DESCRIPTION: The end of metaphysics was a dominant theme in early 20th century philosophy. Even though the Western philosophical tradition sundered in two, one of the few things its analytic and continental halves seemed to agree upon was that the age of metaphysics was over, either because physics had finally usurped it or because philosophy had finally rooted out the pathological desires which drove us to speak of the fundamental structure of reality. The resurgence of metaphysics in the second half of the century in both traditions certainly came as a surprise, even if it has taken until the turn of the 21st century to become ingrained in both camps. However, despite its increasing popularity, there remains much confusion about precisely what metaphysics is: how does it sit within philosophy as a whole? How does it relate to the sciences (especially physics)? How do we go about doing it? The purpose of this seminar and its subsequent followup in Spring is to reintroduce metaphysics by considering these sorts of methodological questions, and to do so by explaining the history of its rise, fall, and rise again.
The Fall seminar, “The Speculative Return,” will examine the return of speculative metaphysics, focusing primarily on the emergence of ‘Speculative Realism’ and its ramifications. This will provide us with a way of framing the historical arc of the decline of metaphysics (correlationism) and some purchase upon what has potentially been overlooked in the drive to speculate (the critique of metaphysics). The seminar will address certain issues in contemporary metaphysics (e.g., is anything necessary? and what does it mean for ‘everything’ to exist?), but its principal aim will be to construct a historical narrative through which the related methodological questions can be properly articulated.