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Kathrin Koslicki – Social Essences

What is an election? What is a city? What is money? On the face of it, such questions bear on the real definition, nature or essence of the social phenomena in question (viz., election, city, money). Getting clear on the nature of social phenomena is crucial for our understanding of social reality. Yet in spite of the recent surge in research in both social ontology and metaphysics, essentialist approaches to social phenomena remain quite rare. The goal of this seminar is to examine essentialist approaches to social phenomena.  In particular, we will discuss different types of objections that have been raised against social essentialism and we will examine positive considerations to motivate an essentialist approach to social phenomena.  The goal of this seminar is to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of how an essentialist framework can contribute to the study of social phenomena.


Video description available: here


Some suggested readings:

Fine, Kit (2020): “The Identity of Social Groups”, Metaphysics, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 81–91, URL=

Guala, F., and Hindriks, F. (2015): “A Unified Social Ontology”, The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 65, No. 259, pp. 177-201

Epstein, Brian (2016): “A Framework for Social Ontology”, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Vol. 46, No. 2, pp. 147-167

Koslicki, Kathrin (2018): Form, Matter, Substance, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK

Mason, Rebecca (2020): “Against Social Kind Anti-Realism”, Metaphysics, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 55–67, URL=

Massin, Olivier (2017): “The Metaphysics of Ownership: A Reinachian Account”, Axiomathes, Vol. 27, No. 5, pp. 577-600

Massin, Olivier, and Tieffenbach, Emma (2017): “The Metaphysics of Economic Exchanges”,Journal of Social Ontology, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 167-205

Passinsky, Asya (2020): “Social Objects, Response-Dependence, and Realism”, Journal of the American Philosophical Association, Volume 6, Issue 4, Winter 2020, pp. 431-443, URL=

Reinach, A. (2004): Les fondements a priori du droit civil, trad. fr. R. de Calan, Vrin, Paris

Ritchie, Katherine (2015): “The Metaphysics of Social Groups”, Philosophy Compass, Vol.10, No. 5, pp. 310–321, URL=

Ritchie, Katherine (2020): “Social Structures and the Ontology of Social Groups”, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 100, No. 2, pp. 402–424, URL=

Searle, John (1995): The Construction of Social Reality, The Free Press, New York, NY  

Searle, John (2010): Making the Social World: The Structure of Human Civilization, Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK

Smith, Barry (1990): “Aristotle, Menger, Mises: An Essay in the Metaphysics of Economics”, History of Political Economy, Annual Supplement, Vo. 22, pp. 263-288


Thomas Sattig – The Passage of Time

What is the nature of the passage of time? This question marks one of the biggest challenges in contemporary philosophy of time. Most philosophers of time hold that there is temporal passage. There is no consensus, however, about what type of phenomenon passage is. Traditionally, philosophers seeking to understand passage have taken approaches from two different perspectives. Some have started with passage as a phenomenon that occurs in the physical world, and have asked what constitutes this objective phenomenon. Theirs is a project anchored in metaphysics and located in the neighbourhood of theoretical physics. Others have started with passage as a phenomenon that is given in our experience of the world, and have asked what constitutes this subjective phenomenon. Theirs is a project anchored in the philosophy of mind and located in the neighbourhood of cognitive science.

This masterclass will give both perspectives on passage equal weight. The first part of the course will be dedicated to the reality of passage. The second part will be dedicated to the experience as of passage. We will study several philosophical accounts, some familiar and some novel, of the nature of worldly passage, of our experience as of passage, and of the representational and epistemological relationships between the nature and the experience of passage.



Martine Nida-Rümelin – Experiencing Subject

The course covers various central topics in philosophy of mind which are often discussed in an independent manner: experience, perception, self-awareness, self-reference, identity across time and across possible worlds (of conscious subjects), agency. Reflection on what it is to be an experiencing subject will be in the center of the course. The various topics will all be treated under that angle which makes it possible to see that and how they are closely related in a new manner. The teacher of the course will present her own views contrasting them with opposing views in the literature which will be closely analyzed using central passages in influential texts on the topic. Active participation leading to a vivid debate will be welcome.



Koslicki K.

Course director

Nida-Ruemelin M.

Course director

Sattig T.

Course director

Additional information

Fall, Spring
Academic year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Core course, 1st year
Master of Arts in Philosophy, Core course, 2nd year