Systematic Metaphysics: Prospects and Problems

January 6, 2020 - January 8, 2020
Department of Philosophy/S. H. Bergman Center for Philosophical Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Maiersdorf Faculty Club

All speakers:

University of British Columbia
University of Manchester
Tel Aviv University
University of Haifa
Durham University
Boston College
Laurie Paul
Yale University
Tel-Hai College
Benjamin Pollock
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Yale University
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Polonsky Academy, Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
University of Toronto, St. George
University of Southern California
University of Notre Dame
Oxford University


Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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In recent years a number of analytic metaphysicians have taken note of what we might call the "intrinsic systematicity of metaphysics": the way in which metaphysical issues are thoroughly wrapped up with one another. What you say about whether the future and past are real bears on what you can and should say about how objects persist through time; which in turns bears on what you can and should say about causation, and so about lawhood, and so about free action, and so on.  But the important philosophical and meta-philosophical questions this raises have hardly been explored.

Such questions include:

(1) In what sense and to what extent are metaphysical issues in fact wrapped up with each other? Is there any way to argue either for or against such a claim of systematicity without taking things issue by issue?

(2) What are the methodological consequences of the intrinsic systematicity of metaphysics? Does it render certain philosophical methods essential, others ineffective? Does it give us reason to look to philosophical traditions, or to the fully developed metaphysical systems of the past, in grappling with contemporary metaphysical questions?

(3) What are the epistemological consequences of the intrinsic systematicity of metaphysics? Does it have skeptical implications with regard to our knowledge (rational belief, etc.) of metaphysics? Does it perhaps stave off certain skeptical worries that are based on peer disagreement?

(4) What are the consequences of the intrinsic systematicity of metaphysics for what we ought to be aiming at in doing metaphysics? Does it give us a reason to abandon the ambition of settling on the metaphysical truth? What would be left if we did? Does it give us reason to put forward a grand metaphysical system ourselves?

(5) What arguments were given by those historical figures—most prominently Idealists of various stripes—who held metaphysics (or philosophy more broadly) to be intrinsically systematic on behalf of its being so? How did their systematic conception of metaphysics inform their methodology in studying and teaching the subject? What arguments, if any, did the early analytic philosophers give against such a systematic conception?

(6) Is metaphysics unique in this regard, or are other areas of philosophy systematic in the same way? Is philosophy as a whole systematic in this way, so that issues in metaphysics end up being thoroughly wrapped up with issues in, say, normative ethics? And what, if any, are the implications of this for philosophy being a way of life?

This three-day conference, the 14th in the series of Jerusalem Philosophical Encounters, will bring together leading metaphysicians and historians of philosophy to discuss these and nearby questions.

Keynote Speakers: Helen Beebee, Peter van Inwagen, and Timothy Williamson.

If you have any questions, or if you would like to chair a session, please send an email to

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