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Summary Ontological realism is a term best applied to theories that are realist regarding what there is, where ‘what there is’ (or the relevant ontology)  is usually specified previous to or in conjunction with the realism regarding it. Realism, very simply put, is the notion that something is real. Ideas as to what there is can range from numbers to tables, so realism regarding a given ontology may seem more or less appealing or acceptable depending on the intuitions and beliefs one might already have about the reality of the sorts of things in that ontology.  A commitment to there being a fact of the matter might reasonably be expected to accompany accounts that go to the trouble of laying down what there is. Thus, if I say tables are real, as an ontological realist, I might reasonably be interpreted as claiming that this is an objective fact. Things, of course, are not this simple. There are ontological realists who don’t care to claim there’s any fact of the matter; there are those who dispute exactly which bits of a given ontology exist; there are those who argues that it all depends on exactly what you mean by ‘exist’ and/or ‘real’, which can vary according to context. On top of that, there endless nuance in the term ‘realism’. Philosophers identifying as realists can take a startling array of positions: ranging from relativism to determinism, and involving commitment to the existence from everything through to nothing at all (although those committed to the latter usually argue that we can feel free to speak as though some things are real). Nonetheless, if you begin with the supposition that ontological realism is about what there is being real, you’ve enough to be going on with.
Key works Key works include Chalmers et al 2009, and Jenkins 2010
Introductions Sider 2009
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  1. Sophie R. Allen (2002). Deepening the Controversy Over Metaphysical Realism. Philosophy 77 (4):519-541.
    A significant ontological commitment is required to sustain metaphysical realism—the view that there is a single, objective way the world is—in order to defend it from common sense objections. This involves presupposing the existence of properties (or tropes, or universals) and relations between them which define the objective structure of the world. This paper explores the grounds for accepting this ontological assumption and examines a sceptical argument which questions whether, having assumed the world is objectively divided into fundamental properties, we (...)
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  2. Murat Baç (2003). The Ontological Status of Truthmakers: An Alternative to Tractarianism and Metaphysical Anti-Realism. Metaphysica 4 (2):5-28.
    This paper aims to describe and defend a Pluralistic Kantian, as opposed to a Tractarian, version of realism vis-à-vis the ontological basis of truthmaking relations. One underlying assumption of my position is that propositional truth is a robust property and, consequently, is normatively distinct from epistemic justification. Still, it does not follow from this realist contention that truth is generated ontologically, viz., independently of cognitive and intensional contributions of human agents. This point brings my view notably close to H. Putnam’s (...)
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  3. Maria Baghramian & Michael Devitt, Hilary and Me: Tracking Down Putnam on the Realism Issue.
    The paper I gave at the Dublin conference celebrating Hilary Putnam’s 80th birthday was “Resurrecting Biological Essentialism” (2008). This was suitable for a celebratory event because it defended Putnam’s position on biological essentialism (1975) from the consensus in the philosophy of biology. This consensus has led to some severe criticisms of Putnam. Michael Ruse, for example, places Putnam, along with Saul Kripke and David Wiggins, “somewhere to the right of Aristotle” on essentialism and talks of them showing “an almost proud (...)
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  4. Lynne Rudder Baker (2008). A Metaphysics of Ordinary Things and Why We Need It. Philosophy 83 (1):5-24.
    Metaphysics has enjoyed a vigorous revival in the last few decades. Even so, there has been little ontological interest in the things that we interact with everyday—trees, tables, other people.1 It is not that metaphysicians ignore ordinary things altogether. Indeed, they are happy to say that sentences like ‘The daffodils are out early this year’ or ‘My computer crashed again’ are true. But they take the truth of such sentences not to require that a full description of reality mention daffodils (...)
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  5. Francesco Berto & Jacopo Tagliabue (2014). The World is Either Digital or Analogue. Synthese 191 (3):481-497.
    We address an argument by Floridi (Synthese 168(1):151–178, 2009; 2011a), to the effect that digital and analogue are not features of reality, only of modes of presentation of reality. One can therefore have an informational ontology, like Floridi’s Informational Structural Realism, without commitment to a supposedly digital or analogue world. After introducing the topic in Sect. 1, in Sect. 2 we explain what the proposition expressed by the title of our paper means. In Sect. 3, we describe Floridi’s argument. In (...)
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  6. Alexander Bird, B. D. Ellis & Howard Sankey (eds.) (2012). Properties, Powers, and Structures: Issues in the Metaphysics of Realism. Routledge.
    While the phrase "metaphysics of science" has been used from time to time, it has only recently begun to denote a specific research area where metaphysics meets philosophy of science—and the sciences themselves. The essays in this volume demonstrate that metaphysics of science is an innovative field of research in its own right. The principal areas covered are: (1) The modal metaphysics of properties: What is the essential nature of natural properties? Are all properties essentially categorical? Are they all essentially (...)
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  7. James Blachowicz (2010). The Incompletability of Metaphysics. Idealistic Studies 40 (3):257-273.
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  8. Stephan Blatti & Sandra Lapointe (eds.) (forthcoming). Ontology After Carnap. Oxford University Press.
    Analytic philosophy is once again in a methodological frame of mind. Nowhere is this more evident than in metaphysics, whose practitioners and historians are actively reflecting on the nature of ontological questions, the status of their answers, and the relevance of contributions both from other areas within philosophy (e.g., philosophical logic, semantics) and beyond (notably, the natural sciences). Such reflections are hardly new: the debate between Willard van Orman Quine and Rudolf Carnap about how to understand and resolve ontological questions (...)
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  9. Lajos L. Brons (2013). What Does It Mean for Something to Exist? The Science of Mind 51 (1):53-74.
    (First paragraph.) Ontology is often described as the inquiry into what exists, but there is some disagreement among (meta-) ontologists about what “existence” means and whether there are different kinds or senses of “existence” or just one; that is, whether “existence” is equivocal or univocal. Furthermore, there is a growing number of philosophers (many of whom take inspiration from Aristotle’s metaphysical writings) who argue that ontology should not be concerned so much with what exists, but with what is fundamental or (...)
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  10. Lajos L. Brons (2012). Dharmakīrti, Davidson, and Knowing Reality. Comparative Philosophy 3 (1):30-57.
    If we distinguish phenomenal effects from their noumenal causes, the former being our conceptual(ized) experiences, the latter their grounds or causes in reality ‘as it is’ independent of our experience, then two contradictory positions with regards to the relationship between these two can be distinguished: either phenomena are identical with their noumenal causes, or they are not. Davidson is among the most influential modern defenders of the former position, metaphysical non-dualism. Dharmakīrti’s strict distinction between ultimate and conventional reality, on the (...)
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  11. Hans Burkhardt & Barry Smith (eds.) (1991). Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology. Philosophia Verlag.
    The Handbook of Metaphysics and Ontology reflects the conviction that the history of metaphysics and current work in metaphysics and ontology can each throw valuable light on the other. Thus it is designed to serve both äs a means of making more widely accessible the results of recent scholarship in the history of philosophy, and also äs a unique work of reference in reladon to the metaphysical themes at the centre of much current debate in analyüc philosophy. The work contains (...)
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  12. Clark Butler (1976). On the Impossibility of Metaphysics Without Ontology. Metaphilosophy 7 (2):116–132.
    This article defends linguistic descent in contrast to the possibility of linguistic ascent or the formal mode in metaphysics. We can go both ways, but metaphysics metaphysically defined presupposes metaphysics conceptualstically defined, which presupposes metaphysicas ontologially defined. Predicates implie abstract concepts (categories in metaphysics), and abstract oncepts presuppose the concrete qualities from which they are abstracted. A distinction is made between any quality and that which has the quality. This article contains a refutation of Kant on the ontological argument. Being, (...)
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  13. Tim Button (2012). Spotty Scope and Our Relation to Fictions. Noûs 46 (2):243-58.
    Whatever the attractions of Tolkein's world, irrealists about fictions do not believe literally that Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit. Instead, irrealists believe that, according to The Lord of the Rings {Bilbo is a hobbit}. But when irrealists want to say something like “I am taller than Bilbo”, there is nowhere good for them to insert the operator “according to The Lord of the Rings”. This is an instance of the operator problem. In this paper, I outline and criticise Sainsbury's (2006) (...)
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  14. Rich Cameron (2004). How to Be a Realist About Sui Generis Teleology Yet Feel at Home in the 21st Century. The Monist 87 (1):72-95.
    The reigning orthodoxy on biological teleology assumes that teleology either must be reduced (or eliminated) or it depends on a supernatural agent. The dominant orthodox sect rejects supernaturalism and eliminitivism, and, given the poverty of competing views has been allowed to become complacent about the adequacy of favored reductivist accounts. These are beset by more serious problems than proponents acknowledge. Moreover, the assumption underlying orthodoxy is false; there is an alternative scientifically and philosophically plausible naturalistic account of teleology. We can (...)
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  15. Anjan Chakravartty, Ontological Priority: The Conceptual Basis of Non-Eliminative, Ontic Structural Realism.
    The number of positions identified with structural realism in philosophical debates about scientific knowledge has grown significantly in the past decade, particularly with respect to the metaphysical or ‘ontic’ approach (OSR). In recent years, several advocates of OSR have proposed a novel understanding of it in order to side-step a serious challenge faced by its original formulation, eliminative OSR. I examine the conceptual basis of the new, noneliminative view, and conclude that it too faces a serious challenge, resulting in a (...)
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  16. Anjan Chakravartty (2007). A Metaphysics for Scientific Realism: Knowing the Unobservable. Cambridge University Press.
    Scientific realism is the view that our best scientific theories give approximately true descriptions of both observable and unobservable aspects of a mind-independent world. Debates between realists and their critics are at the very heart of the philosophy of science. Anjan Chakravartty traces the contemporary evolution of realism by examining the most promising recent strategies adopted by its proponents in response to the forceful challenges of antirealist sceptics, resulting in a positive proposal for scientific realism today. He examines the core (...)
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  17. D. Chalmers, D. Manley & R. Wasserman (eds.) (2009). Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press.
  18. David J. Chalmers (2009). Ontological Anti-Realism. In David John Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press.
    The basic question of ontology is “What exists?”. The basic question of metaontology is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no. (Compare: The basic question of ethics is “What is right?”. The basic question of metaethics is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ethics? Here moral realists say yes, and moral anti-realists say no.) For example, the ontologist may ask: Do numbers exist? The Platonist (...)
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  19. Hasok Chang (2001). How to Take Realism Beyond Foot-Stamping. Philosophy 76 (1):5-30.
    I propose a reformulation of realism, as the pursuit of ontological plausibility in our systems of knowledge. This is dubbed plausibility realism, for convenience of reference. Plausibility realism is non-empiricist, in the sense that it uses ontological plausibility as an independent criterion from empirical adequacy in evaluating systems of knowledge. Ontological plausibility is conceived as a precondition for intelligibility, nor for Truth; therefore, the function of plausibilty realism is to facilitate the kind of understanding that is not reducible to mere (...)
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  20. Roderick M. Chisholm (1996). A Realistic Theory of Categories: An Essay on Ontology. Cambridge University Press.
    Roderick Chisholm has been for many years one of the most important and influential philosophers contributing to metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and epistemology. This book can be viewed as a summation of his views on an enormous range of topics in metaphysics and epistemology. Yet it is written in the terse, lucid, unpretentious style that has become a hallmark of Chisholm's work. The book is an original treatise designed to defend an original, non-Aristotelian theory of categories. Chisholm argues that there (...)
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  21. Arkadiusz Chrudzimski (2004). Roman Ingarden. Ontology From a Phenomenological Point of View. Reports on Philosophy 22:121-142.
    Ontology is doubtless the most important part of Roman Ingarden’s (1893-1970) philosophy. Contrary to Husserl, Ingarden always believed that any serious philosophical investigation must involve an ontological basis and he tried to formulate a solid ontological framework for his philosophy. There are several reasons why this ontology deserves our attention. For those who are interested in Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology, Ingarden’s ontology could be treated as an ingenious attempt to analyse the conceptual structure and hidden ontological assumptions of Husserl’s transcendental idealism. (...)
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  22. A. J. Clark (1984). Evolutionary Epistemology and Ontological Realism. Philosophical Quarterly 34 (137):482-490.
  23. Gabriele Contessa (2013). Does Your Metaphysics Need Structure? Analysis 73 (4):715-721.
    This paper is part of a book symposium on Theodore Sider's Writing the Book of the World.
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  24. Raul Corazzon, The Ontological Realism of Gustav Bergmann.
    "An ontology may be described as consisting of three kinds of statements: those that set the problems; those that list the kinds of entities that exist; those that show how the existents solve the problems. Ontologies may thus differ in different ways. The most decisive way concerns the kinds of entities deemed to exist. With respect to this way, there are but two types of ontology. One is lavish, cluttered; the other, frugal, sparse. The ontologies of Plato, Meinong, and Frege (...)
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  25. Craig DeLancey (2011). Does a Parsimony Principle Entail a Simple World? Metaphysica 12 (2):87-100.
    Many scholars claim that a parsimony principle has ontological implications. The most common such claim is that a parsimony principle entails that the “world” is simple. This ontological claim appears to often be coupled with the assumption that a parsimony principle would be corroborated if the “world” were simple. I clarify these claims, describe some minimal features of simplicity, and then show that both these claims are either false or they depend upon an implausible notion of simplicity. In their stead, (...)
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  26. Manuel DeLanda (2009). Ecology and Realist Ontology. In Bernd Herzogenrath (ed.), Deleuze/Guattari & Ecology. Palgrave Macmillan. 23--41.
  27. Antonio Diéguez (1999). Sami Pihlström. Structuring the World: The Issue of Realism and the Nature of Ontological Problems in Classical and Contemporary Pragmatism. [REVIEW] Theoria 14 (3):557-559.
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  28. Julian Dodd (2013). Adventures in the Metaontology of Art: Local Descriptivism, Artefacts and Dreamcatchers. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 165 (3):1047-1068.
    Descriptivism in the ontology of art is the thesis that the correct ontological proposal for a kind of artwork cannot show the nascent ontological conception of such things embedded in our critical and appreciative practices to be substantially mistaken. Descriptivists believe that the kinds of revisionary art ontological proposals propounded by Nelson Goodman, Gregory Currie, Mark Sagoff, and me are methodologically misconceived. In this paper I examine the case that has been made for a local form of descriptivism in the (...)
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  29. Megan Doherty (2011). Pragmatist Metaphysics: An Essay on the Ethical Grounds of Ontology. American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 32 (3):281-285.
    Pihlström’s book, Pragmatist Metaphysics, offers what he feels “no previous book-length study” (viii) has accomplished: as the title suggests, he sketches how metaphysics would look when done from a pragmatic perspective. This involves rejecting two assumptions: that metaphysics is necessarily “realistic” and that pragmatism is necessarily antimetaphysical. Taking his bearings from pragmatists both classic (e.g. Peirce, James, and Dewey) and contemporary (e.g. Putnam), he argues for a “pragmatic realism” that examines the basic characteristics of our human reality. A good primer (...)
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  30. Cian Dorr, Comments on 'Ontological Anti-Realism'.
    In 1950, Quine inaugurated a strange new way of talking about philosophy. The hallmark of this approach is a propensity to take ordinary colloquial sentences that all of us utter routinely when we are not thinking about philosophy, or (more often) other sentences that very directly and obviously logically entail such sentences, and treat those sentences (i) as having a clear content, calling for little or no elucidation, and (ii) as proper objects of philosophical controversy. Questions like ‘are there numbers?’ (...)
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  31. John Duns Scotus & Robert P. Prentice (eds.) (1972). An Anonymous Question on the Unity of the Concept of Being. Roma,Edizioni Francescane.
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  32. Heather Dyke (2007). Words, Pictures and Ontology: A Commentary on John Heil's From an Ontological Point of View. SWIF Philosophy of Mind Review 6:31-41.
    The title of John Heil’s book From an Ontological Point of View is, of course, an adaptation of the title of Quine’s influential collection of essays From a Logical Point of View, published fifty years earlier in 1953. Quine’s book marked the beginning of a sea change in philosophy, away from ordinary language, armchair philosophising involving introspective examination of concepts, towards a more rigorous, analytical and scientific approach to answering philosophical questions. Heil’s book will, I think, mark the beginning of (...)
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  33. Brian Ellis (1987). The Ontology of Scientific Realism. In J. J. C. Smart, Philip Pettit, Richard Sylvan & Jean Norman (eds.), Metaphysics and Morality: Essays in Honour of J.J.C. Smart. B. Blackwell.
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  34. Gerald J. Erion & Barry Smith (2002). Skepticism, Morality and the Matrix. In W. Irwin (ed.), Philosophy and The Matrix. Open Court.
    The Matrix exposes us to the uncomfortable worries of philosophical skepticism in an especially compelling way. However, with a bit more reflection, we can see why we need not share the skeptic’s doubts about the existence of the world. Such doubts are appropriate only in the very special context of the philosophical seminar. When we return to normal life we see immediately that they are groundless. Furthermore, we see also the drastic mistake that Cypher commits in turning his back upon (...)
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  35. Michael Esfeld & Vincent Lam (2011). Ontic Structural Realism as a Metaphysics of Objects. In Alisa Bokulich & Peter Bokulich (eds.), Scientific Structuralism. Springer Science+Business Media. 143--159.
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  36. Gail Fine (1981). Armstrong on Relational and Nonrelational Realism. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 62:262-71.
    This paper considers and criticizes david armstrong's defense in his book of an allegedly nonrelational version of realism, "universals and scientific realism". It also challenges his claim that plato, But not aristotle, Held a relational version of realism.
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  37. Kit Fine (2013). Fundamental Truth and Fundamental Terms. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):725-732.
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  38. Kit Fine (2009). The Question of Ontology. In David John Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. 157--177.
  39. Kit Fine (2001). The Question of Realism. Philosophers' Imprint 1 (1):1-30.
    This paper distinguishes two kinds of realist issue -- the issue of whether the propositions of a given domain are factual and the issue of whether they are fundamental. It criticizes previous accounts of what these issues come to and suggests that they are to be understood in terms of a basic metaphysical concept of reality. This leaves open the question of how such issues are to be resolved; and it is argued that this may be done through consideration of (...)
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  40. Paul Forster (2011). Peirce and the Threat of Nominalism. Cambridge University Press.
    Machine generated contents note: List of abbreviations; Preface; 1. Nominalism as demonic doctrine; 2. Logic, philosophy and the special sciences; 3. Continuity and the problem of universals; 4. Continuity and meaning: Peirce's pragmatic maxim; 5. Logical foundations of Peirce's pragmatic maxim; 6. Experience and its role in inquiry; 7. Scientific method as self-corrective - Peirce's view of the problem of knowledge; 8. The unity of Peirce's theories of truth; 9. Order from chaos: Peirce's evolutionary cosmology; 10. A universe of chance: (...)
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  41. Steven French & James Ladyman (2003). Remodelling Structural Realism: Quantum Physics and the Metaphysics of Structure. [REVIEW] Synthese 136 (1):31-56.
    We outline Ladyman's 'metaphysical' or 'ontic' form of structuralrealism and defend it against various objections. Cao, in particular, has questioned theview of ontology presupposed by this approach and we argue that by reconceptualisingobjects in structural terms it offers the best hope for the realist in thecontext of modern physics.
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  42. S. Gibbons & C. Legg (2013). Higher-Order One–Many Problems in Plato's Philebus and Recent Australian Metaphysics. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):119 - 138.
    We discuss the one?many problem as it appears in the Philebus and find that it is not restricted to the usually understood problem about the identity of universals across particulars that instantiate them (the Hylomorphic Dispersal Problem). In fact some of the most interesting aspects of the problem occur purely with respect to the relationship between Forms. We argue that contemporary metaphysicians may draw from the Philebus at least three different one?many relationships between universals themselves: instantiation, subkind and part, and (...)
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  43. Torrengo Giuliano (forthcoming). The Grounding Problem and Presentist Explanations. Synthese.
    Opponents of presentism have often argued that the presentist has difficulty in accounting for what makes (presently) true past-tensed propositions (TptP) true in a way that is compatible with her metaphysical view of time and reality. The problem is quite general and concerns not only strong truth-maker principles, but also the requirement that truth be grounded in reality. In order to meet the challenge, presentists have proposed many peculiar present aspects of the world as grounds for truths concerning the past, (...)
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  44. Peter Godfrey-Smith (2006). Theories and Models in Metaphysics. The Harvard Review of Philosophy 14 (1):4-19.
    Metaphysics is once again a thriving subdiscipline within philosophy, despite a long tradition of challenges to the very viability of the metaphysical enterprise. The criticisms have not so much been satisfactorily answered, as shouldered aside by the vigorous development of the field. Some focused meta-theoretic discussion has recently arisen within mainstream metaphysics.1 The present paper is written more from an outsider's vantage point. I attempt to give a new meta-theory for some parts of metaphysics. The central claim is that much (...)
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  45. D. W. Hamlyn (1984). Metaphysics. Cambridge University Press.
    This book provides an introduction to metaphysics. At the outset Professor Hamlyn distinguishes two conceptions of metaphysics running through the history of the subject. One, which goes back to Aristotle, is concerned with ontology, and with what has to exist for beings such as we are; the other separates appearance and reality and attempts to establish what really exists. Professor Hamlyn's account of metaphysics conforms with the first tradition. This is not, however, primarily a historical exposition. The discussion concentrates on (...)
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  46. Graham Harman (2008). DeLanda's Ontology: Assemblage and Realism. [REVIEW] Continental Philosophy Review 41 (3):367-383.
    Manuel DeLanda is one of the few admitted realists in present-day continental philosophy, a position he claims to draw from Deleuze. DeLanda conceives of the world as made up of countless layers of assemblages, irreducible to their parts and never dissolved into larger organic wholes. This article supports DeLanda’s position as a refreshing new model for continental thought. It also criticizes his movement away from singular individuals toward disembodied attractors and topological structures lying outside all specific beings. While endorsing DeLanda’s (...)
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  47. Matthew C. Haug (2011). On the Prospects for Ontology: Deflationism, Pluralism, and Carnap's Principle of Tolerance. European Journal of Philosophy 21 (2):n/a-n/a.
    In this paper, I critically discuss recent work on the role that the principle of tolerance plays in Rudolf Carnap's philosophy. Specifically, I consider how two prominent interpretations of Carnap's principle of tolerance can be used to argue for Carnap's anti-metaphysical views. I then argue that there are serious problems with these arguments, and I diagnose those problems as resulting, in part, from a tension between competing goals of Carnap's philosophical project.
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  48. John Hawthorne (2009). Superficialism in Ontology. In David John Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. 213--30.
    draft, forthcoming Chalmers, Manley and Wasserman eds., Metametaphysics.
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  49. John Heil (2003). From an Ontological Point of View. Oxford University Press.
    From an Ontological Point of View is a highly original and accessible exploration of fundamental questions about what there is. John Heil discusses such issues as whether the world includes levels of reality; the nature of objects and properties; the demands of realism; what makes things true; qualities, powers, and the relation these bear to one another. He advances an account of the fundamental constituents of the world around us, and applies this account to problems that have plagued recent work (...)
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  50. Devin Henry (2012). A Sharp Eye for Kinds: Plato on Collection and Division. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 41 (January):229-55.
    This paper focuses on two methodological questions that arise from Plato’s account of collection and division. First, what place does the method of collection and division occupy in Plato’s account of philosophical inquiry? Second, do collection and division in fact constitute a formal “method” (as most scholars assume) or are they simply informal techniques that the philosopher has in her toolkit for accomplishing different philosophical tasks? I argue that Plato sees collection and division as useful tools for achieving two distinct (...)
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