Metaphysics Syllabus






PHIL 151-01

Office Hours: T/TH 1pm – 2pm & by appointment


Office: B-34 Locke Hall

E: [email protected]

T: (202) 806-5572



What are the different categories of existing (and possible) things? What kinds of relations exist between these things? What is a person, and what are the constitutive elements of personal identity? What is the nature of causality and agency? What is time and how does it relate to temporal experience? These questions belong in the domain of metaphysics – a branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of reality. Metaphysics considers, among others, such basic concepts as existence, causation, possibility, and identity. This course will study these questions from traditional, contemporary and Africana perspectives.






Topic 1: Universals


  • Conee, Chapter 8
  • Loux, Chapters 1, 2 and 3


Topic 2: Personal Identity

  • Conee, Chapter 1
  • Taylor, Chapters 2, 3 and 4
  • W. Abímbọ́lá, “The Yorùbá Concept of Human Personality” (;


Topic 3: Freedom and Determinism

  • Taylor, Chapters 5 and 6
  • Conee, Chapter 6
  • W. Abímbọ́lá, “Orí and Àjàlá” (; W. Abímbọ́lá, “The Notion of Sacrifice”



Topic 4: Space and Time

  • Taylor, Chapter 7
  • Conee, Chapter 3
  • McTaggart, The Nature of Existence (M: 454-463); Prior, Changes in Events and Changes in Things (M: 464-473)
  • Horwich, Asymmetries in Time (M: 474-485); The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence (M: 486-495)
  • Smart, “The Space-Time World” (M: 496-509); D. Lewis, “The Paradoxes of Time Travel” (M: 510-521)
  • Loux Chapters 8, 9 and 11


Topic 5: The Metaphysics of Ethics

  • Conee Chapter 11
  • W. Abímbọ́lá, “Ìwàpẹ̀lẹ́: Good Character” (;
  • K. Abímbọ́lá, Selection from Yorùbá Culture (
  • Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (2017a), “Ostrich Ethics.” Aesthetics for Birds – Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art for Everyone. 100 Philosophers 100 Artworks 100 Words #64.
  • Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (2013), “Culture and the Principles of Biomedical Ethics.” Journal of Commercial Biotechnology, Vol. 19 (3): 31-39.


Topic 7: God

  • Taylor, Chapter 11
  • Conee, Chapter 4
  • Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (2001), “Spirituality and Applied Ethics: An African Perspective.” West Africa Review, 3(1): 1-29.
  • Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (1994), “God and Evil.” Philosophy Now, 8: 23-25.


Topic 8: Causation

  • Taylor, Chapter 10
  • Aristotle, Metaphysics (M: 380-381); Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (M: 382-389)
  • Lewis, “Causation” (M: 390-400); Davidson, “Causal Relations” (M: 401-411)
  • Sodipo, John O. “Notes on the concept of cause and chance in Yoruba traditional thought.” Second Order 2.2 (1973): 12-20.


Topic 9: What is Metaphysics?

  • Conee, Chapter 11
  • Taylor, Chapter 13
  • Kọ́lá Abímbọ́lá (2018), “Language and the African Philosophical Traditions.” Yorùbá Studies Review, Vol.3(1).



Two papers (30% each), final exam (30%), participation (10%).


First Two Papers (30%). I will provide a list of topics for your first two essays. The papers should be around 2,500 words or 10 pages (double space).


Final Exam (30%). The final exam will consist in a take home essay (7-8 pages) and in-class short essay questions. The exam is cumulative, and questions will be drawn from all the material covered in this course.


You must bring the assigned text to class.


Attendance: It is essential that you attend classes! More than three unexcused absences will adversely affect your grade.


Honor Code: Cheating and plagiarism are not permitted. Cases of suspected academic dishonesty will be reported directly to the Dean. A student who is academically dishonest will automatically receive the grade “F” in the course.

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