The University of Southern California will be hosting the 5th annual California Metaphysics Conference, January 15-17, 2016. This year’s topic is Parthood!

Attendence 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, 2015.  Please include your full name and university affiliation in the email.  You will not receive a confirmation email, but your name should appear on the list of participants within 30 days.  Also, let me know if you are a graduate student from outside CA and you are interested in being an assistant organiser!


  • Terfa Anjov – Benue State University

    James Arcadi – Fuller Theological Seminary

    Jennifer Asselin – Ohio State University

    Robert Bassett – Stanford

    Mark Balaguer – California State University, Los Angeles

    Steven Canet – Biola University

    Jonathan Casad – Azusa Pacific University

    Daniel Cheng – Azusa Pacific University

    Ben Cleary – Ohio State University

    Andrew Cortens – Boise State University

    Nikk Effingham – University of Birmingham

    Maegan Fairchild – University of Southern California

    Omar Fakhri – University of California, Berkeley

    Vera Flocke – New York University

    Melissa Fusco – University of California, Berkeley

    Cody Gilmore – University of California, Davis

    Martin Glazier – University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

    Jeremy Goodman – University of Southern California

    Cherrish Hardy – Azusa Pacific University

    Paul Hovda – Reed College

    Chia-Hao Hsieh – Northern Illinois University

    Shieva Kleinschmidt – University of Southern California

    Bernard Kobes – Arizona State University

    Matt Leonard – University of Southern California

    Bihui Li – University of Southern California

    Anna Marmodoro – Oxford

    David McElhoes – Arizona State University

    Elizabeth McIntosh – Azusa Pacific University

    Michaela McSweeney – Princeton University

    Erin Mercurio – Ohio State University

    Sean Nalty – Western Washington University

    Matt Owen – University of Birmingham

    Josh Parsons – Oxford

    Tom Pashby – University of Southern California

    Dee Payton – Western Washington University

    Zee Perry – New York University

    Andrew Rehfeld – Cerritos College

    Drake Rehfeld – University of Southern California

    Brandon Rickabaugh – Baylor University

    Fabian Rodriguez – Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México / UC Davis

    Jeff Russell – University of Southern California

    Eden Sayed – University of California, Los Angeles

    Mark Schroeder – University of Southern California

    Peter Simons – Trinity College Dublin

    Raymond Stewart – Cornell

    Tuomas Tahko – University of Helsinki

    Alberto Tassoni – University of California, Berkeley

    Dom Turnipseed – Biola University

    Gabriel Uzquiano Cruz – University of Southern California

    James Van Cleve – University of Southern California

    Peter van Inwagen – Notre Dame

    David Vander Laan – Westmont College

    Achille Varzi – Columbia University

    Evan Woods – Ohio State University

    John Woolard – Biola University


All talks will be in Mudd Hall, room 101.

  • 2:45 – 4:15pm: “Restricted Composition and Automereological Objects” – Nikk Effingham

    Chair: Ben Cleary

    Abstract: The conclusion of this paper is that perdurantism is true. I expand upon a line of argument that began in a paper co-authored with Jon Robson, wherein we argued that perdurantism is true because of considerations of ‘automereological objects’ i.e. weird objects (constructed via a process of time travel) which have a proper part that fails to be disjoint from any other proper part. But that argument requires the perdurantist to have a well-defined notion of ‘instantaneous temporal part’ and another temporal part of me has argued that, given the possibility of time travel, perdurantists can’t give the appropriate definition of ‘instantaneous temporal part’. After recapping the details, this paper solves the latter problem by arguing that we should accept a restricted principle of composition that makes composition solely a matter of immanent causation. That in place we can define what an instantaneous temporal part is and recover the automereological argument for perdurantism.


    4:30 – 6:00pm: “Parthood, Plurality, and Sets” – Paul Hovda

    Chair: Jennifer Asselin

    Abstract: Under what conditions are some things (these) (collectively) part of some things (those)? Under what conditions is something part of a set? I will address some fundamental issues concerning the part-whole relation, focusing especially, but not exclusively, on these two questions. Though there may be more than one legitimate sense of “part,” I will argue that there is at least one on which, plausibly, the following claims hold: parthood is reflexive, transitive, and obeys strong supplementation; (in general) if these are among those, then these are part of those (but the generalized converse does not hold); (in general) a member of a set is part of it; parthood is not anti-symmetric; and (more tentatively) any things have a fusion. Yet one may still draw a distinction between the way a member is part of a set and the way a hand is part of a human, and I will consider how best to draw this and related distinctions.

  • 10:00 – 11:30am:  “Parthood Revisited” – Peter Simons

    Chair:  Michaela McSweeney

    Abstract:  In this review I wish to encompass three goals: firstly, to outline and comment on some of the adventures of mereological theory and speculation since 1986; secondly, to indicate where my own views on mereology and related issues have and have not shifted over those three decades; and finally, to indicate how an essential but suitably modest role remains for mereology in a metaphysics that advertently strives to resemble its great 19th and 20th century forebears: Bolzano, Brentano, Husserl, Alexander, Whitehead, Ingarden and Williams.


    11:45 – 1:15pm:  “The Metaphysics of Stoic Blends” – Anna Marmodoro

    Chair:  Matthew Owen


    1:15 – 3:30pm:  Lunch


    3:30 – 5:00pm:  “A Cartesian Argument Against Compositional Nihilism” – Cody Gilmore (Paper)

    Chair:  Matt Leonard

    Nihilism, i.e., compositional nihilism, is the thesis that there aren’t any composite entities, entities that have proper parts.[1] I develop a new cogito-style argument against nihilism, one that is more detailed and, I hope, more persuasive than extant versions of the argument. My argument arises from The Cogito Question:  What, in the vicinity of <I am conscious>, is certain via introspection when the cogito is carried out? I discuss the following candidates:
    –  CF    If all the simples were just as they actually are but composition were universal, I would be conscious.
    –  GP    There are some things that are [collectively] conscious.
    –  R      There is an experience.
    –  C      This is an experience.
    –  PP    These are [collectively] conscious.
    For each candidate, I argue that nihilists, at least, should deny that it captures the relevant certainty.


    6:00pm:  Dinner at Pitfire Pizza – 108 West 2nd Street, downtown Los Angeles

  • 10:00 – 11:30am:  “Composite Persons” – Peter van Inwagen (Paper, Handout)

    Chair:  Sean Nalty

    Abstract:  Nihilism is becoming an increasingly popular answer to the Special CompositionQuestion. It has recently been defended by Gideon Rosen and Cian Dorr, and by TedSider. One argument against Nihilism is that there are composite objects because thereare human persons and human persons are composite objects. And it is argued thathuman persons are composite objects because human persons are material objects, humanpersons think and feel, and it is not possible that “particles-arranged-human-person-wise”should think or feel. Rosen, Dorr, and Sider have dismissed almost without argument thethesis that it is not possible that “particles-arranged-human-person-wise” should think orfeel. The purpose of this paper is to defend that thesis.


    11:45 – 1:15pm:  “On Counterexamples in Mereology” – Achille Varzi

    Chair:  Dee Payton


    2:00 – 4:30pm:  Picnic in Barnsdall Art Park

Travel and Lodging

  • This year we don’t have an official conference hotel, but I recommend staying at either the Radisson near USC, or at The Biltmore, located in downtown Los Angeles.  I also recommend looking into AirBNB.

    The Radisson is within walking distance of the Philosophy Department, where the talks will be held.  The Biltmore is within walking distance of several restaurants and public transit links, but it is several miles from USC’s campus.  However, Los Angeles’s new light rail (the Expo Line) is up and running, and it provides 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.

    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.

    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.)