Metaphysics and Mind (PHIL*2370) | College of Arts

Metaphysics and Mind (PHIL*2370)

Code and section: PHIL*2370*01

Term: Winter 2021

Instructor: Mark McCullagh


This course is about the nature of thought and its relation to the world. We will read a selection of writings on that subject, from the 17th century up to the end of the 20th.
* 8 brief writings, on assigned topics
* 12 reactions/queries
* 3 tests
* no final examination

There is no textbook for this course. All material is in PDF form and is linked on the “resources” page of the course website.
Weekly routine
Weekend: do reading for following week (text + my reading guide)
Monday: post on Teams your responses/queries, which will be discussed in our Tuesday meeting on Teams
Tuesday: [mandatory] discussion on Teams; assignment given
Wednesday: work on assignment
Thursday: [optional] office hour on Teams for discussion and questions
Friday: submit assignment

January 11-15: Descartes I: his project and his principles
January 18-22: Descartes II: his argument; assessing his project
January 25-29: Locke on ideas and primary and secondary qualities
February 1-5: Locke on perception; Molyneux’s problem; operations on ideas
February 8-12: Locke on language; taking stock of Descartes and Locke
February 22-26: Hume’s sceptical doubts, and his “sceptical solution” of those doubts
March 1-5: Kant’s idea of synthetic a priori knowledge; the problems he is trying to solve
March 8-12: Intuiting things a priori; Kant’s defence against the charge of idealism
March 15-19: Kant on “pure natural science”; solving the Humean problem
March 22-26: Davidson on conceptual schemes
March 29-April 1: Putnam on Twin Earth and the division of linguistic labour
April 5-9: Putnam on scepticism and brains in vats

Course Outline


The University of Guelph resides on the land of the Between the Lakes Treaty No. 3, the territory of the Mississaugas of the Credit. This land is part of the Dish with One Spoon, a covenant between Indigenous nations to live peaceably on the territories of the Great Lakes region. We recognize that today this gathering place is home to many First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and acknowledging them reminds us of our collective responsibility to the land where we learn, live and work.