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2014-15 I semestre: Naturalness  

Corsi Dottorato I semestre 2014-15



PhD Course, Università degli Studi di Milano, September 2014

Instructor: Einar Duenger Bohn (University of Oslo)

E-mail: e.d.bohn@ifikk.uio.no


Many metaphysicians divide properties into the natural and the non-natural; or into the perfectly natural and less-than-perfectly natural, the latter often coming in degrees. It is claimed that such a division is needed for solving many “deep” philosophical problems.

In this PhD course, we first make sense of the division; second, we consider four famously “deep” problems it is meant to solve; third, we critically evaluate whether it in fact succeeds in solving these problems; and fourth (if time allows it), we contrast the notion of natural properties with that of essential propertiesand fundamental properties, to get an even better grip on it. We also consider the study of ontology in terms of naturalness (and fundamentality).


Required readings (if it’s too much, focus less on 1-2, 6-7, 14-15, and 17):

  1. Dorr, C. & Hawthorne, J. (2013). Naturalness. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, Volume 8. Oxford University Press.
  2. Fine, K. (1994). Essence and Modality. Philosophical Perspectives 8: 1-16.
  3. Goodman, N. (1979). Fact, Fiction and Forecast. Chapter III: New Riddle of Induction. Harvard University Press.
  4. Hempel, C. (1945). Studies in the Logic of Confirmation. In Hempel, C. (1965). Aspects of Scientific Explanation. The Free Press.
  5. Kripke, S. (1982). Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language. Chapter 2: The Wittgensteinian Paradox. Blackwell.
  6. Lewis, D. (1970). How to Define Theoretical Terms. In Lewis (1983a)
  7. Lewis, D. (1974). Radical Interpretation. In Lewis (1983a).
  8. Lewis, D. (1983a). Philosophical Papers, volume I. Oxford University Press.
  9. Lewis, D. (1983b). New Work for a Theory of Universals. In Lewis (1999).
  10. Lewis, D. (1984). Putnam’s Paradox. In Lewis (1999).
  11. Lewis, D. (1999). Papers in Metaphysics and Epistemology. Cambridge University Press. 
  12. Putnam, H. (1981). Reason Truth and History. Chapter 2: A Problem About Reference. Cambridge University Press.
  13. Quine, W.V.O. (1969). Natural Kinds. In Quine, W.V.O (1969). Ontological Relativity and other essays. Columbia University Press.
  14. Schaffer, J. (2004). Two conceptions of sparse properties. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 85, pp. 92-102.
  15. Sider, T. (2009). Ontological Realism. In Chalmers, D. et al. (eds.) (2009). Metametaphysics. Oxford University Press.
  16. Sider, T. (2011). Writing the Book of the World. Chapters 1-3, 6, 7 and 9. Oxford University Press.
  17. Taylor, B. (1993). Natural Properties in Metaphysics. Mind Vol.102, No. 405, pp. 81-100.


(Of course, 8 and 11 are not required!)


Recommended readings:

  1. Davidson, D. (1973). Radical Interpretation. In Davidson, D. (2001). Inquiries into Truth and Interpretation. Oxford University Press.
  2. Lewis, D. (1972). Psychophysical and Theoretical Identifications. In Lewis (1999). 
  3. Lewis, D. (1992). Meaning without use: a reply to Hawthorne. In Lewis, D. (2000). Papers in Ethics and Social Philosophy. Cambridge University Press.
  4. Lewis, D. (1997). Naming the colors. In Lewis (1999).
  5. Putnam, H. (1977). Models and Reality. In Putnam (1983).
  6. Putnam, H. (1983). Realism and Reason: philosophical papers, volume 3. Cambridge University Press.
  7. Williams, R. (2007). Eligibility and Inscrutability. Philosophical Review 116, pp. 361-399.


Session 1: What is Naturalness? Main readings: 1, 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 (especially 9, 15 and 16) (Recommended: 18, 19, 21 and 24)

Session 2: What are some of the “deeper” puzzles to be solved? Main readings: 3, 4, 5 and 12 (Recommended: 22)

Session 3: Are the “deep” puzzles in fact solved? Main readings: 9, 10, 13, and 15 (especially sections 3.2 and 3.3) (Recommended: 20 and 24)

Session 4: Natural vs. Essential vs. Fundamental. Main readings: 2, 15 and 16 (in 16: especially Ch. 6, 7 and 9)

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