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The Nature of Reality (PHIL20039)

Undergraduate level 2Points: 12.5On Campus (Parkville)

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Year of offer2019
Subject levelUndergraduate Level 2
Subject codePHIL20039
Semester 1
FeesSubject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date

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, films and literary works, as well as our personal experiences. In topic 1, the nature of the world, we'll discuss Realism, Idealism, and Skepticism. Is the world really as it seems intuitively to be to us (Realism) or is it just a projection of our minds (Idealism). In topic 2, the nature of the self, we'll examine (i) what changes you can undergo and still remain yourself, (ii) the extent to which your personality and mind are constructed by you vs. being given to you by nature or upbringing, and (iii) whether genuine relationships exist between you and others or whether it's mostly a projection on your part. In topic 3, the nature of time, we'll examine 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? Does contemporary physics show there's no such thing as time, or is there a way to reconcile the findings of physics with our intuitive view that time exists?

Intended 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.

Eligibility and requirements





Non-allowed subjects


Recommended background knowledge

Code Name Teaching period Credit Points
PHIL10002 Philosophy: The Big Questions
Semester 1
PHIL10003 Philosophy: The Great Thinkers
Semester 2

Core participation requirements

The University of Melbourne is committed to providing students with reasonable adjustments to assessment and participation under the Disability Standards for Education (2005), and the Assessment and Results Policy (MPF1326). Students are expected to meet the core participation requirements for their course. These can be viewed under Entry and Participation Requirements for the course outlines in the Handbook.

Further details on how to seek academic adjustments can be found on the Student Equity and Disability Support website: http://services.unimelb.edu.au/student-equity/home



  • Three assignments of 600 words, due end of week 4, end of week 8 and end of week 12 (15% each)
  • One assignment of 2200 words, due in the first week of the examination period (55%)

Hurdle requirement:

  • Students must attend a minimum of 75% of tutorials in order to pass this subject.
  • All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject.

Note: Assessment submitted late without an approved extension will be penalised at 10% per day. After five days late assessment will not be marked. In-class tasks missed without approval will not be marked.

Dates & times

  • Semester 1
    Principal coordinatorDana Goswick
    Mode of deliveryOn Campus — Parkville
    Contact hours2x 1-hour lectures each week and 1x 1-hour tutorial (weeks 2-12)
    Total time commitment170 hours
    Teaching period 4 March 2019 to 2 June 2019
    Last self-enrol date15 March 2019
    Census date31 March 2019
    Last date to withdraw without fail10 May 2019
    Assessment period ends28 June 2019

    Semester 1 contact information

Time commitment details

170 hours

Additional delivery details

It is recommended that students enrolling in this subject have completed a first year philosophy subject, but this is not a requirement.

Further information

  • Texts

    Prescribed texts

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

  • Breadth options
  • Available through the Community Access Program

    About the Community Access Program (CAP)

    This subject is available through the Community Access Program (also called Single Subject Studies) which allows you to enrol in single subjects offered by the University of Melbourne, without the commitment required to complete a whole degree.

    Entry requirements including prerequisites may apply. Please refer to the CAP applications page for further information.

  • Available to Study Abroad and/or Study Exchange Students

    This subject is available to students studying at the University from eligible overseas institutions on exchange and study abroad. Students are required to satisfy any listed requirements, such as pre- and co-requisites, for enrolment in the subject.

Last updated: 22 May 2019