Academic year
Dan López de Sa
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
2018-10-08 - 2018-12-17
Mondays, 14:30-17:30
UB, Philosophy Faculty, room 410


What are groups? What are things like The Beatles, The Supreme Court, the APhil/CCiL MA students, the French, women, or Human Kind? On the face of it, they seem to be things with quite an intimate connection with certain pluralities of particular individuals—their members: where and when the groups are, what they think, say, and do (if anything), seem to depend on facts about the individuals that belong to them. But also on the face of it, they seem to be things somehow independent from these individuals: they seem to allow for fluctuation in members, to exert capacities over and above those of the individuals, and so on.

     How to resolve this tension will turn out to be an interestingly complex matter. By carefully discussing recent literature, we will deepen our understanding and mastery of key general metaphysical notions—grounding, dependence, mereology, constitution, persistence, individuals, properties, concrete and abstract objects—at work within topics of increasing interest in the last years and of undeniable social significance.






There will be ten regular three-hour sessions. The format will be that of a research seminar, structured around presentations by students and general discussion, led by the instructor.


Evaluation will be based on the quality of the presentation (10%), of the contribution to discussions (20%), and of an abstract (10%) and a short research paper (60%), on a topic related to the seminar, to be agreed with the instructor in due time.


The purpose is to open the discussion by submitting thoughts, questions, and objections. The total slot for this is up to 10 minutes per person as maximum (less may well be completely appropriate), although people are free to coordinate in the form of joint presentations. If you would like to use a handout and/or beamer, please coordinate with the instructor the week prior to your session. NB: The purpose is not to summarize the paper, that everybody will have read, but to open the discussion, by providing original contributions in the forms envisaged.


Everybody is expected to have read the papers in detail in advance, and to come to each of the ten sessions with thoughts, questions, and objections. We will do our best efforts to comply with the guidelines for respectful, constructive, and inclusive philosophical discussion: 

Research Paper

Short research papers (absolute maximum length, including footnotes and references: 2500 words) are expected on topics to be agreed with the instructor. Proposals should take the form of title and short abstract (<100 words), stating the main claim/conjecture/working hypothesis, as well as a skeleton of the structure of the argument or line of thought. (Tentatively, as the purpose is to coordinate regarding topic and kind of paper.) All materials are to be sent as attached .pdf files to

(Guidelines on evaluation and marking, including a note on originality and plagiarism, available at



  • Dec 3: First proposal for the research paper to be agreed with the instructor.
  • Dec 17: Final proposal for the research paper to be agreed with the instructor.
  • Jan 8 (optional): First drafts, in order to receive feedback by the instructor.
  • Feb 1: Deadline for final versions of the research paper.

Deadlines are final. Late submissions will be penalized with 5% of the maximum grade of the seminar per (portion of) the first day in delay, and 1% per subsequent


OCT 8: Intro

OCT 22: McDaniel, Kris (2010): “Parts and Wholes”. Philosophy Compass 5, 412-25 [Background in composition.)

OCT 29: Paul, L.A. (“010): “The Puzzles of Material Constitution”, Philosohy Compass 5, 579-90 [Background in constitution.]

NOV 5: Uzquiano, Gabriel (2004): “The Supreme Court and the Supreme Court Justices: A Metaphysical Puzzle”, Nous 38: 135-153

NOV 12: Effingham, Nikk (2010): “The Metaphysics of Groups”, Philosophical Studies 166: 251-267

NOV 19: Ritchie, Katherine (2013): “What are Groups?”, Philosophical Studies 166: 257-271

NOV 26: Hawley, Katherine (2017): “Social Mereology”, Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 395-411  

DEC 3: Thomasson, Amie (forthcoming): “The Ontology of Social Groups”, Synthese

DEC 10: Taylor, Elanor (2016): “Groups and Oppression”, Hypatia 31, 520-36

DEC 17: Hochman, Adam (forthcoming): “Replacing Race: Interactive Constructionism about Racialized Groups’, Ergo


Learning outcomes:

Students should be able to critically understand central texts in metaphysics in a way that puts them in a position to develop and apply original ideas.


CB9 - Students should be able to communicate their knowledge and their arguments to specialized audiences in a clear and articulate way.

CG1 – Students should be able to formulate and critically assess arguments in metaphysics.

CG2. Students should be able to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects in their area of ​​expertise.

CG3. Students should be able to engage both in general and specific discussions in metaphysics. They should be able to conduct a philosophical discussion (orally and in written form), by putting forward, for example, general arguments or specific examples, in support of one’s position.

CG4. Students should be able to work both independently and in a team, in an international environment.

CG5. Students should be able to identify methodological errors, rhetorical, conventional and uncritical assumptions, vagueness and superficiality.

CE1. Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of analtyic metaphysics. 

CE2. Students shoulld be able to identify the core arguments and theories of metaphysics concerning theoretical issues.

CE4. Students should be able to assess the writings of leading contemporary philosophers in metaphysics.

CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of debates in metaphysics.

CE7. Students should be able to critically use specialized terminology in metaphysics.