The University of Southern California will be hosting the third annual California Metaphysics Conference, on the Metaphysics of Ordinary Objects, taking place January 17th – 19th, 2014.

Attendance is open (and free) to all who would like to come, but you must register by emailing kleinsch [at] usc [dot] edu no later than December 15th, 2013.  Please include your full name and university affiliation in the email.  Your name should appear on the list of participants within 30 days.


  • Matthew Babb – University of Southern California

    Andrew Bacon – University of Southern California

    Mark Barber – Syracuse

    Jenny Bauer

    Jason Collins – University of California, Santa Barbara

    Irena Cronin – University of California, Los Angeles

    Kyle Dickey – University of California, Santa Barbara

    Maegan Fairchild – University of Southern California

    Omar Fakhri – Berkeley

    Annie Fang – Princeton

    Daniel Fogal – New York University

    Amanda Gorman – University of Southern California

    Andrew Howat – California State University, Fullerton

    Abbey Irwin – Biola University

    Robin Jeshion-Nelson – University of Southern California

    Li Kang – Syracuse

    Lee Killam – University of Southern California

    Shieva Kleinschmidt – University of Southern California

    Joseph Komrosky – Claremont Graduate University

    Dan Korman – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

    Irem Kurtsal Steen – Boğaziçi University

    Christian Lee – University of Western Australia

    Matt Leonard – University of Southern California

    Janet Levin – University of Southern California

    Joseph Martinez – San Diego Mesa College

    Michaela McSweeney – Princeton

    Trenton Merricks – University of Virginia

    Asya Passinsky – New York University

    Ian Peebles – Biola University

    Alexander Pruss – Baylor University

    Bradley Rettler – Notre Dame

    Brandon Rickabaugh – Biola University

    John Saladino – Loyola Marymount University

    Mark Schroeder – University of Southern California

    Anthony Shiver – University of Georgia

    Erica Shumener – New York University

    Kenneth Silver – University of Southern California

    Mark Steen – Boğaziçi University

    Steve Steward – Syracuse

    Amie Thomasson – University of Miami

    Christopher Tomaszewski – University of Connecticut

    Peter van Inwagen – Notre Dame

    Gabriel Uzquiano Cruz – University of Southern California

    Kadri Vihvelin – University of Southern California

    Jessica Wilson – University of Toronto


  • 2:45 – 4:15pm: Trenton Merricks

    “Logical Validity and Modal Validity”

    An argument is logically valid just in case it preserves the truth of its premises in virtue of its form. An argument is modally valid just in case, necessarily, if its premises are true, then its conclusion is true. I defend some claims about the relation between logical validity and modal validity. I then show that those claims have interesting implications, including both a new solution to Kripke’s puzzle of belief and also the thesis that modal knowledge is prior to knowledge of logical validity.

    Chair: Li Kang


    4:30 – 6:00pm: Alexander Pruss

    “Quantifiers, quasi-quantifiers and ordinary language”

    Chair: Asya Passinsky


    7:00pm:  Dinner at Pitfire Pizza (108 West 2nd Street, downtown Los Angeles)

  • 10:00 – 11:30am:  Amie Thomasson

    “Ordinary Objects and Easy Ontology”

    As Bob Hale and Crispin Wright have argued for the case of numbers, and Stephen Schiffer has argued for properties, propositions, and other entities, we can often make easy arguments for the existence of contested entities by making by trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises. So, for example, one can argue from ‘the shirt is red’ to ‘the shirt has the property of redness’ to ‘there is a property’. I have argued elsewhere that this procedure can be extended: that we can also use easy arguments to settle debates about the existence of ordinary objects such as tables and chairs. In this paper I discuss what difference expanding the program in this way makes to understanding easy ontology and its consequences. I will argue that it makes a big difference, for it shows that the resulting entities cannot be understood as ‘ontologically deflated’ or having any sort of reduced causal or epistemic status. What is deflated by easy arguments is not the entities we are committed to, but rather ontological debates about such entities.

    Chair:  Anthony Shiver


    11:45 – 1:15pm:  Dan Korman

    “Debunking Perceptual Beliefs About Ordinary Objects”

    Debunking arguments are arguments that purport to undermine a range of beliefs by showing that there is no appropriate explanatory connection between those beliefs and their subject matter. Arguments of this sort rear their heads in a wide variety of domains, threatening beliefs about morality, mathematics, logic, color, and the existence of God. Perceptual beliefs about ordinary objects, however, are widely thought to be invulnerable to such arguments. I will show that this is a mistake. I articulate a debunking argument that purports to undermine our most basic perceptual beliefs (developing some remarks in Heller, Sider, Merricks, Hawthorne, and others). I challenge a number of natural responses to the argument, including the “permissivist” response that there are a plenitude of objects before us, virtually guaranteeing the accuracy of our object beliefs.

    Chair:  Matt Leonard


    1:15 – 2:45pm:  Lunch


    2:45 – 4:15pm:  Irem Kurtsal Steen

    “Ordinary Objects for Plenitude Lovers”

    If we adopt two constraints on our ontology, 1) that our ontology should be consistent with the existence of ordinary objects, and 2) that existence and identity cannot obtain indeterminately, we are drawn to the metaphysic of plenitude—that every filled region of spacetime contains an object that persists exactly through (the temporal axis of) that region. This metaphysic is meant to satisfy both constraints: all ordinary objects are included; in fact many, many, more objects are included. But while the many precise cat-candidates provide the excellent backdrop for linguistic theories of vagueness, for lovers of ordinary objects they make for too many poor substitutes. Three complaints are common. Some worry about the “cheapness” of objects. The cat, the carpet, and their sum are on a par, which deflates the significance of the cat or the carpet. Another worry is that the ontology yields too many cats. A third reaction against the plenitude is that it actually has not met the ordinary object constraint, because cats and carpets are supposed to be fuzzy, not precise. In this paper I offer a view whose primary goal is to respect this last intuition, i.e. to affirm ordinary objects as in some sense fuzzy. Once the framework for doing this is in place, I say more about how we may go about restricting ordinary objecthood so that both the count of cats in the house matches common sense and a status difference between ordinary objects and gerrymandered kinds emerges.

    Chair:  Kenny Pearce


    4:30 – 6:00pm: Jessica Wilson

    “The Emergence of Ordinary Objects”

    Chair: Nathan Howard

  • 10:00am – 12:00pm: Special Session – Peter van Inwagen and Trenton Merricks

    “Inside and Outside the Ontology Room” – Peter van Inwagen

    Response – Trenton Merricks

    Chair: Kenneth Silver

Travel and Lodging

  • The official conference hotel is The Biltmore, located in downtown Los Angeles.  (506 South Grand Avenue.  213-624-1011)

    The Biltmore is within walking distance of several restaurants and public transit links, but it is several miles from USC’s campus, which is where the talks will be held.  However, Los Angeles’s new light rail (the Expo Line) is up and running, and it will provide easy and fast transportation from downtown Los Angeles (at 7th and Figueroa, just a short walk from the Biltmore) to a stop right next to the Philosophy department at USC.

    To drive from LAX to the Biltmore:  drive past terminal 7, take the right lane to Sepulveda Blvd. to 105 East (Norwalk). Proceed to 110 North (Harbor Fwy). Exit 6th Street, drive 4 blocks to Olive Street, turn left. Drive 1 block to 5th Street, then turn left. Drive 1 block to Grand Avenue, turn left and then turn left again (into the 2nd driveway), and you’ll be at the hotel.  (Though instead of trying to follow these instructions, I recommend that if you attempt to drive in Los Angeles, you use a vehicle with a navigation system.)

    To take public transit from LAX to the Biltmore:  take the FLYAway shuttle bus to Union Station, then take either the Red or Purple line to Pershing Square Station, and walk 2 blocks west on 5th street.

    There are also other hotels in the area with good public transit access, ranging from fancy boutiques like The Standard Hotel Downtown, to some cheaper places in Little Tokyo or Chinatown. If you find an incredibly cheap hotel in Downtown though, be sure to check the location – if it’s farther east than Main St, and not in Little Tokyo, then it may be in Skid Row.

    For those that would prefer to stay within walking distance of campus there are two possibilities: the Radisson Hotel Midtown, at 3540 S Figueroa St; and the Vagabond Inn Los Angeles, at 3101 S Figueroa St. However, there are only a few dinner and evening activity options in the area, and public transit to and from the airport is difficult.

    It’s of course also possible to stay in other areas of town.  In that case, you will probably want to rent a car and park on campus.

  • Getting to Los Angeles

    Burbank Airport is closer to Downtown and to campus, and often has cheaper flights on Southwest, but it has poor public transit links, apart from being across the street from the Amtrak station.  Depending on your schedule, you might get lucky and catch a commuter train directly from the airport into Union Station.  However, you’re probably better off taking a taxi or an airport shuttle, which will be cheaper and more convenient from BUR than from LAX, unless you’ve decided to stay on the beach.

    LAX is the best option if you’d rather not take taxi or rental car, and also has by far the most flights on most airlines other than Southwest.  From LAX, you can take the FlyAway bus to Union Station, where you can connect to the Metro rail lines.  When you arrive, you pay $7 at the kiosk.  Taxis may take slightly longer and be slightly more expensive than from the Burbank Airport.

    The Long Beach airport is quite isolated, and probably isn’t worth it unless you’re getting an extremely good deal on your flight on jetBlue.  Definitely don’t use the Ontario or Orange County (John Wayne) airport unless you really know what you’re getting yourself into.

    Getting to Campus

    All CMC sessions will take place in on USC’s campus.  Check the schedule for updates on the rooms the sessions will be held in.  Click here for a campus map.

    Here are some general notes about using public transportation between downtown Los Angeles and USC:

    We suggest you use the Expo Line light rail.  If you are staying downtown, you’ll want to travel between the 7th street/Metro Center stop and the Expo Park/USC stop.  Here is a map, and here is a schedule.  There’s a train roughly every 15 minutes every day (weekends and holidays included), from just before 5:00am until after midnight.  Further, the trip is just over 10 minutes long, which is faster than driving.  And the Expo Park/USC stop is just across the street from the USC Philosophy department.

    Some tips:  when entering the station downtown, enter it at 7th and Figueroa or at 7th and Flower.  (The entrance at 7th and Hope takes you to the wrong tracks.)  Look for trains saying “Expo Line” with “Culver City” as the destination.  Metro TAP cards can be bought at any rail station for $1, and then loaded with cash to pay fares.  The fare is $1.50 per ride, and can also be used on buses (though buses will also take cash).

    For any of you who are stubbornly opposed to using the light rail, here are some alternatives:

    Real-time arrival information for most buses can be found here (if accessed from a GPS-enabled smartphone it will find the closest bus stops to you and arrival times for each bus). The most relevant buses will probably be the 81 and 910 (aka the Silver Line). From other parts of town, you’ll probably have to drive (see parking info below), but ask a local (or try the transit search on Google Maps).

    On Fridays, the best bus transit between Downtown and USC is the F Dash. It’s $0.35 a ride, comes once every 10 minutes, and it has a stop immediately at the philosophy department (Exposition and Trousdale). The closest stop to the Millenium Biltmore is at 5th and Flower, across the street from the public library. Unfortunately, it only runs from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm, Monday to Friday, and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on weekends.

    Alternatively, you can use the 81 bus, which costs $1.50 and runs every 15 minutes on Saturdays and every 20 on Sundays. The USC stop is at the southeast corner of campus, at Figueroa and Exposition, which is about a 7 minute walk across campus from the philosophy department.

    The southbound stop closest to the Millenium Biltmore is at 5th and Hill. You can also catch the 81 along Hill St. north of 8th (even as far north as Chinatown), or at 8th and Flower, 11th and Flower, or Figueroa south of 11th. Northbound, it may drop you off a block or two away, because of one–way streets.

    If you drive to campus, the best place to park is Parking Structure A – enter campus at Vermont and 36th, buy a parking permit at the kiosk for $8, and follow the directions to parking. It’s also possible to park all day for free in the neighborhoods west of Vermont, though it can be a bit of a hike. The neighborhood is not the nicest, but it’s generally safe. Before driving, check Google Maps for traffic information – it can easily take two or three times as long to do the same drive at different times of day, especially if your trip involves the 110 by Downtown.

  • Click here for a useful guide to LA restaurants and bars (it includes a small map).

  • Note than in Los Angeles, unlike most other major American cities, it is impossible to just hail a taxi on the street. If you want to take a taxi somewhere, you’ll have to call for one in advance (though you can often find them immediately outside bars at closing time).

    At Exposition Park, across the street from USC:

    A free rose gardenThe Natural History Museum of LA County – it doesn’t compare to the ones in New York or Washington, but has some very interesting collections (especially from the California gold rush, and a rare Megamouth shark). The California Science Center– this is fairly disappointing for a science museum, but has a good IMAX theater. I haven’t checked out the Aerospace Museum, the California African American Museum, or the Los Angeles Coliseum (where the USC football team plays, and site of the 1984 Olympics, and the former home of NFL football in LA).

    In Downtown:

    The Staples Center – home of the Lakers and Clippers (NBA), and Kings (NHL).Disney Concert Hall – home of the LA Philharmonic. LA Public Library – the front entrance of this building is a great public work of art, covered in examples of historical writing and ideas, ranging from aboriginal art of Australia and Cassini’s observation of the rings of Saturn to texts in Esperanto and Morse code.

    Along the Red Line subway:

    • Union Station –the connection to the FlyAway bus to the airport, as well as Amtrak, and theGold Line to Chinatown, Pasadena, and East LA. Note that cell phone reception in the waiting area is quite poor. There are also shuttles to Dodger Stadium before and after baseball games.
    • Civic Center – the stop for Walt Disney Concert Hall, and also the opera, city hall, and courthouse
    • Pershing Square, 7th Street/Metro Center – these two stops serve central Downtown. 7th street is the transfer point to the Blue Line, which you can take all the way to the Watts Towers or Long Beach.
    • Westlake/Macarthur – not much of tourist significance
    • Vermont/Wilshire – Koreatown (or take the Purple Line rather than the Red Line, and it continues a little farther into Koreatown along Wilshire)
    • Vermont/Beverly, Vermont/Santa Monica – not much of tourist significance.
    • Vermont/Sunset – on weekends there is a shuttle from this station to the Griffith Observatoryin the hills, which has great views of LA, is a good base for hikes, and also has interesting exhibits, including live views of the surface of the sun; there is also a major Scientology building near this stop
    • Hollywood/Western – Thai Town. A particularly good (and very spicy!) restaurant is Jitlada, at the corner of Harvard and Sunset, three blocks east and one block south of the Hollywood and Western station.  And three blocks north of the station, there are trailheads for hikes up to the Griffith Observatory.
    • Hollywood/Vine, Hollywood/Highland – the Hollywood Walk of Fame stretches between these two stops. Famous Hollywood landmarks like Grauman’s Chinese Theater, the Kodak Theater (home of the Oscars), Capitol Records, and the Hollywood Bowl, are near Hollywood and Highland, as well as more generic tourist traps like Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum, and Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. Various museums, offices, and other sites of Scientology are located throughout Hollywood. (Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, the Museum may be an entertaining or scary visit) Also, Runyon Canyon is a good hike site, and the entrance is about six blocks west and two blocks north of Hollywood/Highland
    • Universal City – this is where Universal Studios is located, if you feel like going to an amusement park without needing a designated driver
    • North Hollywood – there is a little bit of a theater district around this station

    Other locations

    The La Brea Tar Pits are the world’s largest collection of Ice Age fossils. They are also a former petroleum extraction site, and the tar is still bubbling.

    The LA County Museum of Art is immediately next door. They are about 45 minutes away on the 720 bus (catch it along 5th street in Downtown, and take it west to Fairfax Blvd). The trip is somewhat faster by car, going straight down Wilshire.

    West Hollywood is the center of LA’s nightlife, both gay (along Santa Monica Blvd) and straight (the Sunset Strip, along Sunset Blvd). Unfortunately, it’s basically impossible to get there on public transit. There are also many bars, restaurants, and clubs in Downtown, though they are not quite as densely packed.

    Disneyland – most likely you’ll need to drive (anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic), but you can apparently take Amtrak to Anaheim and catch a shuttle (or catch an Anaheim Angels baseball game).


    The beaches are lovely and have many different attractions, from the Santa Monica Pier to the more ’60s–era feel of Venice Beach, to Muscle Beach, and the extremely fancy houses on the Venice Canals. Driving is the most reliable way to get there, but from Downtown one can take the Big Blue Bus, which takes about an hour to get to Santa Monica Beach (longer during rush hour). Just north of Santa Monica is Malibu – it’s very difficult to get on and off the road though.

    There are other beaches south of the airport, but it takes longer to get there and I don’t know of any particular attractions that make them better than Santa Monica or Venice.

    (Note:  Much of the content of this page was contributed by Kenny Easwaran.)