Analytic Metaphysics

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The Course

This course consists in an overview of central themes in analytic metaphysics viewed from a broadly realist perspective. We begin with a historical overview of analytic 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 social reality, documents and document acts, 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: Special Topics PHI 598. Registration number: 24232

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

Room: 141 Park Hall, UB North Campus

Instructor: Barry Smith

Office hours: Tuesdays, 12:15-1pm and by appointment via email to [1]

Recommended background reading

R. Arp, B. Smith, A. D. Spear, Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology
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


February 2: Analytic Metaphysics: Introduction and Historical Background


What's Wrong with Contemporary Philosophy?
Austrian Philosophy
Objects and Their Environments: From Aristotle to Ecological Ontology
Pieces of a Theory

February 9: Ontology of Deontic Entities

Building Ontologies with Basic Formal Ontology, Chapter 5
Massively Planned Social Agency
Document Acts and the Ontology of Social Reality
John Searle: From Speech Acts to Social Reality
Slides Contents

February 16: Ontology of Deontic Entities (continued)

Massively Planned Social Agency
See also materials here

February 23: Ontological Realism

Individuals, Universals and Collections
Fiat Objects
Endurantist and Perdurantist Accounts of Persistence

March 1: Material Entities and Process Profiles

Classifying Processes: An Essay in Applied Ontology
On Classifying Material Entities in Basic Formal Ontology

March 8: Mind, Language, Intentionality, Emotions, Truth, and Aboutness

About Aboutness
Information Artifact Ontology
Video 1
Video 2: About Aboutness

March 22: Document Acts

Document Acts
What is a Recipe?

March 29: Money

The Construction of Social Reality
Money and Fictions
Toward a Science of Emerging Media

April 5: The Ontology of Classification

The Weight of the Baby
Functions, Function Concepts, and Scales

April 12: Organisms and Environments

On Place and Space: The Ontology of the Eruv

April 19: Terrorism, Wars and Warfighting

Lecture by Colonel Bill Mandrick, PhD, Senior Fellow, Center for Special Operations Studies and Research, Joint Special Operations University

  • Basic Formal Ontology: Accurate descriptions of the operational environment
  • Network science for situational awareness
  • Defining 'foreign fighters'
  • The future of viral conflict
  • BFO and the Global Mobility Enterprise
  • Common core ontologies
Defining Terrorism
An Ontological Framework for Understanding the Terror-Crime Nexus
Military Ontology

April 26: Presentations of Student Projects 1

1:00pm John Beverley: Basic Formal Ontology Slides Video

1:25pm J. Neil Otte: Game Theory Ontology Slides Video

1:50pm Kejin Cui: Ontology and Spatial Relations Between Land Types Slides Video

2:15pm Brian Donohue: Deontic Ontology Slides

2:40pm Daniel Shaffer: The Problem of Customary Law for Legal Ontologies Slides Video

3:05pm Alec Sculley: Tolerable Delinquency Slides

May 3: Presentations of Student Projects 2

1:00pm Jeon-Young Kang: Qualitative Reasoning with GPS Sensor Data to Estimate Infectious Disease Transmission Slides Video

1:30pm Fumiaki Toyoshima: Towards an Ontology of Schizophrenia Slides Video

2:00pm Francesco Franda: Defining ‘Terrorism’ Slides Video

2:30pm Carter Benson: The Problem with Defining ‘Terrorism’ Slides Video

3:00pm Uriah Burke: How should BFO classify film? Slides Video

Grading and Related Policies and Services

All students will be required to take an active part in class discussions throughout the semester and to prepare a paper on some relevant topic. The paper should be submitted in a draft version on or before March 29, and in final form on or before May 3. A powerpoint version will be presented in class in one or other of the two closing sessions .

Your grade will be determined in three equal portions deriving from:

1. class participation (2.5% per class attended)
2. paper (3000 words; deadline for draft: March 29; deadline for final version: May 3)
3. class presentation (graded according to quality of powerpoint slides, quality of delivery, and quality of response to questions)

For policy regarding incompletes see here

For academic integrity policy see here

For accessibility services see here