegations of
such are subject to the adjudication of the Senate Discipline Committee. Cheating includes but is
not limited to allowing another student to copy from your work, presenting someone else’s work as
your own including through failure to credit the source of ideas, consulting electronic devices such
as mobile phones, and/or interacting with others while a test is ongoing. Any submission in this
course that is similar to another author’s work, beyond chance, will be treated as plagiarism.
Information about procedures and penalties for academic misconduct is outlined in the University
Statement on Students with Special Needs: Students with permanent or temporary disabilities
who would like to discuss classroom accommodations are asked to see the instructor. If you suffer
from any disabilities, such as a social phobia and/or a physical or mental condition, which you
believe may impede your progress and participation in the course, either with regard to the class
itself or quizzes and exams, please let me know as soon as possible. I have worked with students
with special circumstances before and I will be glad to do so again to make this classroom as
inclusive as possible.
Books ordered:
Aquinas, Selected Writings, Penguin, ISBN: 978-0140436327
Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Cambridge, ISBN: 978-0521657297
*Please note that the readings for Aristotle will be available online. Also online will be secondary
sources, podcasts, and other helpful aids for understanding the material.
Jan 6
Jan 8
Jan 11
Jan 13
Jan 15
Course introduction: Aristotle’s Metaphysics
Aristotle, Alpha I-III
Aristotle, Alpha V, VIII, X
Aristotle, Gamma I, II, III
Aristotle, Gamma VII, VIII
Jan 18
Jan 20
Jan 22
Jan 25
Jan 27
Jan 29
Feb 1
Feb 3
Feb 5
Feb 8
Feb 10
Feb 12
Feb 15
Feb 17
Feb 19
Feb 22
Feb 24
Feb 26
Feb 29
Mar 2
Mar 4
Mar 7
Mar 9
Mar 11
Mar 14
Mar 16
Mar 18
Mar 21
Mar 23
Mar 25
Mar 28
Mar 30
Apr 1
Apr 4
Apr 6
Aristotle, Epsilon (all)
Aristotle, Zeta I-IV
Aristotle, Theta VIII-X
Aristotle, Lambda I-V
Aristotle, Lambda VI-end
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “On Being and Essence,” pp. 30-39.
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “On Being and Essence,” pp. 40-end.
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “On Theology, Faith, and Reason,” pp. 109-129
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “On Theology, Faith, and Reason,” pp. 130-end.
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “Proof of God’s Existence,” pp. 243-250.
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “Proof of God’s Existence,” pp. 250-end.
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “On Creation,” pp. 30-end.
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “The Ultimate End,” pp. 482-500
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “The Ultimate End,” pp. 501-530
Aquinas, Selected Writings, “The Ultimate End,” pp. 530-end.
Winter Break
Winter Break
Winter Break
Leap day! Kant, CPR, 99-105, Preface A
Kant, CPR, 672-690 ,The Canon of Pure Reason
Kant, CPR, 127-135, Introduction A
Kant, CPR, 136-152, Introduction B
Kant, CPR, 172-192, Transcendental Aesthetic B
Kant, CPR, 193-218 Transcendental Logic
Kant, CPR, 267-294, On the Schematism
Catch-up day
Kant, CPR, 338-365, Phenomena and Noumena
Kant, CPR, 338-353, Phenomena and Noumena
Kant, CPR, 384-410, Transcendental Dialectic
Good Friday. No class
Kant, CPR, 459-495 The Antinomy of Pure Reason
Kant, CPR, 459-495 The Antinomy of Pure Reason, continued.
Kant, CPR, 551-569 On the Impossibility of an Ontological Proof
Catch-up day
Class Conclusion: What of metaphysics today?
Final Exam: T/B/A

yllabus - Course Materials