Topics in ontology

Basic Information

Course 2017/2018
Dan López de Sa
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy


Mondays, 12:00-15:00
UB, Philosophy Faculty, room 411


In recent years, some philosophers have been contending that, besides traditional debates in ontology concerning the existence and reality of candidate entities of various kinds, crucial issues in metaphysics concern claims about grounding. To illustrate: questions about numbers, say, even if perhaps originally framed as questions about whether numbers exist or are real, may turn out to be more about whether numbers essentially depend, for instance, on certain concepts by subjects like us, or whether they are constituted completely independently of them.

After a general preliminary session about grounding itself, the seminar will visit some basic traditional issues in metaphysics, with such a conjecture in the background, in a way that will provide also a relative introduction to some of the core topics in the field—including the nature of properties, physicalism, truthmaking, values, artifacts, race, and love. In a final session, the initial conjecture will be critically revisited, in the light of the exploration.

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to critically understand central texts in metaphysics in a way that puts them in a position to develop and apply original ideas.


CB9 - Students should be able to communicate their knowledge and their arguments to specialized audiences in a clear and articulate way.

CG1 – Students should be able to formulate and critically assess arguments in metaphysics.

CG2. Students should be able to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects in their area of ​​expertise.

CG3. Students should be able to engage both in general and specific discussions in metaphysics. They should be able to conduct a philosophical discussion (orally and in written form), by putting forward, for example, general arguments or specific examples, in support of one’s position.

CG4. Students should be able to work both independently and in a team, in an international environment.

CG5. Students should be able to identify methodological errors, rhetorical, conventional and uncritical assumptions, vagueness and superficiality.

CE1. Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of analtyic metaphysics. 

CE2. Students shoulld be able to identify the core arguments and theories of metaphysics concerning theoretical issues.

CE4. Students should be able to assess the writings of leading contemporary philosophers in metaphysics.

CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of debates in metaphysics.

CE7. Students should be able to critically use specialized terminology in metaphysics.


There will be ten regular three-hour sessions. The format will be that of a research seminar, structured around presentations by students and general discussion, led by the instructor.


Evaluation will be based on the quality of the presentation (10%), of the contribution to discussions (20%), and of an abstract (10%) and a short research paper (60%), on a topic related to the seminar, to be agreed with the instructor in due time.



The purpose is to open the discussion by submitting thoughts, questions, and objections. The total slot for this is up to 10 minutes per person as maximum (less may well be completely appropriate), although people are free to coordinate in the form of joint presentations. If you would like to use a handout and/or beamer, please coordinate with the instructor the week prior to your session. NB: The purpose is not to summarize the paper, that everybody will have read, but to open the discussion, by providing original contributions in the forms envisaged.


Everybody is expected to have read the papers in detail in advance, and to come to each of the ten sessions with thoughts, questions, and objections. We will do our best efforts to comply with the guidelines for respectful, constructive, and inclusive philosophical discussion

Research Paper

Short research papers (absolute maximum length, including footnotes and references: 2500 words) are expected on topics to be agreed with the instructor. Proposals should take the form of title and short abstract (<100 words), stating the main claim/conjecture/working hypothesis, as well as a skeleton of the structure of the argument or line of thought. (Tentatively, as the purpose is to coordinate regarding topic and kind of paper.) All materials are to be sent as attached .pdf files to

(Guidelines on evaluation and marking, including a note on originality and plagiarism, available at



  • Dec 11: First proposal for the research paper to be agreed with the instructor.
  • Dec 18: Final proposal for the research paper to be agreed with the instructor.
  • Jan 8 (optional): First drafts, in order to receive feedback by the instructor.
  • Feb 1: Deadline for final versions of the research paper.

Deadlines are final. Late submissions will be penalized with 5% of the maximum grade of the seminar per (portion of) the first day in delay, and 1% per subsequent.



Schaffer, Jonathan (2009): “On What Grounds What,” in Chalmers, D., D. Manley, & R. Wasserman (eds.): Metametaphysics. Oxford University Press, 347-77

Lewis, David (1983): “New Work For a Theory of Universals,” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 61: 343–377.

Jackson, Frank (1998): From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defense of Conceptual Analysis, Oxford University Press, ch 1, 1-27

Armstrong, David (2004): Truths and Truthmakers, Cambridge University Press, ch. 1 & 2, 1-25

Lewis, David (1989): “Dispositional Theories of Value,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 63: 113–137.

Thomasson, Amie (2014): "Public Artifacts, Intentions and Norms", in Pieter Vermaas et. al., eds. Artefact Kinds. Springer: Synthese Library, Forthcoming.

Glasgow, Joshua & J. Woodward (2015): “Basic Racial Realism”, Journal of the American Philosophical Association 449–66

Jenkins, Carry (2015): “What is Love? An Incomplete Map of the Metaphysics” , Journal of The American Philosophical Association 1(2), 349-64

Wilson, Jessica (2014): “No Work for a Theory of Grounding”, Inquiry 57: 535–79