Metaphysics

Metaphysics has a long and distinguished history at The University of Manchester.

Past staff include Samuel Alexander and Dorothy Emmet, and our PhD alumni include Peter Simons, Kevin Mulligan and Barry Smith.

We are home to two journals that regularly publish papers on metaphysical topics: Analysis (edited by Chris Daly and David Liggins) and The Monist (edited by Fraser MacBride).

Current areas of research include the philosophy of mathematics, grounding, metaphysical explanation, metaontology, freedom of the will, and truthmaking.

Projects

Our current project The Age of Metaphysical Revolution: David Lewis and his Place in 20th Century Philosophy attempts to shed light on current metaphysical debates by tracing their recent history. Through the lens of the role played by David Lewis and, further back, the philosophical influences on the development of his views. The project runs from 2016 to 2019 and is funded by the AHRC.

From 2011 to 2014, another AHRC-funded project, The Foundations of Ontology, aimed to defend ontological enquiry - conceived as the study of what exists - against sceptical objections.

For more information

We welcome expressions of interest from prospective master's and PhD students, and from postdoctoral researchers who would like to come to Manchester to work on metaphysics. Take a look at our page for prospective postgraduate researchers.

For general queries about Metaphysics at Manchester contact Helen Beebee.

Our people

Our people

A large proportion of our academic staff and PhD students work on metaphysics, and between them, they cover a wide range of topics and issues.

  • Helen Beebee has published on a variety of topics in metaphysics including causation, laws of nature, free will, natural kinds, and Humeanism. Her publications include The Oxford Handbook of Causation (co-edited with Chris Hitchcock and Peter Menzies, OUP 2009), Metaphysics: The Key Concepts (with Nikk Effingham and Philip Goff, Routledge 2010), The Semantics and Metaphysics of Natural Kinds (co-edited with Nigel Sabbarton-Leary, Routledge 2010) and Free Will: An Introduction (Palgrave Macmillan 2013). She is currently Principal Investigator for the AHRC-funded project on David Lewis, The Age of Metaphysical Revolution.
  • Chris Daly has published extensively on metaphysics, ontology and the philosophy of mathematics. His recent publications include 'Is ontological revisionism uncharitable?' (with David Liggins, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 2016), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods (Palgrave 2015), and 'In defence of existence questions' (with David Liggins, The Monist 2014). He was co-investigator on the AHRC project, The Foundations of Ontology (2011-14).
  • Julian Dodd has a longstanding interest in metaphysics, especially in truth, truthmaking, facts and states of affairs; his publications in this area include An Identity Theory of Truth (Macmillan 2000) and Truthmakers: The Contemporary Debate (co-edited with Helen Beebee, OUP 2005) as well as articles in Analysis, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society and elsewhere. Much of his work in aesthetics is also distinctly metaphysical and includes Works of Music: An Essay in Ontology (OUP 2007).
  • Anthony Fisher is a postdoctoral researcher for The Age of Metaphysical RevolutionHe is interested in a range of issues in contemporary metaphysics as well as its recent history. His publications include 'On Lewis against magic: a study of method in metaphysics' (Synthese 2015), 'Truthmaking and fundamentality' (Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 2015), and 'Priority monism, partiality, and minimal truthmakers' (Philosophical Studies 2014).
  • Frederique Janssen-Lauret is a lecturer in philosophy and also a postdoctoral researcher for The Age of Metaphysical RevolutionHer publications include 'The Quinean roots of Lewis's Humeanism' (The Monist 2016), 'Committing to an individual: ontological commitment, reference, and epistemology' (Synthese 2016) and 'Metaontology, epistemology, and essence: on the empirical deduction of the categories' (with Fraser MacBride, The Monist 2015).
  • David Liggins has published widely on a variety of topics in metaphysics, including the philosophy of mathematics, grounding, truth, and metaontology. Recent publications include 'In defence of radical restrictionism' (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, f/c), 'Grounding and the indispensability argument' (Synthese 2016) and 'Deflationism, conceptual explanation and the truth asymmetry' (The Philosophical Quarterly 2016). He was Principal Investigator on the AHRC project, The Foundations of Ontology (2011-14).
  • Fraser MacBride is interested in metaontology, truthmaking, essentialism, relations, and universals, as well as neo-Fregeanism, structuralism and fictionalism in the philosophy of mathematics. He has a book in press with OUP (On the Genealogy of Universals: On the Metaphysical Origins of Analytic Philosophy) and is working on a book on the metaphysics of relations. Recent publications include 'De re modality, essentialism, and Lewis's Humeanism' (with Helen Beebee, in Loewer and Schaffer's A Companion to David Lewis, Wiley Blackwell 2015), and Predicables and Relations, a special issue of DialecticaHe is also the author of the Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Truthmakers (2013). Fraser is Co-Investigator for The Age of Metaphysical Revolution.
  • Jeroen Smid completed his PhD on the theory of part-whole relations (mereology) at Lund University in 2017. Besides mereology, he is interested in logic, metaphilosophy, and history of analytic philosophy. Jeroen has published in Philosophical StudiesErkenntnisSynthesePhilosophy Compass, and Analytic Philosophy. He is currently a visiting academic at the University of Manchester, funded by the Swedish Research Council. 
  • Ann Whittle's interests focus primarily on causation, causal powers, properties and free will. Her publications include 'A defence of substance causation' (Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2016), 'Ceteris paribus, I could have done otherwise' (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 2014), and 'Dispositional abilities' (Philosophers' Imprint 2010).