The status of metaphysics has long been controversial, in philosophy as
well as in other disciplines. The work of Armstrong, Kripke, Lewis and
others has made ‘analytic metaphysics’ today a thriving branch of
philosophy. But recent years have seen a reaction within philosophy and
surrounding fields challenging its legitimacy. Many claim that
authority on central metaphysical questions has been ceded to physics
and other sciences. Philosophers of science have a particular interest
in evaluating this claim. We believe that recent physical science is
the source of many of the most interesting and profound issues in
contemporary metaphysics, and has provoked some of the most exciting
work on questions about what there is, on the nature of time,
causation, identity, and composition. We will explore some of this work
and raise questions about where the authority on these issues
ultimately lies. Should metaphysics be naturalized (as proposed by the
authors of the recent polemic Every Thing Must Go), or is
itself a metaphysical view? Is metaphysics as currently practiced a
poor substitute for scientific investigation, or does metaphysics have
its own distinctive method or sphere of investigation? Does science
itself involve metaphysical presuppositions, and is there any clear
boundary between scientific and metaphysical questions? Enrolled
students will have the opportunity to make a presentation to the
seminar on at least one metaphysical topic in preparation for a term
paper. Because Martin Luther King day is a university holiday, the
first meeting of the seminar will not be until January 26th. So we can
hit the ground running, participants should have completed the reading
for January 26th before that meeting.
The course meets on Mondays in Social Sciences 311 from 3:30 to 5:50
p.m. Professor Healey will be in his office (Social Sciences 214) 3-4
Thursdays, but he can stay later if necessary and/or make an
appointment for another occasion: the phone number there is
621-7109. His email is rhealey@email.Arizona.edu . Professor Jenann's
email is jtismael@email.Arizona.edu : her office hours will be
established when she arrives, after Spring Break.
Every Thing Must Go, by James Ladyman and Don Ross. Oxford
University Press, 2007.
The Metaphysics Within Physics, by Tim Maudlin. Oxford
Causation, Physics and the Constitution of Reality,
edited by Huw Price and Richard Corry. Oxford University Press,
Intelligent and informed participation in every seminar meeting. Two
presentations of original work, one during each half of the
semester. A seminar paper, to be submitted electronically by Wednesday,
May 13th. Each week any registered student can also expect to be
selected to introduce our discussion of one paper or book chapter from
the assigned readings on the weekly seminar topic.
Note: what follows is a tentative plan for the course.
Readings will be added to this syllabus, and changes may be made to the
topics and/or readings, as the course progresses. Anyone planning to
attend, and especially registered students, should consult the topics
and readings listed frequently. In particular, each week you should
consult the topic and readings for the following Monday meeting to take
note of any changes.
January 26th Introduction: the Status of Metaphysics
vis à vis Science
"The Elimination of Metaphysics Through Logical Analysis of
"Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology" (N.B. this web version has
typos, including occasional omissions of the 'meta' in 'metaphysics'!
Quine, "On What There Is", in
From a Logical Point of View
Quine, "On Carnap's Views on
Ontology", in The Ways of Paradox
Price*, "Quining Naturalism"
Price*, "Metaphysics after Carnap: The Ghost who Walks")
Ladyman and Ross, Every
Must Go: Chapter 1; sections 1.1,1.2
(* = available on line, either at this link or as an
electronic journal in the library)
February 2nd Ladyman and Ross’s
Readings Ladyman and Ross, Every Thing
Chapter 1; sections 1.3-1.7
Hilary Putnam*, “Pragmatism”, Proceedings
of the Aristotelian Society 95, 1995: 291-306 (on JSTOR)
Bas van Fraassen*, The
Empiricist Stance, chapters 1,2 (you can read this on line as an
ebook by logging in to the university library)
Hawley's review of Every Thing Must Go
Identity I: Metaphysics of Leibniz’s
Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles
Ian Hacking*, “The Identity of Indiscernibles”,
Journal of Philosophy LXXII,
Robert Adams*, “Primitive
Primitive Identity”, Journal of Philosophy LXXVI, 1979: 5-26.
Hacking*, "On the Reality of
Existence and Identity",
Canadian Journal of Philosophy VIII, 1978: 613-632.
Gordon Belot*, "The
Sufficient Reason", Journal of Philosophy XCVIII, 2001:
55-64 and section IX.
February 16th Identity II: Spacetime and the Identity of
Readings Steven French*, “Hacking away at the
Identity of Indiscernibles”, Journal of Philosophy XCII,
Ladyman and Ross, Every
Must Go: Chapter 3, first three pages, then section 3.2
Earman and Norton*, “What
space-time substantivalism? The hole story”,
British Journal for the
Philosophy of Science 38, 1987: 515-25.
Richard Healey*, “Substance,
Spacetime”, Erkenntnis 42, 1995: 287-316.
(Optional: Maudlin, "Epilogue")
February 23rd Identity III: Quantum Theory and the Identity
Readings Ladyman and Ross, Every Thing Must Go:
Chapter 3, section 3.1
Look at God's Cards, chapter
of Identical Particles
an elementary particle?"
"Identity and Individuality in Quantum Theory"
"Are Quantum Particles Objects?")
March 2nd Rainforest Realism and the
Unity of Science
Readings Ladyman and Ross, Every Thing
Chapter 4 (omitting section 4.3)
March 9th Student Presentations
March 16th SPRING BREAK
March 23rd Causation I
Readings Maudlin, “Causation,
Counterfactuals and the
Third Factor”, chapter 5 of The Metaphysics Within Physics
Norton, “Causation as Folk
Science”, chapter 2 of Causation, Physics and the Constitution of
Readings Price and Cory, "Introduction" to Causation,
Physics and the Constitution of
Woodward, “Causation with a human
face”, chapter 4 of Causation, Physics and the Constitution of
“Causation in a physical world”
(Optional Extra Judea
Pearl*, Lecture on Causality)
April 6th Causation III
Readings Price, “Causal Perspectivalism”,
chapter 10 of Causation, Physics and the Constitution of Reality
"Causation, Intervention, and Perspective"
and Weslake* "The Time-Asymmetry of Causation"
April 13th Laws and Counterfactuals
Readings Maudlin, ch. 1 "A Modest
Loewer*, "Humean Supervenience"
Maudlin, ch. 6, "The Whole Ball of Wax"
Optional Extras: Loewer*,
"Time and Law", Maudlin, ch2. "Why be Humean?"
April 20th Time
Earman* "Thoroughly Modern McTaggart"
Physics Coherently Deny the Reality of Time?"
Maudlin* "Thoroughly Muddled McTaggart" )
April 27th Things, Composition and
Readings still to come!
May 4th Student Presentations