Metaphysics, Graduate Center PHIL 77000, Fall 2013

Metaphysics: On How it All Hangs Together

syllabus

The early twentieth century physicist Sir Arthur Eddington famously described how, in settling down to the task of writing, he must draw up his chair to two tables: the one, familiar to him from his earliest years, is extended, comparatively permanent, colored and, above all, substantial, while the other, a more recent acquaintance, is almost entirely empty space. “Yes,” he exclaims, “there are duplicates of every object about me—two tables, two chairs, two pens.” Philosophers, with their similar predilection for tables and chairs, have also been interested in how higher-level substantial objects are related to the physicist’s streams of particles rushing about in mostly empty space and recently such interest has given rise to a burgeoning literature on the question of “grounding,” that is, on how higher-level things are metaphysically dependent on (relatively) fundamental things. In this course, we shall delve into this literature as well as the related topics of levels of organization, physicalism, and fundamentality. We shall also consider whether a priori metaphysics, as it is exemplified in much of the current literature on grounding, is a viable means of investigation into the topic at hand.

For students in the class, readings are posted on a password protected post. Prior to our first meeting, please read the syllabus regarding access.

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