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Unit information: Space, Time and Matter in 2018/19

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Unit name Space, Time and Matter
Unit code PHIL20053
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Ladyman
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Philosophy
Faculty Faculty of Arts


What is space? What is time? What is matter? The aim of this unit is to examine the different answers that have been put forward to these fundamental metaphysical questions within natural philosophy. Particular focus will be placed upon ancient philosophy (Presocratics, Plato, Aristotle), early modern natural philosophy (Descartes, Newton, Leibniz) and 18th/19th century physical theory (Boscovich, Maxwell, Mach). Students will be provided with a self-contained introduction to relevant areas of physics, with the key mathematical and physical ideas discussed in parallel to the philosophical debates.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit, students will be able to:

1. demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the key debates within the philosophy of space, time and matter.

2. explain, in a written argument, the strengths and weaknesses of positions taken within these debates, with a sophistication appropriate to level I/5.

3. demonstrate detailed knowledge of, and critically assess, the key arguments made in historical and contemporary literature concerning these debates and positions.

4. communicate these arguments with clear, fluent writing of a standard appropriate to level I/5.

5. demonstrated research skills of a standard appropriate to level I/5.

Teaching details

1 x 2-hour lecture and 1 x 1-hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

Formative: one 2500 word essay (ILOs 1-5).

Summative: one 3-hour unseen exam (ILOs 1-5).

Reading and References

Huggett, Space From Zeno to Einstein, Bradford Books MIT (1999)

Hesse, Forces and Fields, Dover Publications (2005)

Salmon, Zeno's Paradoxes, Hackett Publishing (2001)

Jammer, Concepts of space, Dover Publications (2003)