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Unit outline_

PHIL3662: Reality Time and Possibility M'physics Adv

Semester 1, 2023 [Normal day] - Remote

This unit is an advanced version of PHIL2622. It explores the relationship between space, time and modality. It asks the questions: What is time? What is space? How do objects exist through time? Could our world have been other than it is? What sorts of things are persons? Is it possible to travel backwards in time? Is our world ultimately composed of fundamental simple objects? The course provides a general background in analytic metaphysics.

Unit details and rules

Academic unit Philosophy
Credit points 6
12 credit points at 2000 level in Philosophy
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator David Braddon-Mitchell,
Lecturer(s) David Braddon-Mitchell,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Assignment Essay 1
33% Mid-semester break
Due date: 16 Apr 2023 at 23:59
1400 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
Online task Weekly quizzes
22% Please select a valid week from the list below 1000wd
Outcomes assessed: LO1
Assignment Essay 2
45% Week 13
Due date: 28 May 2023 at 23:59
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Assessment summary

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a High distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a Distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an exceptional standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


75 - 84

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a very high standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


65 - 74

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at a good standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


50 - 64

Awarded when you demonstrate the learning outcomes for the unit at an acceptable standard, as defined by grade descriptors or exemplars outlined by your faculty or school.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction and outline of course Lecture (2 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 02 Eternalism and presentism Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2
Week 03 The Growing Block and Branching Time Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 04 Endurance and Perdurance 1 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 05 Endurance and Perdurance 2 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 06 Personal identity Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 07 Time travel Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 08 Possibility and necessity Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 09 Counterpart theory and trans world identity Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 10 Theories of causation 1 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 11 1. Theories of causation 2; 2. The laws of nature 1 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 12 The laws of nature 2 Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 13 Workshop on take home exam questions Lecture and tutorial (3 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4

Attendance and class requirements

  • Attendance: According to Faculty Board Resolutions, students in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences are expected to attend 90% of their classes. If you attend less than 50% of classes, regardless of the reasons, you may be referred to the Examiner’s Board. The Examiner’s Board will decide whether you should pass or fail the unit of study if your attendance falls below this threshold.
  • Lecture recording: Most lectures (in recording-equipped venues) will be recorded and may be made available to students on the LMS. However, you should not rely on lecture recording to substitute your classroom learning experience.
  • Preparation: Students should commit to spend approximately three hours’ preparation time (reading, studying, homework, essays, etc.) for every hour of scheduled instruction.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

Further Reading


Baker, L. R. (1997). "Why Constitution is not Identity.” Journal of Philosophy 94: 599-621.

Balashov, Y. (2000a). “Persistence and Space-time: Philosophical Lessons of the Pole and Barn.” The Monist. 83(3): 321-240.

Doepke, F. (1982). "Spatially Coinciding Objects". Ratio 24: 45-60.

Dowe, P. and Baker, S. (2003). ‘Paradoxes of multi-location’ Analysis 63(2) 106-114.

Haslanger, S. (1989). "Endurance and Temporary Intrinsics. Analysis 49: 119-125.

Heller, M. (1990). The Ontology of Physical Objects: Four Dimensional Hunks of Matter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hinchliff, M. (1996). “The puzzle of change.” Philosophical Perspectives 10, Meta- physics 119-133.

Lowe, E.J. (1987). “Lewis on Perdurance Versus Endurance.” Analysis 47: 152-54.



Lowe, E.J. (1988). “The Problems of Intrinsic Change: Rejoinder to Lewis.” Analysis 48: 72-77.

Lowe, E.J. (1995). "Coinciding Objects: In Defence of the Standard Account". Analysis 55: 171-178.

Miller, K. (2005). ‘The Metaphysical Equivalence of Three and Four Dimensionalism’ Erkenntnis 62 (1) 91-117.

Time and Ontology

Markosian, N. (1994). “The 3D/4D Controversy and Non-Present Objects.” Philosophical Papers 23: 243-49.

McCall, S. (1994). A Model of the Universe: Space-Time, Probability, and Decision. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Merricks, T. (1999). “Persistence, Parts and Presentism.” Nous 33(3): 421-438. Miller, K. (2006). ‘Morality in a Branching Universe’

Disputatio 20(1): 305-325.

Miller, K. (2004). ‘The Twins Paradox and Temporal Passage’ Analysis 64(3) 203-206.

Sider, T. (2001). Four-dimensionalism: an ontology of persistence and time. Oxford University Press.

Sider, T (1999). “Presentism and Ontological Commitment” Journal of 94(7) 325-347.

Tooley, M. (1997). Time, Tense and Causation, Oxford: Clarendon Press.


Lewis. D (1968). "Counterparts of Person and their Bodies." Journal of 65: 113-126.

Lewis, D. (1986). On the Plurality of Worlds. New York Blackwell Press. Yablo, S. (1987). "Identity, Essence and Indiscernibility." The

Journal of

84: 294-314.





Personal Identity

Braddon-Mitchell, D. and C. West (2001). “Temporal Phase Pluralism” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62(1): pp 1-25.

Braddon-Mitchell, D. and Miller, K. (2004) ‘How to be a Conventional Person’ The Monist 87(4): 457-474.

Johnston, M. (1989). “Relativism and the Self” in M Krausz (ed) Relativism In- terpretation and Confrontation, Ilinois: University of Notre

Dame Press.

Lewis, D. (1983). "Survival and Identity.” in Philosophical Papers Vol I Oxford University Press pp 55-77.

Merricks, T. (2001). “Realism about Personal Identity over Time” Philosphical Perspectives 15 Metaphysics J.Tomberlin ed MA:

Blackwell pp173-187.

Parfit, D. (1984). Reasons and Persons. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Time Travel

Grey, W. (1999). “Troubles with Time Travel”. Philosophy 74: 55-70; Horwich, P (1975) “On Some Alleged Paradoxes of Time Travel.”

Journal of

Philosophy 72: 432-444.

Lewis, D. (1976). “The Paradoxes of Time Travel” American Philosophical

Quarterly 13: 145-152.

Miller, K. (2006). ‘Travelling in Time: How to Wholly Exist in Two Places at the

Same Time’ Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 36(3): 309-334.

Miller, K. (2006). ‘Time Travel and the Open Future’ Disputatio 19 (1): 197-206.

Sider, T. (2002). “Time Travel, Coincidences and Counterfactuals.” Philosophical Studies 110:115-138.

Smith, N. J. J. (1997). 'Bananas Enough for Time Travel'. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48(3), 363-389.

Tye, M. (1990). ‘Vague Objects.’ 9Mind 9: 535-557.

Online Components

This unit requires regular use of the University’s Learni

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. Understanding of various terms that are general to Anglo-American philosophy and further:
  • LO2. Capacity to form arguments
  • LO3. Developing a critical and enquiring attitude to questions.
  • LO4. Learn to read philosophy

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

No changes have been made since this unit was last offered


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.