Alternative Approaches to Metaphysics

International Workshop, September 30. – October 2. 2021

In recent years, orthodox metaphysics in the Quinean tradition was challenged from different angles. It has been criticized that ordinary intuitions have played a focal point in metaphysical argumentation and therefore the subject matter of contemporary metaphysics has been to understand the world as it is given to us rather than how it is. Accordingly, some have argued that contemporary metaphysics, as it stands today, should be discontinued in favor of a more science centered approach. Alternatively, standard metaphysical practice has been said to be misguided by focusing on the wrong questions. By introducing extra metaphysical concepts such as ‘grounding’ metaphysical practice can be redirected towards new questions that might prove to be more fruitful. A different approach to metaphysics hails from the Kantian tradition; it maintains metaphysics cannot be disentangled from epistemology. This approach requires further investigations into the structure of our thoughts. In this spirit it has recently been argued under the label of ‘Cognitive Metaphysics’ that the neurosciences provide deep insights into how humans conceptualize the reality we ordinarily encounter. Finally, Amie Thomasson has been highly influential in proposing that conceptual analysis should lie at the heart of ontological reasoning and that it provides an approach to metaphysics that allows for reengineering metaphysical concepts, making the discipline highly inclusive and open to the different approaches.

The purpose of the workshop is to reflect on new approaches to metaphysics, reflect upon the different existing approaches, identify similarities and identify the challenges to the discipline in order to avoid further fragmentation. This should help us adopt a more unified understanding of metaphysical inquiry.

The workshop brings together internationally renowned experts from philosophy as well as the sciences.

Confirmed Speakers

  • Sophie Allen (Keele University)
  • Lieven Decock  (VU University Amsterdam)
  • Matti Eklund (Uppsala University)
  • Hans-Johann Glock (University of Zurich)
  • Thomas Hofweber (The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • Huw Price (University of Cambridge)
  • Renato Renner (ETH Zurich)
  • Don Ross (University College Cork, University of Cape Town, Georgia State University)
  • Jonathan Schaffer (Rutgers University)
  • Arthur Schwaninger (University of Zurich)
  • Brian Smith (University of Toronto)
  • Amie Thomasson (University of Miami)


Due to the corona pandemic, the workshop will largely be conducted online and only a small number of people will be allowed to be physically present at the venue. Attendance via Zoom is free and open to all, but numbers are limited. Please register by emailing to by September 20 2021. A Zoom invitation link will be sent two days before the event. We have some open slots for respondents; if you are interested in commenting on a paper, please contact us early.


Arthur Schwaninger (University of Zurich), Hans-Johann Glock (University of Zurich). The event is funded by the Mlle. Marie Gretler-Stiftung and the Hochschulstiftung of the University of Zurich.