We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Department of Philosophy

The Viability of Metaphysics

Call for Registration


16th July 2013


Speakers: Kit Fine (NYU); John Haldane (St. Andrews); Jose Zalabardo (UCL); Curtis Forbes (Toronto); Eve Kitsik (Tartu); James Miller (Durham)


Location: Senate Suite, Durham Castle, Durham, DH1 3RW UK


Following strong recent interest in the field of metametaphysics, this workshop seeks to explore the viability of the domain of metaphysics. A full workshop description is included below.


To register, please email j.t.m.miller[at] or[at] Places are limited. Please email to reserve a place so that catering needs can be met. A fee of £5 will be charged to cover refreshments throughout the day. We ask that attendees pay the fee on the day whilst registering (cheques payable to ‘Durham University’). The workshop will begin at 10am, and end by 6pm. A full schedule will follow shortly.


We are grateful for support from the Philosophy Department, Durham, the Mind Association, the British Logic Colloquium, the Centre for Academic Researcher Development (Durham) and the Durham Institute of Advanced Studies for their support of this event.



Full Workshop Description:


Although metaphysics has long been taken by some as a central domain of enquiry within philosophy, dating back at least as far as Aristotle’s work on the subject matter, its status as a coherent body of work has been attacked throughout the history of western philosophy. Seen by many to have had a final damaging blow in the work of Kant, metaphysics returned to a central position in philosophy in the twentieth century following Quine’s seminal paper ‘On What There Is’. Metaphysics thus proceeded with vigour throughout much of the twentieth century (see the work of Lowe, Lewis, and Armstrong for some examples), but without too much concern for its own foundations.


Quine though not only reinvigorated metaphysics, but also laid the foundation for the many modern objections to its viability that have been developed, drawing upon Quine’s own (possible) rejection of a metaphysical line of enquiry. As such, there has been a recent surge of interest in the viability of metaphysics as a research question, and the growth in the field of ‘metametaphysics’ (see Chalmers, Manley, and Wasserman, eds., 2009, Sider

2011 for some examples). Metaphysicians, both realist and anti-realist, therefore are more aware of the need to both explain and justify their metametaphysical positions. These issues are not only limited within the scope of metaphysical enquiry, but also touch upon issues in epistemology (which many recent rejections of metaphysics rely upon), the philosophy of language (of particular interest here as detailed below), logic, and the philosophy of science including the correct role for science within metaphysical theories.


This workshop aims to build upon this interest, and subsequently has invited some of the leading names in the field to discuss the various issues that arise in this domain.


Particular interest will be applied, but not limited to, to the role of language in metaphysics. Recent anti-realist arguments have often centred on the claim that metaphysical debates are ‘purely verbal’ (see Hirsch 2011, building upon a tradition of work from Carnap and Putnam). The role and nature of language has therefore been used to argue against a realist position, building on this idea of metaphysics as a process of mere ‘conceptual analysis’.


Clarifying the correct role of language in metaphysics, and the relationship between philosophy of language and metaphysics, is therefore central to the future practice and legitimacy of the domain.