How Things Are

Themes of contemporary metaphysics
Geneva, Spring term 2011

Wednesday 18-20 at L208, 2nd floor of 2, rue de Candolle (where the department is).

Thursday 18-20 at L208, 2nd floor of 2, rue de Candolle (where the department is).

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also of interest


Introduction: three distinctions

"Introduction" (ch. 0)


Ontological dependence and priority

Fine 1994, "Essence and Modality"

"Varieties of determination" (ch. 1)


Grounding, causation, parthood

Schaffer 2010, "Monism: the Priority of the Whole"

"Varieties of determination" (ch. 1)


Contingent Essence

Almog 1991, "The What and the How"

"Essence" (ch. 2)


First workshop: Grounding and determination

All welcome!


Amodal supervenience

Leuenberger 2008, "Supervenience in Metaphysics"

"Supervenience" (ch. 3)


Ontological commitment and aboutness

Quine 1948, "On What There Is"

"Grounding Truth in Being" (ch. 4)


Reference and Representation

Kaplan 1990, "Words"

"The Metaphysics of Words"


Truthmaking -- explanation by things

Rodríguez-Pereyra 2005, "Why Truthmakers"

"Truthmaker realism" (ch. 5)


Truthmaking is not Necessitation

Armstrong 2000, "Difficult Cases in the Theory of Truthmaking"

"Truthmaker necessitarianism" (ch. 6)


The truthmaker argument for the existence of properties

Armstrong 1980, "'Ostrich Nominalism' or 'Mirage Realism'"

Armstrong 1980, "Against 'Ostrich' Nominalism: A Reply to Michael Devitt"

"How Things Are" (ch. 7)


Second workshop: Truthmaking

All welcome!


Propositions and the like

Iacona 2003, "Are There Propositions?"

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


Against tropes

Bacon 1997, "Tropes"

"Predicative Entities" (ch. 8)


States of affairs

Armstrong 1993, "A World of States of Affairs"

Wetzel 2003, "States of Affairs"
Predicative Entities (ch. 8)


Intrinsic vs. extrinsic properties

Weatherson 2002, "Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Properties"

"Intrinsicness" (ch. 10)


Determinables and determinates

Funkhouser 2006, "The Determinable-Determinate Relation"

"Determinable, higher-order and hypothetical properties" (ch. 9)


Third workshop: Universals and Tropes

All welcome!



Fine, 2000. "Neutral Relations"

"Relations" (ch. 11)


Structural properties, mixtures and extended simples

Parsons 2004, "Distributional Properties"

"Structure" (ch. 12)



"Glueing things together" (ch. 13)
"Unity in Diversity" (ch. 14)
"Properties as Parts" (ch. 15)



"Adverbs and Events" (ch. 16)
"An Adverbial Theory of TIme and Space" (ch. 17)
"An Adverbial Theory of Modality" (ch. 18)


Qua qua qua

"Reifying determination" (ch. 19)
"Qua objects" (ch. 20)
"Reism rules" (ch. 21)


Fourth workshop: Properties, parts, and values

All welcome!


Fifth workshop: Exemplification

All welcome!

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


  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)
  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


  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. Intrinsic/extrinsic vs. relational/non-relational: Humberstone, Lloyd, 1996. "Intrinsic/extrinsic", Synthese 108, 2:205--267
  6. properties and relations: Fine, Kit, 2000. "Neutral Relations". The Philosophical Review 109: 1-33
  7. 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)
  8. determinable and determinate properties: Funkhouser, Eric, 2006. "The Determinable-Determinate Relation". Noûs 40: 548-569

Metaphysical glue

  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
  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


  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
  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:





Primary texts: