Analytic Metaphysics

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This course consists in an overview of central themes in analytical metaphysics viewed from a broadly realist perspective. We begin with a historical overview of analytical metaphysics and a discussion of general categories such as universals, particulars, processes, dispositions and functions. We then extend these general categories to specific areas such as documents and document acts, social reality, disease, money, and war. The course will be of interest not only to philosophers but also to those interested in ontological applications.

Department of Philosophy: PHI 531. Registration number [1]

Time: Tuesdays, 1-3:50pm, Spring 2016

PLEASE NOTE: The first session will take place on February 2

Room: 141 Park Hall, UB North Campus

Instructor: Barry Smith

Office hours: By appointment via email at [2]

The Course


John R. Searle, Making the Social World
E. J. Lowe, The Four Category Ontology
Roman Ingarden, The Literary Work of Art. An Investigation on the Borderlines of Ontology, Logic, and Theory of Language
R. Arp, B. Smith, A. D. Spear, Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology


- February 2: Analytical Metaphysics: Introduction and Historical Background

  • Aristotle
  • Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein
  • Husserl and the Polish School
  • Contemporary Analytical Metaphysics
  • Universals and Particulars

- February 9: Things and Processes; Parts and Wholes

  • Eddy Zemach
  • 3-Dimensionalism and 4-Dimensionalism
  • E. J. Lowe
  • Basic Formal Ontology
  • Pieces of a Theory

- February 16 Qualities, Roles, Dispositions and Functions; Acts of Measurement

- February 23: Use of Ontologies in Tracking Systems: Truth, Reference and Aboutness

- March 1: Mind and Language

- March 8: Actions, Intentions and Plans

- March 15: Spring Recess

- March 22: Document Acts

- March 29: Money

- April 5: Populations, Species, and Other Biological Categories

- April 12: Disease

- April 19: Wars and Warfighting

- April 26: Presentations of Student Projects 1

- May 3: Presentations of Student Projects 2

Guidance for Presentations and Reports

Grading and Related Policies and Services

All students will be required to take an active part in class discussions throughout the semester. In addition they will be required to design and complete an ontology project, including written description, and brief presentation of the project in class. Students enrolled in the practical segment will be required to create a Protégé file to accompany their ontology project, and also to complete quizzes designed to gauge developing competence in the use of the Protégé Ontology Editor and SPARQL query language.

For 3 credit hour students, your grade will be determined in five equal portions deriving from:

1. class participation (1.5% per class attended),
2. results of two quizzes relating to the lab portion of the course
3. written description of ontology project (3000 words; deadline December 2),
4. Protégé ontology file (deadline November 25),
5. class presentation.

For 2 credit hour students, your grade is determined as follows:

1. class participation (1.5% per class attended),
2. written description of ontology project (4000 words; deadline December 2) (50%),
3. class presentation (30%).

For policy regarding incompletes see here

For academic integrity policy see here

For accessibility services see here