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Anne Conway, , . Selections from the Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy
1994, in Margaret Atherton (ed.) Women Philosophers of the Early Modern Period. Hackett Publishing Company. [originally written 1677]
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Added by: Alison Stone, Contributed by:

After the SEP: Anne Conway’s treatise is a work of Platonist metaphysics in which she derives her system of philosophy from the existence and attributes of God. The framework of Conway’s system is a tripartite ontological hierarchy of ‘species’, the highest of which is God, the source of all being. Christ, or ‘middle nature’, links God and the third species, called ‘Creature’. […] Anne Conway denies the existence of material body as such, arguing that inert corporeal substance would contradict the nature of God, who is life itself. Incorporeal created substance is, however, differentiated from the divine, principally on account of its mutability and multiplicity even so, the infinite number and constant mutability of created monads constitute an obverse reflection of the unity, infinity, eternity and unchangeableness of God. The continuum between God and creatures is made possible through ‘middle nature’, an intermediary being, through which God communicates life, action, goodness and justice. […] The spiritual perfectionism of Anne Conway’s system has dual aspect: metaphysical and moral. On the one hand all things are capable of becoming more spirit-like, that is, more refined qua spiritual substance. At the same time, all things are capable of increased goodness. She explains evil as a falling away from the perfection of God, and understands suffering as part of a longer term process of spiritual recovery. She denies the eternity of hell, since for God to punish finite wrong-doing with infinite and eternal hell punishment would be manifestly unjust and therefore a contradiction of the divine nature. Instead she explains pain and suffering as purgative, with the ultimate aim of restoring creatures to moral and metaphysical perfection. Anne Conway’s system is thus not just an ontology and but a theodicy.

Comment: This chapter could be used in a history of philosophy course as one week’s reading. The author has a metaphysics that is often seen to anticipate that of Leibniz so one could, e.g., include a week on Conway in advance of a week or two (or three) on Leibniz.

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Balog, Katalin, , . Conceivability, possibility, and the mind-body problem
1999, Philosophical Review 108 (4):497-528.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: This paper was chosen by The Philosopher’s Annual as one of the ten best articles appearing in print in 2000. Reprinted in Volume XXIII of The Philosopher’s Annual. In his very influential book David Chalmers argues that if physicalism is true then every positive truth is a priori entailed by the full physical description – this is called ‘the a priori entailment thesis – but ascriptions of phenomenal consciousness are not so entailed and he concludes that Physicalism is false. As he puts it, ‘zombies’ are metaphysically possible. I attempt to show that this argument is refuted by considering an analogous argument in the mouth of a zombie. The conclusion of this argument is false so one of the premises is false. I argue at length that this shows that the original conceivability argument also has a false premise and so is invalid.

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Barnes, Elizabeth, , . Going Beyond the Fundamental: Feminism in Contemporary Metaphysics
2014, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (3pt3):335-351
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Alison Fernandes

Abstract: Much recent literature in metaphysics attempts to answer the question, ‘What is metaphysics?’ In this paper I argue that many of the most influential contemporary answers to this question yield the result that feminist metaphysics is not metaphysics. I further argue this result is problematic.

Comment: Useful for raising questions about the scope of metaphysics, issues to do with fundamentality, as well as the relation between feminism and metaphysics. I’m using it at the end of a survey course to raise questions about the purpose of metaphysics.

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Cavendish, Margaret, , . Observations upon Experimental Philosophy (1666)
2011, Cambridge University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Benjamin Goldberg

Publisher’s Note: Margaret Cavendish’s 1668 edition of Observations upon Experimental Philosophy, presented here in its first modern edition, holds a unique position in early modern philosophy. Cavendish rejects the Aristotelianism which was taught in the universities in the seventeenth century, and the picture of nature as a grand machine which was propounded by Hobbes, Descartes and members of the Royal Society of London, such as Boyle. She also rejects the views of nature which make reference to immaterial spirits. Instead she develops an original system of organicist materialism, and draws on the doctrines of ancient Stoicism to attack the tenets of seventeenth-century mechanical philosophy. Her treatise is a document of major importance in the history of women’s contributions to philosophy and science.

Comment: Needed in courses on early modern matter theory and experimental philosophy, as it is a useful counter to the one sided enthusiasm of traditional subjects of early modern courses such as Boyle and Descartes.

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Imafidon, Elvis, , . Exploring African Philosophy of Difference
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 15-30
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: It is the tradition of philosophy as a rational and critical human activity across borders to isolate specific human ideas both as syntax and as real and lived human experiences, bring them to the foreground, and make them occupy a crucial and specialized place in philosophical discourse. This is apparent in the many delimited branches of philosophy such as metaphysics – an inquiry into the fundamental principles underlying reality; epistemology – an inquiry concerning the nature, scope, and theories of human knowledge; axiology – an inquiry into the theories of human values; and philosophy of science – a critical examination of the nature, methods, and assumptions of science. African philosophy has thrived and flourished in the last six decades beginning as a reactionary scholarship to prior denial of the possibility of its existence, to becoming an established academic discipline. However, African philosophy although succeeding in establishing its general nature, themes, and problems, is still at the elementary stage of discussing specifics and delimiting its areas of inquiry into specialized fragments. Thus, beyond the general commentaries on African philosophy in existing literature, it is only recently that we find a few scholars writing and laying the groundwork on specialized themes in African philosophy such as African ethics, African epistemology, and African ontology. My goal in this chapter is to bring one essential human experience to the foreground in African philosophy as a specialized area of inquiry. The human experience that interests me here is the ubiquitous concept of difference and the peculiarities of its experience by Africans in Africa and beyond. My intention is to attempt a preliminary sketch of the meaning, nature, scope, and primary tasks of African philosophy of difference. I show, for instance, how African philosophy of difference can shift the discourse of difference from empirical manifestations of difference to an exploration of the theories that stands under such manifestations. I conclude that African philosophy of difference is crucial in understanding and dealing with the complex issues of identity, difference, and the other experienced in Africa in areas such as albinism, xenophobia, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and politics. The possibility of such an inquiry also indicates the prospect of delimiting African philosophy to more specialized spheres of discourse.

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Millikan, Ruth Garrett, , . Historical kinds and the “special sciences”
1999, Philosophical Studies 95 (1-2):45-65.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Juan R. Loaiza

Abstract: There are no “special sciences” in Fodor’s sense. There is a large group of sciences, “historical sciences,” that differ fundamentally from the physical sciences because they quantify over a different kind of natural or real kind, nor are the generalizations supported by these kinds exceptionless. Heterogeneity, however, is not characteristic of these kinds. That there could be an univocal empirical science that ranged over multiple realizations of a functional property is quite problematic. If psychological predicates name multiply realized functionalist properties, then there is no single science dealing with these: human psychology, ape psychology, Martian psychology and robot psychology are necessarily different sciences

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Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli, , . The Philosophy of the Upanishads
1924, Unwin Brothers Limited.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Peter Jones

Overview: Not focused on any one Upanishad in particular, it conveys the spirit in which the Upanishads were written and provides a short overview of their Metaphysics, Ethics and Epistemology.

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Ritchie, Katherine, , . What are groups?
2013, Philosophical Studies 166(2): 257-272.
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Added by: Lukas Schwengerer, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper I argue for a view of groups, things like teams, committees, clubs and courts. I begin by examining features all groups seem to share. I formulate a list of six features of groups that serve as criteria any adequate theory of groups must capture. Next, I examine four of the most prominent views of groups currently on offer – that groups are non-singular pluralities, fusions, aggregates and sets. I argue that each fails to capture one or more of the criteria. Last, I develop a view of groups as realizations of structures. The view has two components. First, groups are entities with structure. Second, since groups are concreta, they exist only when a group structure is realized. A structure is realized when each of its functionally defined nodes or places are occupied. I show how such a view captures the six criteria for groups, which no other view of groups adequately does, while offering a substantive answer to the question, ‘What are groups?’

Comment: The paper is ideal as an introduction to the ontology of groups and a good example for social metaphysics in general. It includes an easy to follow discussion of difference features of groups and accounts that aim to capture these features. The paper is especially well suited as part of an introductory metaphysics courses, but can also work as an introductory text in a course on social metaphysics.

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Steward, Helen, , . Processes, Continuants, and Individuals
2013, Mind 122 (487):fzt080
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Will Hornett

Abstract: The paper considers and opposes the view that processes are best thought of as continuants, to be differentiated from events mainly by way of the fact that the latter, but not the former, are entities with temporal parts. The motivation for the investigation, though, is not so much the defeat of what is, in any case, a rather implausible claim, as the vindication of some of the ideas and intuitions that the claim is made in order to defend — and the grounding of those ideas and intuitions in a more plausible metaphysics than is provided by the continuant view. It is argued that in addition to a distinction between events (conceived of as count-quantified) and processes (conceived of as mass-quantified) there is room and need for a third category, that of the individual process, which can be illuminatingly compared with the idea of a substance. Individual processes indeed share important metaphysical features with substantial continuants, but they do not lack temporal parts. Instead, it is argued that individual processes share with substantial continuants an important property I call ‘modal robustness in virtue of form’. The paper explains what this property is, and further suggests that the category of individual process, thus understood, might be of considerable value to the philosophy of action.

Comment: An important contribution to the debate on processes and events which should be central reading in a metaphysics course dealing with those issues. Steward argues against Stout’s view of processes, so this paper should be taught alongside his ‘Processes’ (1997). Steward also deals with methodological issues in metaphysics and involves a nice elucidation of Wiggins’s Conceptual Realism so can be taught as an example of that view. This paper could easily be taught in a senior year metaphysics course.

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Thomasson, Amie, , . Answerable and Unanswerable Questions
2009, In MetaMetaphysics, eds. David Chalmers, Ryan Wasserman, and David Manley. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 444-471.
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Added by: Jamie Collin, Contributed by:

Summary: Thomasson argues that merely verbal disputes arise in metaphysics when ontologists misuse the words ‘thing’ and ‘object’. Application conditions fix the conditions under which a claim can be applied or refused, but some ontological disputes involve using the terms ‘thing’ and ‘object’ in such a way that they lack application conditions. When this happens there is no way to determine the truth values of the claims being made.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics, ontology or metametaphysics. It gives an interesting and plausible articulation of the idea that some metaphysical disputes are illegitimate in some sense (an intution that some students share). This isn’t an easy paper, but it is clearly written and suitable for advanced undergraduates or graduates.

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Thomasson, Amie, , . Ontology Made Easy
2015, OUP USA.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: Existence questions have been topics for heated debates in metaphysics, but this book argues that they can often be answered easily, by trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises. This ‘easy’ approach to ontology leads to realism about disputed entities, and to the view that metaphysical disputes about existence questions are misguided.

Comment: An interesting presentation of a way to avoid ontological disputes. Would work well as a conclusion to a course or section on ontology, to show students there might be a way to simply avoid these debates if desired.

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Yagisawa, Takashi, , . A New Argument Against the Existence Requirement
2005, Analysis 65 (285): 39-42.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: It may appear that in order to be any way at all, a thing must exist. A possible – worlds version of this claim goes as follows: (E) For every x, for every possible world w, Fx at w only if x exists at w. Here and later in (R), the letter ‘F’ is used as a schematic letter to be replaced with a one – place predicate. There are two arguments against (E). The first is by analogy. Socrates is widely admired now but he does not exist now. So, it is not the case that for every x, for every time t, Fx at t only if x exists at t. Possible worlds are analogous to times. Therefore, (E) is false (cf., Kaplan 1973: 503 – 05 and Salmon 1981: 36 – 40). For the second argument, replace ‘F’ with ‘does not exist’. (E) then says that for every x, for every possible world w, x does not exist at w only if x exists at w. This is obviously false. Therefore (E) is false (cf., Kaplan 1977: 498). Despite their considerable appeal, these arguments are not unassailable. The first argument suffers from the weakness inherent in any argument from analogy; the analogy it rests on may not.

Comment: A very concise argument against the claim that existence is a prerequisite for having properties. This is a familiar claim, and this paper would be useful when it comes up to show that there is controversy about it. It does presuppose a basic understanding of possible world semantics, so should be reserved for courses where students already have a grasp of such semantics or the instructor wants to teach it beforehand.

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