The Metaphysics of Material Beings:
Constitution, Persistence, and Identity
Prof. Brandon C. Look
Department of Philosophy
University of Kentucky
Meeting: Tuesdays 4:30-7:00
This seminar will focus on contemporary discussions in analytic metaphysics concerning the nature of material objects. We will consider a number of questions, including the following:
What is the relation between a material being and its physical parts?
What are the essential properties of a material being and its parts?
In what sense can a material being be identical over time?
Are we best to understand material things as constituted by temporal parts?
What is the difference between the intrinsic and extrinsic properties of material beings?
Expectations, Requirements, and Grading:
Students are expected to attend all seminar meetings, have read closely the required readings, and be active participants in discussion.
Each student will be required to write a short, weekly “reflection paper,” in which he or she addresses two questions:
What is the most important unanswered question from the previous week’s session?
What is the most important unanswered question in the required reading for the present session?
As part of the assignment, students are to explain why these questions are important. These papers are to be no more than 500 words long and are to be completed by 1:00p.m., Tuesday and e-mailed to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, each student is required to write one seminar paper of approximately 20 pages in length. Students are encouraged to discuss an appropriate topic with me.
Due date: Wednesday, April 30, 2008.
Final grades will be based on three components: participation, quality of reflection papers, and final paper – though the final paper will constitute the bulk (80%) of the final grade.
Material Constitution: A Reader, edited by Michael C. Rea, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 1997. ( = MC)
Persistence: Contemporary Readings, edited by Sally Haslanger and Roxanne Marie Kurtz, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006. ( = P)
A short list of books for further reading:
Gallois, André. Occasions of Identity: The Metaphysics of Persistence, Change, and Sameness. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
Hawley, Katherine. How Things Persist. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001.
Heller, Mark. The Ontology of Physical Objects: Four-Dimensinal Hunks of Matter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Merricks, Trenton. Objects and Persons. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003.
Sider, Theodore. Four-Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Van Inwagen, Peter. Material Beings. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
Wiggens, David. Sameness and Substance Renewed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.