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Metaphysics

Essays on the nature of existence, properties and mind

What Is Metaphysics?

Metaphysics: from Greek ta meta ta physika "the (works) after the Physics"

Enquiries in Metaphysics encompass three key areas:

  1. ontology (what things exist, what are their properties and how do they interact?)
  2. philosophy of mind (what is the relationship between mind and body, does free-will exist and how do words have meaning?)
  3. philosophy of religion (what is the supernatural, how can we know it and why does evil exist?)

Below you will find Rational Realm essays of two types.

General Essays:
Short popular essays of a more general nature requiring no specialist knowledge
Specialist Essays:
Comprehensive referenced research papers on specialist subjects requiring a working familiarity with the subject

Rational Realm welcomes essay contributions for publication on our site. Please review our submission guidelines and contact us.

General Essays

  • Cognitive Science and the Philosophy of Mind

    Recent advances in cognitive science are shedding new light on two key problems that have vexed philosophers of mind for centuries. Experiments using brain imaging are pointing to the probability that our perceived free will is not causally disconnected from previous brain states. Secondly, the debate between computationalists and connectionists about how the mind attaches meaning is driving research in new directions.

  • The Problem of Evil

    The existence of evil is considered by many to be the most vexed question concerning the existence of a perfect deity. The author evaluates four common theistic responses to this problem, highlighting the pros and cons of each approach. He concludes with a critical examination of a theistic defence designed to show that the problem of evil is not a problem at all.

Specialist Essays

  • Free Will and Compatibilism

    The author mounts a case against the incompatibilists's thesis that free will is impossible in a deterministic world. He charges them with misconstruing ordinary 'free will' talk by overlaying common language with their own metaphysical presuppositions. Through a review of ordinary discourse and recent developments in jurisprudence and the sciences, he draws together the four key factors required for an act to be free.

  • Frankfurt Cases and 'Could Have Done Otherwise'

    Frankfurt argued that our exercise of free will and allocation of moral responsibility do not depend on us being able to do other than we did. Applying his character-based counterfactual conditional analysis of free acts to Frankfurt's counterexamples, Leslie Allan unpacks the confusions that lie at the heart of Frankfurt's argument. He also explores how his 4C compatibilist theory measures up against Frankfurt's conclusions.

  • Psychological Research on Free Will Intuitions: A Critical Review

    Is our ordinary conception of free will compatible with the scientific view of a deterministic universe? A new breed of experimental philosophers is applying scientific methods to find out how the person on the street thinks about free will and moral responsibility. Leslie Allan surveys key studies in this area to find out what they reveal about our notions of human freedom.

  • The Existence of Mind-Independent Physical Objects

    The author challenges both the eliminative idealist's contention that physical objects do not exist and the phenomenalist idealist's view that statements about physical objects are translatable into statements about private mental experiences. Firstly, he details how phenomenalist translations are parasitic on the realist assumption that physical objects exist independently of experience. Secondly, the author confronts eliminative idealism head on by exposing its heuristic sterility in contrast with realism's predictive success.

  • The Mind/Brain Identity Theory: A Critical Appraisal

    The materialist version of the mind/brain identity theory has met with considerable challenges from philosophers of mind. The author first dispenses with a popular objection to the theory based on the law of indiscernibility of identicals. By means of discussing the vexatious problem of phenomenal qualities, he explores how the debate may be advanced by seeing each dualist and monist ontology through the lens of an evolutionary epistemology.

  • Plantinga's Free Will Defence: Critical Note

    Some atheistic philosophers have argued that God could have created a world with free moral agents and yet absent of moral evil. Using possible world semantics, Alvin Plantinga sought to defuse this logical form of the problem of evil. Leslie Allan examines the adequacy of Plantinga's argument that the existence of God is logically compatible with the existence of moral evil.

  • Plantinga's Ontological Argument

    The ontological argument for the existence of God has enjoyed a recent renaissance among philosophers of religion. This essay critically examines Plantinga's modal version. The author concludes that while the argument is probably formally valid, it is ultimately unsound. Nonetheless, Plantinga's version has generated much interest and discussion. The author spends some time uncovering the reasons for the argument's powerful intuitive appeal.

  • The Soul-Making Theodicy: A Response to Dore

    The soul-making theodicy seeks to explain how the evil we experience is necessitated by God in order to facilitate the development of virtuous characters in free moral agents. Many philosophers of religion have levelled strong objections against this theodicy. In this essay, Leslie Allan considers the effectiveness of the counterarguments advanced by theist philosopher, Clement Dore, to two key objections to the soul-making theodicy.

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