The Nature of Reality

Subject PHIL20039 (2014)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2014.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2014:

Semester 1, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 2x 1-hour lectures each week and 1x 1-hour tutorial (weeks 2-12)
Total Time Commitment:

an anverage of 8.5 hours per week





Recommended Background Knowledge:

One of the following subjects is recommended but not required:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
Non Allowed Subjects:


Core Participation Requirements:

For the purposes of considering request for Reasonable Adjustments under the disability Standards for Education (Cwth 2005), and Students Experiencing Academic Disadvantage Policy, academic requirements for this subject are articulated in the Subject Description, Subject Objectives, Generic Skills and Assessment Requirements of this entry.The University is dedicated to provide support to those with special requirements. Further details on the disability support scheme can be found at the Disability Liaison Unit website:


Dr Dana Goswick


Dr Dana Goswick

Subject Overview:

Our central question in this subject will be the extent to which our everyday experiences are determined by the nature of the world itself versus the extent to which they're determined by the structure of our own minds. Our approach to this question will be multi-faceted, drawing on philosophical texts and films, as well as our personal experiences. In Unit 1, Our Access to the External World v. The External World In-Itself, we'll discuss Realism v. Idealism. Is the world really as it seems intuitively to be to us (Realism) or is it just a projection of our minds (Idealism). The starting point of our discussion will be the film Inception. In Unit 2, The Nature of Material Objects, we'll ask whether the world comes ready made with objects such as trees, rocks, and coke bottles or whether objects are constructed out of our responses to the world. We'll watch the film The Gods Must Be Crazy and discuss the extent to which our individuation of the world into objects is influenced by our cultural background. In Unit 3, Modality: Necessity & Possibility, we'll ask whether there are necessary facts (e.g. Necessarily 2+2=4) and possibility facts (e.g. Possibly I'll visit Sydney next month) independent of us or whether necessity and possibility arise from our way of viewing the world. We'll watch the film Sliding Doors. In Unit 4, Time, we'll look at the nature of time. Does only the present moment exist or does reality consist of many moments of time - some past, some present, and some future? Is there really any such thing as time or is it, as Kant says, just a feature of our minds? We'll look at the philosophical assumptions made by the film The Time Traveler's Wife.

Learning Outcomes:

On completing this subject students will:

  • have a critical understanding of the main issues in contemporary analytical metaphysics.
  • have developed skills in philosophical reasoning concerning issues covered.
  • be in a position to go on to more advanced work in this area.

Written assignment of 1000 words, 30% (due mid-semester), written assignment of 2000 words, 50% (due end of semester), two in-class quizzes, each the equivalent of 500 words, 10% each.

Hurdle Requirements: A hurdle requirement of a minimum attendance at 80% of tutorials applies in this subject. Regular participation in tutorials is required. Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day, after 5 working days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject..

Prescribed Texts:

A subject reader will be available at the university bookshop at the beginning of semester.

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

Students who successfully complete this subject should:

  • develop familiarity with the main issues in contemporary metaphysics and ability to understand how metaphysics fits with other disciplines, and how it applies outside academia.
  • develop the ability to think critically and systematically about abstract intellectual problems, and the ability to apply such abstract reasoning to concrete situations.
  • develop the ability to read critically and to analyze ideas (one's own and those of the authors read) orally and in writing.
Links to further information:
Related Majors/Minors/Specialisations: Philosophy
Philosophy Major

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