Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit


10cp from PHIL100 Philosophy: the Big Questions or, PHIL102 Theories of Human Nature or, PHIL104 Introduction to Ethics or PHIL107 Philosophy of World Religions or PHCC102 Being Human or PHCC104 Ethics and the Good Life

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Metaphysics is concerned with the study of ultimate questions about the nature and structure of reality. This unit delves into a range of traditional metaphysical questions and theories as well as contemporary debates in the field. Students are encouraged to explore the implications of basic disagreements in metaphysics for a diverse range of fields, from the philosophy of science, to philosophical theology, to logic and beyond. In exploring influential perspectives regarding those debates, students are required to develop reasoned positions of their own. In this way, the unit aims both to facilitate students' understanding of some key theories and debates in the philosophy of religion, as well as to enhance their skills in critical analysis.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 -  identify and accurately explain some of the central problems and important theories in western metaphysics (GA5); 

LO2 - critically analyse selected debates in metaphysics, and develop coherent and consistent positions in relation to them (GA4; GA8); 

LO3 - demonstrate appropriate skills in philosophical research, and coherent use of philosophically effective English expression (GA5; GA9). 

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 


Topics will include:

  • what is metaphysics? 
  • substances and accidents; 
  • identity, persistence and difference; 
  • space and time; 
  • causation. 

In addition, topics such as the following may also be included: 

  • arguments against the possibility of metaphysics; 
  • being, becoming, essence and existence; 
  • potency, actuality and teleology; 
  • necessity, contingency and the existence of God 
  • the possibility of time travel and causal indeterminism 
  • theories of personal identity 
  • freedom and determinism; 
  • natural kinds and universals; 
  • modality and possible worlds; 
  • the ontology of abstract entities and mereology. 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials and online learning. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

The unit has been designed as a blend of project learning along with direct instruction within a collaborative context. The direct instruction ensures that students develop a grounding in understanding basic problems, concepts and arguments in metaphysics (LO1). The project learning enables the students to apply those concepts and theories critically and reflectively to problems in the field, and this feeds into the achievement of the other aim of the unit concerning the development of philosophical skills of analysis, interpretation and argumentation (LO 2-3). The collaborative context of the unit is focused especially on the weekly tutorial, during which the emphasis is on small group discussion of the weekly readings. Students engage in class discussions, provide written critiques of significant theories, and present their reasoned position on matters at issue, after being introduced to them through readings and lectures.

Assessment strategy and rationale

The assessment strategy for this unit has been designed to examine students’ understanding of the philosophical issues and theories under consideration, as well as their ability to critically analyse those issues and theories. It does so through a series of three graduated assessment tasks. The first two tasks prepare students for the third and principal task of writing an extended research essay. The two structured written tasks require students to demonstrate an understanding of the key concepts and theories, and increasingly to engage critically with some key texts in the field. The research essay requires students to research an area of the unit in further detail, and to develop and defend a coherent position of their own in a formally structured argumentative essay. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Structured written task 1

Requires students to demonstrate understanding of key concepts and analyse key text/s in the philosophy of religion 




Structured written task 2

Requires students to critically analyse key text/s in the philosophy of religion


LO1, LO2

GA4, GA5, GA8

Research Essay

Requires students to further research and analyse an important issue in the philosophy of religion, and argue for a coherent position.  


LO1, LO2, LO3

GA4, GA5, GA8, GA9

Representative texts and references

Dainton, B. (2009). Time and Space. 2nd ed. Stocksfield: Acumen. 

Dewan, L. (2006). Form and Being: Studies in Thomistic Metaphysics. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. 

Ellis, B. (2009). The Metaphysics of Scientific Realism. Durham, UK: Acumen. 

Garrett, B. (2011). What is this Thing called Metaphysics? 2nd ed. Abingdon, NY: Routledge. 

Loux, M.J. (2006). Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge. 

Loux, M.J. (ed). (2008). Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge. 

Ritchie, J. Understanding Naturalism. Stocksfield: Acumen, 2008. 

Schmitz, K.L. (2007). The Texture of Being: Essays in First Philosophy. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press. 

van Inwagen, P. (2002). Metaphysics. 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Westview Press. 

van Inwagen, P., Zimmerman, D. (eds). (2008). Metaphysics: The Big Questions. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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