Fall Semester 2021

This course is co-taught with Alberto Corti.

Meta-metaphysics deals with methodological and epistemological questions concerning the status of contemporary analytic metaphysics, such as whether metaphysics must be sensitive to results from the empirical sciences. The aim of the seminar is three-fold. First, to introduce the relevant background to do research in meta-metaphysics. Second, to give the students the instruments to craft a critical view on the status of metaphysics and its relationship to the empirical sciences. Third, to discuss some putative examples of metaphysical views which can be used as a tool to better understand scientific results.

Metaphysics -- the study of the fundamental structures of reality -- has been a central part of philosophy from its early day to our days. The focus of this semester’s seminar will be the epistemological status of contemporary metaphysics. In particular, the aim of the seminar is to discuss whether metaphysics is a legitimate way of inquiring nature, and whether it must be related to empirical science in order to be epistemically justified.

In the introductory part of the seminar, we will read and discuss some of the most influential papers concerning the epistemic legitimacy of metaphysics. In the second part, we will focus on Theodore Sider’s new book on the metaphysics of science. This books defends a view according to which contemporary analytic metaphysics is a necessary tool to understand the ontological content -- i.e. what they tell us about the world -- of our best scientific theories. In support of this view, Sider discusses several examples of currently open metaphysical debates which have direct impact on the philosophy of science and physics.

While some background in metaphysics and logic will be helpful, none is required to succeed in the seminar.

The seminar will be in English.

Course Requirements

If this seminar is taken for credit, please let us know. You will have to fulfill requirements, depending on the module for which you are taking this course. For credit in philosophy:

- travail écrit de recherche avec soutenance (env. 25 pages, 50'000 signes)
- travail écrit de recherche (env. 12 pages, 24'000 signes) ou présentation orale durant le séminaire

Our expectation is that everyone prepares the assigned readings ahead of time, actively participates in the seminar (including those featuring a guest speaker), and accepts a reasonable share of presentation duties.

Course Materials

Course materials such as lecture notes, handouts, etc may be made available as they will be used in class.

The readings for this seminar will be centred around the recently published monograph by Ted Sider:

  • Sider, Theodore (2020). The Tools of Metaphysics and the Metaphysics of Science. Oxford University Press.
  • All other reading materials will be made available on Moodle.

Presentation materials:

Schedule (Fall 2021)

This is the schedule for the seminar. It is subject to adjustment. Reading marked with an asterisk (*) are not mandatory.

Date Readings Presenter(s)
23.09. *Ladyman and Ross (2007, 1-66) Course instructors
30.09. Schaffer (2009, 347-383) Orpheus Calame
07.10. Price (2009, 320-346) Antonio Freiles
14.10. McKenzie (2020) Ryan Miller
21.10. Sider (2020, Ch. 1) Maria Nørgaard
28.10. Sider (2020, Ch. 2) Orpheus Calame
04.11. No seminar (semaine de lecture)
11.11. Sider (2020, §§3.1-3.8) Marta Pedroni
18.11. Sider (2020, §§3.9-3.13) Lorenzo Cocco
25.11. Sider (2020, §§3.14-3.18) Joshua Babic
02.12. Sider (2020, §§4.1-4.7.4) Lorenzo Cocco
09.12. Sider (2020, §§4.1-4.7.4, continued) Lorenzo Cocco
16.12. Guest seminar: Ted Sider (on Sider 2020, Ch. 5)
23.12. Sider (2020, §§4.8-4.12) Marta Pedroni