24.501: Things, Properties, and All That

Fall 1999


This seminar takes up a bunch of related topics. Under the heading of "things," we'll look at identity (contingent and otherwise), essence, and composition. Under the heading of "properties," we'll look at intrinsicness, the categorical/hypothetical distinction, and maybe resemblance nominalism. Under the heading of "all that," we'll look at the epistemology of essence. Readings will be from Kit Fine, Rae Langton, David Lewis, Michael Burke, Peter van Inwagen, Karen Bennett, Elizabeth Prior, Robert Stalnaker, Michael Smith, Daniel Stoljar, Saul Kripke, and others.


Stephen Yablo, Philosophy
Office: E39-314
Phone: 258-0740
Office Hours: by appointment
E-mail: yablo@mit.edu


Tuesdays 2:00-5:00 in 36-372


Papers will be available for copying in the rack by the graduate student mailboxes. See below for a list of likely readings. There may be the odd classroom handout as well.




TENTATIVE SCHEDULE: Less-important readings are marked with #. Papers are listed in the order in which they are best read.

September 13 "Real" Contingent Identity

September 20 "Ersatz" Contingent Identity

September 27 Two-Thingism

October 5 One-Thingism

October 12 Categorical/Hypothetical

October 19 Dispositions All The Way Round?

October 26 Intrinsic/Extrinsic

November 2 Extrinsics All The Way Round ?

November 9 Resemblance Nominalism

November 16 Essence and Modality

November 23 Arguments for Essence

November 30 Lucidity

December 7 Question-Beggingness


  1. Almog, "The What and the How"
  2. Armstrong, "Resemblance Nominalism," from Universals
  3. Bennett, "Are De Re Conceivability Arguments Question-Begging?"
  4. Blackburn, "Filling in Space"
  5. Burke, "Copper Statues and Pieces of Copper"
  6. Burke, "Dion and Theon"
  7. Burke, "Preserving the Principle of One Thing to One Place"
  8. Carter, "Contingent Identity and Rigid Designation"
  9. Chalmers, "Mind and Modality"
  10. Chisholm, "Identity Through Time," from Person and Object
  11. Della Rocca, "Essentialism and Essentialists"
  12. Fine, "Acts, Objects, and Events"
  13. Fine, "Essence and Modality"
  14. Gallois, "Rigid Designation and the Contingency of Identity," ???
  15. Gallois, "Occasional Identity"
  16. Gallois, "Carter on Contingent Identity and Rigid Designation"
  17. Gibbard, "Contingent Identity"
  18. Holton, "Dispositions All The Way Round"
  19. Humberstone, "Intrinsic/Extrinsic"
  20. Johnston, "Constitution is Not Identity"
  21. Kim, "Psychophysical Supervenience"
  22. Kripke, "Identity and Necessity"
  23. Kripke, Naming and Necessity, excerpts
  24. Langton, excerpts from Kantian Humility
  25. Lewis, "Counterparts of Persons and Their Bodies"
  26. Lewis, "Extrinsic Properties"
  27. Lewis, "Natural and Intrinsic," from Plurality of Worlds
  28. Lewis & Langton, "Defining 'Intrinsic'"
  29. Price, "Universals and Resemblance"
  30. Rea, "Constitution and Kind-Membership"
  31. Rea, "The Problem of Material Constitution"
  32. Shoemaker, "Causality and Properties"
  33. Shoemaker, "Realization and Mental Causation"
  34. Sider, "Intrinsic Properties"
  35. Smith & Stoljar, "Global Response Dependence and Noumenal Realism"
  36. Stalnaker, "Counterparts and Identity"
  37. Thomson, "Statue and Clay"
  38. Van Inwagen, "Modal Epistemology"
  39. Yablo, "Cause and Essence"
  40. Yablo, "Essentialism"
  41. Yablo, "Identity, Essence, and Indiscernibility"
  42. Yablo, "Is Conceivability a Guide to Possibility?"
  43. Yablo, "Intrinsicness"
  44. Yablo, "Textbook Kripkeanism"
  45. Yablo, "The Real Distinction Between Mind and Body"