Good news everyone! The New Centre for Research and Practice has asked me to teach an online course as part of their grand experiment in online pedagogy. In contrast to my more recent online offerings in which I’ve been dealing with issues in philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence, freedom, and beauty, I’m returning to some earlier theme explored on this blog under the heading ‘Reintroduction to Metaphysics’. This is a two part course, each half of which will consist in four weekly two and a half hour seminars, which will be roughly evenly split between lecturing and group discussion over google hangouts. This will be supplemented by structured online discussion over google classroom. There are a limited number of spaces available for those who want to take full part in the course, which includes involvement in the group discussions and essay assessment, but anyone who likes can pay to audit the course in real time or after the fact. For more information on dates, times, prices, and whatnot please consult the new centre page or the facebook page for the course. For more information on the content of the course, see the brief outline below.
I will also have another exciting announcement later this week, with any luck.
Reintroduction to Metaphysics
The end of metaphysics was a dominant theme in early 20th century philosophy. Even though the Western philosophical tradition sundered in two, one of the few things its analytic and continental halves seemed to agree upon was that the age of metaphysics was over, either because physics had finally usurped it or because philosophy had finally rooted out the pathological desires which drove us to speak of the fundamental structure of reality. The resurgence of metaphysics in the second half of the century in both traditions certainly came as a surprise, even if it has taken till the turn of the 21st century to become ingrained in both camps. However, despite it’s increasing popularity, there remains much confusion about precisely what metaphysics is: How does it sit within philosophy as a whole? How does it relate to the sciences (especially physics)? How do we go about doing it?
The purpose of this module is to reintroduce metaphysics by considering these sorts of methodological questions, and to do so by explaining the history of its rise, fall, and rise again. It will be broken into two halves:
Part I: The Speculative Return
We will begin by examining the return of speculative metaphysics, focusing primarily upon the advent of ‘Speculative Realism’ and its ramifications. This will provide us with a way of framing the historical arc of the decline of metaphysics (correlationism) and some purchase upon what has potentially been overlooked in the drive to speculate (the critique of metaphysics). We will address certain issues in contemporary metaphysics, but tour principal aim will be to construct a historical narrative through which to articulate the methodological questions these raise.
Part II: Metaphysics and Method
We will open by consolidating the methodological issues discussed in the first part, and attempt to present an account of what metaphysics is. This will provide answers to the most pressing questions regarding the philosophical role of metaphysics (e.g., its relation to science) and a methodology for orienting ourselves towards specific metaphysical questions (e.g., the problem of universals). We will then address a number of these specific questions, examining classical and contemporary debates on a number of topics from within this new methodological framework.