Metaphysics Lab; (c) 2002 Rick London/Joel Coughlin Syllabus: Philosophy 130 -- Metaphysics

Philosophy 130: Metaphysics

Winter 2014
Where: Warren Lecture Hall 2114
When: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 12:30-1:50m

Instructor: Jonathan Cohen
email: joncohen AT aardvark DOT ucsd DOT edu
office phone: (858) 534 6812
Office hours: Tuesdays 10-11:30, in H&SS 8072.


This course will take up four fundamental topics in contemporary metaphysics: existence, causation, modality, and reduction. These topics are central not only in metaphysical disputes, but also have repercussions in many other areas of philosophy. The course will not presuppose any exposure to the relevant literatures, and will be a broad overview of some of the going accounts and controversies.

Course Requirements

There will be two assigned papers for the course, and a take home final exam (which will be due on Tuesday 18 March 2014, at 2:30pm). There will be no midterm.

Reading Materials

There is no textbook for the course; all materials will be made available through the UCSD library e-reserves To access the materials you'll need the password: jc130.

Academic Integrity

Violations of academic integrity will not be tolerated in this course; violators will receive an F on at least the relevant assignment and possibly the course, and will be subjected to UCSD's disciplinary procedures (which could result in penalties including permanent explusion from the university).

You are responsible for knowing and adhering to the UCSD Policy on Integrity in all respects. In particular, you may not cause or allow your work for this course to resemble that of any other person, and all use of the ideas or words of anyone other than a paper's author must be acknowledged properly. I don't care a huge amount about specific citation formats; I do care a huge amount that sources are acknowledged. As far as collaboration goes, it's fine (it's encouraged) to talk about the philosophical issues with other students or anyone else you like; but when it is time to write up an essay you should do so entirely by yourself. If you have any questions about the Policy on Integrity or how to follow it (e.g., if you are unsure how to cite ideas from other sources) please ask me! I am very happy to help prevent real or apparent violations of academic integrity before they occur, and very unhappy to discover that they have occured. (As you may have noticed, I feel very strongly about this issue.)

To ensure standards of academic integrity are met, I'll ask you, as a condition on taking this course, to run all of your assigned work for the course through, which checks your paper for textual similarity to all of the other papers in its databases. (Your submitted papers will also be included as source documents in the reference database, solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism, going forward.)

To get started with the system, please see the instructions at You'll need the class ID () and the password ().

Tentative Schedule

This schedule is tentative in both its content and its timing; I reserve the right to add, subtract, or reschedule items as the course progresses.

Segment 1 (weeks 1-3): Existence

Segment 2 (weeks 4-6): Modality (and persistence, too)

Segment 3 (weeks 7-8): Causation

Segment 4 (weeks 9-10): Reduction