Course Status: 
CEU credits: 
Academic year: 
Start and end dates: 
19 Sep 2011 - 9 Dec 2011
Katalin Farkas


Katalin Farkas

E-learning website:

  • Login with your Novell username and password; ask me for the password for the course.
  • The e-learning site includes the weekly program, and the study questions and forums

MA elective, open to PhD students with special requirements.

2 credits

2011/12 Fall term, Wednesdays 11-12:40


The word ‘being’ has two senses. In the first sense, it means something that is, or exists: an entity, a thing. In the second sense, it refers to what all the things that are have in common. The most important questions concerning being can be thought of as corresponding to these two senses. The first question asks what is there; that is, what are the beings or entities in the world? The second question concerns what is it to be? In this course, we shall look at some answers to these questions. We shall also look at the recent debates concerning metaontology.

Learning outcomes

Acquaintance with the concepts and arguments in ontology and metaontology. After this course, students should be able to follow advanced graduate seminars on ontology, and engage with contemporary debates on the issue. They will develop their ability to understand, analyse, and critically assess arguments in the field, and their ability to formulate and present clear and concise comments on arguments, both in a written and in an oral form. 


  • Attendance of all classes (please let me know if you cannot come to a class for some reason); conscientious reading of all the material; participation in the discussion in the classes.
  • A short presentation of a (part of a) paper, addressing one  or more of the study questions. Study questions will be posted on the course's website, and students will be invited to comment on the study questions, or comment on each others' comments.
  • At least three 'blog-posts', that is, either comments on the discussion threads starting with the study questions, or comments to start new threads related to the readings or material we discuss in the class. The three posts have to come to at least roughly 800-1000 words. 3 is the minimum; people are welcome to post (many) more posts.
  • For PhD students, in addition to the above,  the presentation or one (or more) of the blog-posts have to be developed into a 1200-1500 word 'discussion-note' paper.


40% presentation, 60% quality of blog-posts / paper


Topics and main readings:

(The papers below are available in the course reader; additional literature will be recommended during the term.)

1. Introduction, categories of being        

  • Aristotle, Selection from Categories, chapters 4 and 5 reprinted in Crane-Farkas

2. The special composition question

  • Lewis, David (1986) Selection from On the Plurality of Worlds Oxford. Blackwell pp. 211-13,
  • van Inwagen, Peter (1990). Selections from Material Beings. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Sections 3,6,8; and sections 10 and 12. reprinted in Crane – Farkas
  • Rea, Michael C. (1998) “In defense of Mereological Universalism” . Philosophy and Phenomenological Research pp. 347-360.

3. The Problem of the Many

  • Peter Unger (1980) “The Problem of the Many” reprinted in Unger, Philosophical Papers, Vol. 2. OUP 2006: pp. 113-182

4. Vague identity

  • Evans, Gareth (1978). ‘Can there be vague objects?’ reprinted in Crane - Farkas
  • Lewis, David (1988). ‘Vague identity: Evans misunderstood’ reprinted in Crane – Farkas
  • Hawley, Katherine (2002) “Vagueness and Existence” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. 102: pp. 125-140

5. What is it to be

Quine, Willard van Orman (1953): "On What There Is" in From a Logical Point of View. Cambridge. Mass.: Harvard University Press: pp. 1-19

  • Lewis, David with Stephanie Lewis (1970) “Holes” reprinted in David Lewis, Philosophical Papers, Vol, 1. OUP 1983: pp. 3-9
  • Crane, Tim (forthcoming) “Existence and Quantification” to appear in Tuomas Tahko (ed.) Aristotelian Metaphysics CUP 2011

6. Metaontology

  • Hirsch, Eli  ( 2002) “Quantifier Variance and Realism”, Philosophical Issues, 12: pp. 51-73
  • Stephen Yablo (2009). “Must Existence-Questions Have Answers?” In David Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Clarendon Press: pp 507-524
  • Schaffer, Jonathan (2009) “On what grounds what” In David Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Clarendon Press: 347-383

Crane, Tim & Katalin Farkas, Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology. OUP 2004.