PHIL222-17A (HAM)

Possible Worlds

20 Points

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Te Kura Kete Aronui
School of Social Sciences


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Paper Description

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This paper is an exploration of debates in philosophy's subdiscipline of metaphysics, the philosophic study of ultimate reality, including: the problem of the reality of time, the paradox of time travel, free will and determinism, personal identity through time, and the nature of self.

Students may have been attracted to enrol in the paper because of its odd title: "Possible Worlds." The title has been chosen because this paper investigates not only what time, causation, free will, and personal identity are, but also how to study them. Philosophers and science fiction writers employ thought-experiments, short stories that aim to evoke intuitive responses among readers, to carefully consider the way the world is, the way the world ought to be, or the way the world ought not to be. Throughout this paper, we will read some important work in philosophy and supplement them by reading science fiction stories and watching science fiction films. Neither familiarity nor a passing acquaintance with philosophy is presupposed; curiosity is.

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Paper Structure

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The paper is timetabled as two lectures and one tutorial per week.

While Monday's lectures are just that, lectures, since Wednesday's lectures occur in a 2-hour block, we will use that time-period to watch a movie or to analyse philosophical topics arising in a science fiction story.

Tutorials are held once weekly, and students must enrol in one of the two available tutorials using Moodle's online Choice tool during the first week of the paper. Tutorials begin during the second week of the paper.

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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the course should be able to:

  • Learning Outcomes
    • Think analytically about philosophical issues concerning the nature of language and communication.
    • Analyse, evaluate and construct philosophical arguments, both in oral discussion and in written work.
    • Understand some of the most influential positions taken on these issues in contemporary philosophy.
    • Understand the significance of some important episodes in the history of philosophy.
    • Understand how philosophic issues in language and communication are important for some current public debates.
    Linked to the following assessments:
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Assessment will be comprised of four internally assessed components (two short essays, tutorial participation, and book/movie review) and an exam designed to test the mastery of the paper's material.

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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 3:1. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 25% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 3:1 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 25% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Short Essay #1
24 Mar 2017
9:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
2. Short Essay #2
28 Apr 2017
5:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
3. Tutorial Participation
  • In Class: In Tutorial
4. Movie / Book Review
9 Jun 2017
5:00 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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Required readings will be made available using the Waikato Library's Talis Aspire portal reading list; a hyperlink to the reading list will be available through Moodle.
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Recommended Readings

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If and when there are recommended readings to supplement the week's required reading, they will be made available in the paper's Talis Aspire reading list.
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Online Support

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The paper will have online support using the University of Waikato's Moodle interface, and our portal will serve as a clearinghouse for copies of lecture notes, tutorial questions, Q&A with your lecturer, and assignment submissions.
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The total workload for this paper is 200 hours. That is a little more than 13 hours a week, including class time.

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Linkages to Other Papers

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Philosophy is the very crucible from which all other disciplines evolved, so this paper links with every other paper in the offing at university.
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