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Unit information: Space, Time and Matter in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

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 Dr. Karim Thebault
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

On successful completion of this 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. demonstrate detailed knowledge and in-depth understanding of the key historical and contemporary literature concerning these debates and positions,

3. demonstrate the ability to critically engage with and philosophically analyse those key debates, and the key historical and contemporary literature concerning them, with a sophistication appropriate to level I/5.

4. Demonstrate skills in the written presentation of complex material in a standard appropriate to level I/5.

5. demonstrate independent 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


1 x 1000 word essay [ILOs (1)-(5)]


1 x 1000 word essay (40%) [ILOs (1)-(5)]

2-hour unseen exam (60%) [ILOs (1)-(4)]

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)