Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Department of Philosophy


This work is a study in Metaphysics, based upon a critical examination of the central themes in Volume 1 of McTaggart's The Nature Of Existence. Metaphysics, in general, I have defined as being the study of the most general characteristics of all existents, and of existence or the Universe as a whole. Within the general subject of Metaphysics there are two principal divisions, Ontology and Cosmology. Ontology is the study of the most general characteristics of all existents, and Cosmology is the study of the way in which, if at all, these existents are comprised by a genuine whole or unity. In the Introduction I argue that Metaphysics is essentially an a priori study; and, that attempts to found it upon a broadly empirical or inductive method are unacceptable.

The most general principles of classification within Ontology I have called the categories of existence. Upon the assumption that something exists we are, I maintain, entitled to conclude that there are four basic categories of existence. The categories are Substance, Quality, Relation, and Unity. The validity of these categories is defended in Chapters 1 and 2.

In Chapter 3 I defend the view that substance is infinitely divisible; hence that there is a plurality of substances, each, in turn, comprising an infinite number of parts. I also defend the view, which is sometimes known as the principle of the Dissimilarity of the Diverse, that substance is differentiated by its nature.

In Chapter 4 I discuss McTaggart's distinction between Intrinsic and Extrinsic Determination, and argue that Intrinsic Determination is best conceived as a relation of existent implication. The nature of the laws of existence, and the principle of Universal Determinism, are discussed within this context.

The assumption that substance is infinitely divisible can be shown to imply a number of contradictions. In Chapter 5 I discuss the nature of these contradictions. McTaggart has argued that these contradictions can only be avoided if certain conditions are met. The theory of the Determining Correspondence of Substance claims to satisfy these conditions. In Chapter 6 I discuss the theory, and defend it against some criticisms.

The validity of the theory of Determining Correspondence allows us to draw some conclusions about the kinds of unity which the Universe displays. Specifically, I argue that we are entitled to conclude that the Universe is a self-reflecting unity. In the final chapter I consider the nature of such a unity in relation to some more familiar kinds of unity. I also consider some of the empirical conclusions which might be drawn from the assumption that the Universe is a unity of this kind.