Themes of contemporary metaphysics

UNAM, Spring Term 2010

4 Créditos, Programa 40, Posgrado en Filosofía

Tuesdays 16.15-18

Aula 4, IIF

The course will be given in English, though students may talk in Spanish (or French or German).

The papers are protected by a password. Ask me for it.


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to read

also of interest


Introduction: three distinctions

Introduction (ch. 0 of my thesis)


Ontological commitment, aboutness, truthmaking

Quine, 1948. "On What There Is"

Grounding Truth in Being (ch. 4)


Contingent Essence

Fine, 1994. "Essence and Modality"

Contingent Essence


Amodal supervenience

Leuenberger, 2008. "Supervenience in Metaphysics"

Amodal supervenience


Wrap-up on essence and modality: truthmaking -- explanation by things

Rodríguez-Pereyra, 2005. "Why Truthmakers"

Truthmaking: explanation by things


Propositions and the like

Iacona, 2003. "Are There Propositions?"

Every Thing Is Positive
McGrath 2007, "Propositions" (Stanford Encyclopedia)


Universals, tropes and states of affairs

Armstrong, 1993. "A World of States of Affairs"

Bacon, 1997. "Tropes".
Wetzel, 2003. "States of Affairs"


Intrinsic vs. extrinsic properties

Weatherson, 2002. "Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Properties"



Fine, 2000. "Neutral Relations"




Exemplification as parthood


Structural properties, mixtures and extended simples


Qua objects

Bits and pieces


Those who wish to receive the credits should :

Ideally, each of the three steps should take approx. the same amount of time and effort.


Introduction: two paradigms of contemporary metaphysics (week 1)
Foundations (weeks 3-4)
  1. ontological commitment: Quine, Willard van Orman, 1948. "On What There Is". Review of Metaphysics 2: 21-38. (reprinted in Quine 1953, Kim / Sosa 1999 and van Inwagen / Zimmerman 2008)
  2. truthmaker arguments: Rodríguez-Pereyra, Gonzalo, 2005. "Why Truthmakers". In Beebee, Helen and Dodd, Julian, editors, Truthmakers, pp. 17−31. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  3. Identity and indiscriminability: Hawthorne, John, 2003. "Identity". In Loux, Michael J. and Zimmerman, Dean W., editors, The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics, Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy, pp. 99−130. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Reprinted in Hawthorne (2006,1−30) (reserved)
  4. truth and existence: Jackson, Frank, 1980. "Ontological Commitment And Paraphrase". Philosophy 55: 303−315
  5. the grounding of modality: Shalkowski, Scott A., 1994. "The Ontological Ground of Alethic Modality". The Philosophical Review 103: 669−688
  6. the modal account of essence: Fine, Kit, 1994. "Essence and Modality". In Tomberlin, James E., editor, Philosophical Perspectives 8: Logic and Language, pp. 1-16. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers. The Second Philosophical Perspectives Lecture
  7. the modal account of supervenience: Leuenberger, Stephan, 2008. "Supervenience in Metaphysics". Philosophy Compass 3: 749-762.
  8. the danger of conventionalism: Sidelle, Alan,1989. Necessity, Essence and Individuation: A Defense of Conventionalism. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, ch. 1 and 2 (reserved)
Properties (weeks 5-6)
  1. the truthmaker argument for properties:
    • Devitt, Michael, 1980. "'Ostrich Nominalism' or 'Mirage Realism'". Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 61:433-439 (in Mellor / Oliver 1999)
    • Armstrong, David M., 1980. "Against 'Ostrich' Nominalism: A Reply to Michael Devitt", Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 61: 440-449. (in Mellor / Oliver 1999)
  2. universals vs. tropes: Bacon, John 1997. "Tropes". In Zalta, Edward N., editor, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford, California: The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information. Version of February 19, 1997, substantially revised February 27, 2008
  3. states of affairs vs. events: Wetzel, Thomas, 2003. "States of Affairs". In Zalta, Edward N., editor, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford, California: The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information. Version of July 17,2003
  4. intrinsic vs. extrinsic properties: Weatherson, Brian, 2002. "Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Properties". In Zalta, Edward N., editor, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford, California: The Metaphysics Research Lab, Center for the Study of Language and Information. Version of January 5, 2002, substantially revised July 25, 2006
  5. properties and relations: Fine, Kit, 2000. "Neutral Relations". The Philosophical Review 109: 1−33
  6. properties and their causal rôles: Hawthorne, John, 2001. "Causal Structuralism". In Tomberlin, James E., editor, Philosophical Perspectives 15: Metaphysics, pp. 361−378. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers. Reprinted in Hawthorne (2006, 211−227) (reserved)
  7. determinable and determinate properties: Funkhouser, Eric, 2006. "The Determinable-Determinate Relation". Noûs 40: 548−569
Metaphysical glue (weeks 7-8)
  1. bundle theories: Simons, Peter M., 1994. "Particulars in Particular Clothing: Three Trope Theories of Substance". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 54: 553-557
  2. substratum theories: Adams, Robert Merrihew, 1974. "Theories of Actuality". Noûs 8: 211−231.
  3. Leibniz' principle again, adverbial modification: Hawthorne, John, 2006b. "Plenitude, Convention, and Ontology". In Hawthorne (2006), pp. 53−69 (reserved)
  4. locations: Sider, Theodore and Hawthorne, John, 2002. "Locations". Philosophical Topics 30: 53−76. Reprinted in Hawthorne (2006, pp. 31−52, reserved)
  5. aspects and respects: Baxter, Donald L. M., 1989. "Identity in the Loose and Popular Sense". Mind 97: 575-582
Objects (weeks 9-12)
  1. mereological essentialism: Chisholm, Roderick M., 1973. "Parts as Essential to Their Wholes". Review of Metaphysics 26: 581−603. Reprinted in Chisholm (1989, 65−82), reserved
  2. the puzzles of coincidence: Burke, Michael B. (1994). Dion and Theon: An Essentialist Solution to an Ancient Puzzle. Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):129-139.
  3. 3- vs. 4-dimensionalism: Sider, Theodore, 1997. "Four-Dimensionalism". The Philosophical Review 106: 197-231 (cf. also Sider 2004, reserved in the library)
  4. persistence - endurance vs. perdurance: Sider, Theodore, 2000. "The Stage View and Temporary Intrinsics". Analysis 60: 84−88
  5. A- vs. B-theories: Zimmerman, Dean W., 2005. "The A-Theory of Time, the B-Theory of Time, and 'Taking Tense Seriously'". Dialectica 59: 401−457
  6. presentism vs. eternalism: Zimmerman, Dean W., 2008. "The Privileged Present: Defending an "A-Theory" of Time". In Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, pp. 211−225. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers (reserved)
  7. Transworld heir lines and transworld individuals: Szabó, Zoltán Gendler, 2003. "On Qualification". In Zimmerman, Dean W. and Hawthorne, John, editors, Philosophical Perspectives 17: Language and Philosophical Linguistics, pp. 385−414. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers

Example questions

Guide to the literature

The guide in pdf.

General introductions:





Books on the seminar shelf at the IIF library

  1. Primary texts:
    • Armstrong, David 2004. Truth and Truthmakers. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (B5704 A754 T78 46063)
    • Lewis, David K., 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers (BD655 L48)
    • Fine, Kit, 2005. Modality and Tense. Philosophical Papers. Oxford: Oxford University Press (BC199 M6 F55)
    • Lewis, David K.,1999. Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (BD111 L484)
    • Zimmerman, Dean W., editor, 2004. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics,volume I. Oxford: Clarendon Press (BD111 O94 V-1)
    • Zimmerman, Dean W., editor, 2006. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics,volume II. Oxford: Clarendon Press (BD111 O94 V-2)
    • Gale, Richard M., editor, 2002. The Blackwell Guide to Metaphysics. Blackwell Philosophy Guides. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers (BD111 B53)
    • Sider, Theodore, Hawthorne, John, and Zimmerman, Dean W., 2008. Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Contemporary Debates in Philosophy. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers (BD95 C65)
    • Hawthorne, John, 2006. Metaphysical Essays. Oxford: Clarendon Press (BD111 H38)
    • Beebee, Helen and Dodd, Julian, editors 2005, Truthmakers. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  2. Introductions:
    • Jubien, Michael,1997. Contemporary Metaphysics. Oxford:Basil Blackwell Publishers (BD111 J83)
    • Loux, Michael J., 2002. Metaphysics: a contemporary introduction. London: Routledge, 2nd edition (BD131 L68)
    • van Inwagen, Peter, 2002. Metaphysics. Dimensions of Philosophy Series. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2nd edition (BD111 V35)
    • Lowe, Edward Jonathan, 2002. A Survey of Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press (BD 111 L68)
    • Kim, Jaegwon and Sosa, Ernest, editors, 1995. Blackwell's Companion to Metaphysics. Blackwell Companions to Philosophy. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers (BD111 C65)
  3. Anthologies
    • Kim, Jaegwon and Sosa, Ernest, editors, 1999. Metaphysics. An Anthology. Blackwell Philosophy Anthologies. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers (BD111 M455) - includes Quine (1948), Adams (1979), Chisholm (1970)
    • van Inwagen, Peter and Zimmerman, Dean W., editors, 2008. Metaphysics: The Big Questions. Oxford: Basil Blackwell Publishers, 2nd edition (BD111 M49) − includes Quine (1948), Zimmerman (1998), Prior (1970), Chisholm (1964), Frankfurt (1971)
    • Loux, Michael J., editor, 1979. The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press (BC199 M6)