The course deals with the synchronic nature and diachronic identity of material objects. In particular, it presents and discusses the main theories that concern the metaphysical structure, if any, of material objects, such as substratum theory, bundle theory, trope theory and neoaristotelianism, as well as the main theories that concern the persistence of material objects through time, such as three-dimensionalism, four-dimensionalism, and the stage view, with a special focus on a battery of arguments that favor the stage view over its rivals.
The concept of essence and the doctrine of essentialism have been with us since ancient Greek times. For Aristotle, the essence or what it is to be a thing is that which is most explanatorily basic about the thing in question and in terms of which its other features are to be explained. For example, in Aristotle’s view, once we have grasped what thunder is (viz., that thunder is a type of noise in the clouds caused by the extinction of fire), we can then explain why thunder is loud, why it accompanies lightning, etc. The doctrine of essentialism thus forms a central part of Aristotle’s metaphysics, epistemology and philosophy of science. Although popular throughout the middle ages, Aristotelian essentialism was also, at various points in the history of philosophy, taken to exemplify perfectly why traditional scholastic doctrines can stand in the way of scientific progress and logical clarity. During the 20th century, for example, the analytic philosopher, W. V. O. Quine, famously argued that Aristotelian essentialism is incoherent and should be rejected on logical grounds. Recently, however, Aristotelian essentialism has experienced a revival in contemporary metaphysics as well as in other areas of philosophy and is currently being developed in a variety of interesting ways. We will examine several of these new developments of essentialism as well as their anti-essentialist critiques.
The standard view of Mereology is one in which wholes are flat, at the same level as their parts. But there is an interesting alternative conception of Mereology, in which wholes can be at a higher level than their parts (and the parts at a higher level than other parts). In the course, we shall discuss this alternative conception of Mereology and its implications for various questions in metaphysics.