I spend about half my time on current problems in metaphysics and the philosophy of perception and the other half on the early modern philosophers.  My book Problems from Reid, something of a sequel to Problems from Kant, was published in 2015.  The historical figure I’m paying most attention to these days is Hume; having written books on philosophers who replied to Hume (Reid and Kant), I’m going back to the provocateur.

Among my recent and current projects are the following: 

A study of the feasibility of having "objectivity without objects" in various domains, for example, absolute size and motion without substantival space, objective predication without universals, and objective modality without possible worlds.  I presented an overview of this program at the Arthur Prior Centenary Conference in August of 2014.

A follow-up on a paper entitled "Brute Necessity," exploring whether it is a vice for a view to imply the existence of unexplained necessary truths and how, if at all, the necessity of a necessary truth might be explained.  

A paper entitled "Substance and Shadow," exploring four levels of increasing ontological robustness:  nonentities, logical constructions, dependent entities, and substances.  This paper is scheduled to appear in the June 2023 issue of The Review of Metaphysics.

A paper entitled “There Are No Necessary Connections Between Distinct Existences,” which is one formulation of a dictum often attributed to Hume.  I explore its meaning, its basis, and its uses in Hume, the range of its uses in contemporary philosophy and whether they are properly Humean, and some of the reasons for and against thinking the dictum true. This paper is scheduled to appear in the summer 2023 issue of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.

A paper on the use and abuse of the locution ‘qua’.

A paper on whether we can perceive so-called “high-level” properties and relations, including causation. 



Among the courses I teach regularly at USC are Philosophical Foundations of Modern Western Culture, Time and Time Travel, History of Modern Philosophy, Theory of Knowledge, and Metaphysics. I have recently given or co-taught graduate seminars in the philosophy of Thomas Reid, the philosophy of David Hume, the philosophy of A.N. Prior, the philosophy of time, the philosophy of perception, probability and epistemology, and mereology.


Curriculum Vitae

Departmental webpage

  • James Van Cleve
  • Mudd Hall of Philosophy
  • 3709 Trousdale Pkwy
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089