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Contemporary Metaphysics


Admission requirements

This course is only accessible to:

  • Bachelor's students in Philosophy who have passed the first year and have furthermore obtained at least 10 EC of the compulsory components of the second year, including: Wetenschapsfilosofie or Philosophy of Science, and Analytische filosofie or Language and Thought.

  • Pre-master’s students in Philosophy who are in possession of an admission statement, and for whom this course is part of their programme.


When is something part of another? What is the relation between an object and its constituting matter? What is the difference between a fundamental fact, such that some molecule is built from certain atoms, and non-fundamental facts such that my cheese sandwich is tasty? What, really, is the difference between reality and appearance? Yes, this will be an unapologetic course in heavy-duty metaphysics.

The topics and themes of this course can be broadly divided in to those that concern ontology and those that concern metaphysicals and its methodology.

With regard to ontology, we will look at relations such as parthood, material constitution and grounding. As we study these different relations, we will also become familiar with general formal properties of relations as such. The core question here is how things hang together in the broadest sense of that term.

With regard to general questions about metaphysical status, we will look at notions such as being being real, being mind-dependent, and being fundamental. We will do so by looking at forms of antirealism (taking certain things to be somehow unreal) and idealism (taking things to be mind-dependent), as well as recent discussions of fundamentality. The core question here is how to divide between what is part of reality and what isn’t.

The focus will be restricted to recent analytic metaphysics. Our reading material will consist of papers by some of the best analytic metaphysicians. Authors will include David Lewis, Kit Fine, Sally Haslanger, Ted Sider, Laurie Paul, and Gideon Rosen.

Course objectives

This course aims to enable you to participate in ongoing debates of contemporary (analytic) metaphysics through the further explication, defense and criticism of current standpoints.

Students who successfully complete the course will have a good understanding of:

  • central concepts of contemporary metaphysics, such as: parthood, grounding, response dependence, expressivism, and fundamentality;

  • various key positions in contemporary metaphysics, such as: universalism about composition, pluralism about material constitution, forms of antirealism, forms of idealism, and views about grounding and fundamentality.

Students who successfully complete the course will be able to:

  • able to recognize different formal properties of relations (a skill that is relevant to any area of philosophy);

  • familiar with classical mereology and non-classical parthood structures;

  • aware of the different ways of formulating realist and antirealist views and different ways of providing philosophical analyses (helpful to many areas in philosophy);

  • able to read, understand and evaluate current work in contemporary metaphysics;

  • write two essays in accord with current writing standards in analytic philosophy, each offering the reasoned defense of a claim about one of the topics discussed in the course.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminars

Class attendance is required.

Assessment method


  • Two short argumentative papers.

Attendance and adequate preparation for the seminars are further conditions for course completion.


  • Short essay I (midterm): 50%

  • Short essay II (final essay): 50%

The final grade for the course is the result of the weighted average of the grade for the two short papers.


The resit offers the opportunity to students who obtained an insufficient overall grade for the course to write a longer paper that counts for 100% for the overall grade, overwriting the grades for both the midterm and the final essay.

Sufficient attendance at the seminars and adequate weekly preparation for the seminars is a condition for participation in the resit.
Students who have passed the course cannot participate in the resit.

Inspection and feedback

Essays and feedback will be made available through Turnitin.

Reading list

The reading will consist solely of papers, available through the University Library and made available to the students in class.


Enrolment through uSis for this course is not possible. Students are requested to submit their preferences for the third-year electives by means of an online registration form. They will receive the instruction and online registration form by email (uMail account); in June for courses scheduled in semester 1, and in December for courses scheduled in semester 2. Registration in uSis will be taken care of by the Education Administration Office.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the information bar at the right hand side of the page.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc., contact the Education Administration Office Huizinga


Not applicable.