Introduction to the Workshop

For the past 30 years, metaphysics has undergone an impressive revival, offering an irrevocable denial of the prophecies that present it as dead, surpassed, fallacious, or deconstructed. The flight across the Atlantic of a new speculative metaphysics, liberated from the trumpery of logical positivism as well as ordinary language philosophy, has only, however, made a faint echo in France, despite the work tirelessly carried out for a number of years by Frédéric Nef (see Bibliography). The creation, for the first time in the history of the Collège de France, of a chair of metaphysics and philosophy of language, headed by Claudine Tiercelin, is a healthy sign of the recognition of this development.

It is with this “renewed” perspective that this seminar hopes to align itself. The seminar’s primary aspiration is to allow everyone to deepen their knowledge of contemporary metaphysics and ontology, and, by facilitating discussion between students, to provide a space of reflection, and of personal argumentation in the margins of lecture courses. As encouraging as the sudden development of the metaphysics of the Anglo-Saxon tradition may be, this workshop, faithful to an ecumenical perspective, will, however, not seek to systematically renew the reciprocal reluctance which often motivates the cross-eyed looks between analytic and continental philosophy, and will devote itself, without seeking to reconcile incompatible positions at all costs, to excluding no serious domain of present-day metaphysics.


The list which follows presents the major thematic orientations of the workshop. Its deliberate eclecticism responds to the desire to approach the major texts without neglecting the opening towards misunderstood or unjustifiably understated philosophical traditions:

* The legacy of Brentanian philosophy. Common source of numerous present-day perspectives, the lineage of Brentano and his students offers a field of passionate investigation for studying contemporary metaphysics. We are interested in the “neo-Meinongian” hiers to the Graz school (notably Parsons and Zalta), and in the future of the “theory of the object”, but also in the relations between phenomenology and ontology in the wake of the brilliant Polish disciple of Husserl, Roman Ingarden (and eventually other phenomenologists with “realist” tendancies, such as Daubert, Reinach, Scheler, Blaustein). We will equally be capable of exploring the fertile works of the Polish school of Lwów-Warsaw following Twardowski: Łukasiewicz, Leśniewski, Kotarbiński, Ajdukiewicz, Tarski.

* Analytic metaphysics. It is indispensable, without entering into technical erudition, to study, on the one hand, the major systematic metaphysics (Lewis, Armstrong), and, on the other hand, the more specific work which concerns: space, time, universals, modality and possible worlds, composition and co-location, identity, properties, etc.; as well as regional studies such as the ontology of the work of art, the ontology of mathematics, natural theology and the ontology of theism, social ontology; and, finally, the relations of ontology to philosophy of mind (around the arrival of Paul Boghossian as invited professor at the ENS) and to philosophy of knowledge (around the course of Claudine Tiercelin at the Collège de France).

* Idealism and Anti-realism. As a counterpoint to dominant metaphysical realism, we will be capable of studying the current developments of British idealism on the path cleared by Bradley, Whitehead, and McTaggart (with authors like Foster and Sprigge), and, in another perspective, the atypical work of Peter Unger (from his articles on nihilism to the critique of “scientiphicalism” in All the Power in the World). In addition, it is necessary to know the anti-realist attacks in opposition to dominant metaphysical realism.

* The renewal of interest for ontology as such: naïve ontology, formal ontology (mereology, topology), meta-ontology.

* In the legacy of a more European tradition, we will be interested in “speculative realism”, bubbling with excitement (Meillassoux, Brassier, Harman, Grant). This will be the occasion of posing the question of metaphysics situated in the camp of so-called continental philosophy, and of interrogating the influence of related disciplines, by approaching, for example, anthropological metaphysics.

* The French tradition. We will finally have the occasion to make some “sublime curiosities” of French metaphysics come out from the shadows: in addition to the well-known descendants of Bergsonism (Jankélévitch’s La philosophie première), the work of Etienne Souriau (Les différents modes d’existence), recently brought to light, is of unequivocal interest. In a more spiritualist vein, the monumental and somewhat forgotten work of Louis Lavelle captures our attention, as well as the authors who had followed him (Gabriel Marcel, Maurice Nédoncelle).

Operations of the Workshop

The workshop will meet every Friday from 5:00-7:00 PM (see the Pratical Information page). It will operate according to the “Anglo-Saxon” way, beginning from themes and texts determined beforehand, always by linking reading and comprehension to discussion and criticism.

The doctoral and master’s students participating in the workshop and working on contemporary metaphysics or ontology will be able, of course, to present their work and introduce more specialized subjects. All the work realized in the framework of the workshop is susceptible to being published on this site, if they are fully written up.

[Translated by Mark Allan Ohm.]

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