Debates in contemporary theoretical philosophy

Basic Information

Course 2023/2024
Sven Rosenkranz
Fabrice Correia
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Module 3. Research Seminar in Theoretical Philosophy


Monday to Friday, 10:00 - 13:00h
Faculty of Philosophy, University of Barcelona. Seminar room Joan-Lluis Vives (in the Philosophy Department)


The course consists of a one-week intensive introduction to the topics of the course, given by Sven Rosenkranz (29/01 - 02/02, 2024), followed by a one-week intensive course given by Prof. Fabrice Correia from the University of Geneva, Switzerland (05/02 - 09/02, 2024). The aim of the course is to cover some of the main currents in contemporary metaphysics of time, with special emphasis on realist theories of tense, permanentist and temporaryist ontologies, the logic and semantics of future contingents, and the extent to which relativistic physics poses a threat to certain metaphysical theories of time.

Structure and Contents

Views about tensed discourse

What is tensed discourse? What are the assumptions about tense that underlie temporal logic? What does it mean ‘to take tense seriously’ in the context of metaphysical enquiry?

The A-theory and the B-theory of time

Traditionally, metaphysical theories of time are distinguished into so-called A-theories and B-theories. Similarly, some theories are typically characterised as ‘dynamic’ and others as ‘static’. What do these distinctions amount to?

Temporal ontology: presentism, the growing block theory, and permanentism

Presentists typically hold that everything is present, while the growing block theory is typically glossed as the view that some things are present, some things past, while everything is either present or past. Permanentism also countenances things that are future. How do we have to understand the universal quantifier in each case? What does it mean to say that something is past, or that it is present, or that it is future?

The problem of future contingents

Future contingents are statements about the future whose truth-value is not predetermined by what is going on in the present or was going on in the past. Can such statements still have a determinate truth-value? How does this question relate to the question of whether the future is open?

Identity through time

What is it for an object to persist through time? Do objects that so persist have temporal parts? Does change imply identity through time? Can an object be self-identical even at times when it does not exist?

Time travel

Is time travel at all conceptually possible? If it is not, why not? If it is, then what is the best account of what is going on when someone travels through time? And what metaphysical claims does it presuppose?

A-theories and B-theories of time in a relativistic setting

Classical theories of time presume a clear separation of time and space and think of time as akin to a line that each moment divides into past, present, and future. Relativistic physics challenges these assumptions. What can philosophers of time say in response?

Learning outcomes

CB6. 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.

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 the domain of 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 contemporary metaphysics of time. 

CE2. Students should be able to identify the core arguments and theories of contemporary metaphysics of time.

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

CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of a particular philosophical debate, and form a reasoned view, even if provisional, about it.

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


The course will combine lectures given by the course instructors with seminar-like discussions to which students are expected to actively contribute.


Evaluation will be based on active participation in class and a final essay, of around 3000 words, on a pertinent question to be agreed with the course instructors. Essays count for 75% and classroom participation counts for 25%.


A definite reading list will be distributed in early 2024. But the following titles are anyway well worth having a look at beforehand. An engaging, easily accessible book on the metaphysics of time is

  • Mellor, H., Real Time II, London 1998: Routledge.

Students may also want to read the articles in the section on ‘Time, Space-Time, and Persistence’ of

  • Loux, M. J. and Zimmerman, D. W. (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics, Oxford 2003: Oxford University Press.

An excellent collection of more recent essays on the philosophy of time is

  • Callender, C. (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Time, Oxford 2011: Oxford University Press.

A good selection of older but very influential texts on the topics of the course can be found in the section on time in:

  • Van Inwagen, P. and Zimmerman, D. W. (eds.), Metaphysics: The Big Questions, 2nd edition, Oxford 2008: Wiley-Blackwell.