The University of Southern California will be hosting the 6th annual California Metaphysics Conference, January 20-22, 2017. This year’s topic is Philosophy of Religion and Metaphysics!

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 15, 2016.  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!



  • James Arcadi – Fuller Theological Seminary

    Mike Ashfield – University of Southern California

    Andrew Bacon – University of Southern California

    Andrew Bailey – Yale-NUS College

    Mark Balaguer – California State University, Los Angeles

    Jonathan Barker – University of Virginia

    Renee Bolinger – University of Southern California

    Jeffrey Brower – Purdue University

    Lara Buchak – University of California, Berkeley

    Nathaniel Burke – San Francisco State University

    Steven Canet – Biola University

    Rebecca Chan – Notre Dame

    Daniel Chrosniak – Biola University

    Daniel Coman – University of California, Santa Barbara

    Andrew Cortens – Boise State University

    Robin Dembroff – Princeton

    Kyle Dickey – University of California, Santa Barbara

    Maegan Fairchild – University of Southern California

    Benjamin Fan – Biola University

    Michael Fitzpatrick – Stanford University

    Dan Flores – Houston Community College

    Daniel Fogal – Uppsala University

    Kyle Foley – San Diego State University

    Greg Ganssle – Biola University

    Catherine Gavin – University of Southern California

    Jesse Gentile – Fuller Seminary

    Jeremy Goodman – University of Southern California

    Alexandra Grundler – University of California, Santa Cruz

    Jason Hanschmann – University of California, Santa Barbara

    Frank Hong – University of Southern California

    Hud Hudson – Western Washington University

    Ross Inman – Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

    Luke Jacobson – Biola University

    Mark Jeffers – Biola University

    Nathan Johnston – University of Southern California

    Jason Jones – Biola University

    Bridgette Kielhack – Biola University

    Hannah Kim – Stanford University

    Shieva Kleinschmidt – University of Southern California

    Andrew Lavin – University of California, Los Angeles

    Andrew Law – University of California, Riverside

    Jeffrey Lee – Biola University

    Matt Leonard – University of Southern California

    Isaiah Lin – Syracuse

    Jeremy Livermore – Biola University / University of Southern California

    Sarah Livermore – Hope International University

    Scott MacDonald – Cornell University

    Mandy Mak – San Francisco State University

    Mark Makin – Biola University

    Shaun McNaughton

    Sean Nalty – Western Washington University

    Joel Novick – Biola University

    Richard Park – Biola University

    Emily Paul – Leeds

    Dee Payton – Western Washington University

    Ian Peebles – Biola University

    Caleb Perl – University of Southern California

    Timothy Pickavance – Biola University

    Shawn Plascencia – Western Washington University

    Michael Rea – Notre Dame

    Bradley Rettler – Baylor University

    David Rodriguez – Biola University

    Jeff Russell – University of Southern California

    Jiun Kit Koo Scuter – Biola University

    Amy Seymour – Fordham University

    Kenneth Silver – University of Southern California

    David Skowronski – Biola University

    Carl Sohmer – Biola University

    Daniel Speak – Loyola Marymount University

    Meghan Sullivan – Notre Dame

    Alberto Tassoni – University of California, Berkeley

    Michael Theilmann – Whittier College

    J. T. Turner – Fuller Theological Seminary

    Jacob Tuttle – Loyola Marymount University

    Christina Van Dyke – Calvin College

    Peter van Inwagen – Notre Dame

    Christopher Woznicki – Fuller Theological Seminary

    Eric Yang – Santa Clara University

    Joseph Yeung – Biola University


All talks will be in Mudd Hall, room 101.

  • 1:00 – 2:30pm:  Meghan Sullivan, “A Philosophy for the End”

    Chair:  Rebecca Chan


    2:45 – 4:15pm:  Hud Hudson, “Agathon or Kalon?”

    Chair:  Naomi Dershowitz


    4:30 – 6:00pm:  Jeffrey Brower, “God As The Supreme Good – Anselm’s Platonic Argument”

    Chair:  Emily Paul

    • At the heart of classical theism is the conception of God as the supreme or perfect good.  As is well known, this conception provides the basis for Anselm’s famous ontological argument, which attempts to establish God’s existence directly from the concept of a being than which none greater can be conceived.  But Anselm has another, less well-known theistic argument that relies on the same conception. Unlike the ontological argument, this one attempts to use the conception of God as the supreme good to identify him with something whose existence is established independently—namely, a Platonic form or standard of goodness. In this paper, I examine Anselm’s Platonic argument with a view to highlighting its historical and philosophical significance. In particular, I explore its implications for the relationship between God and morality.  Although Anselm’s central claim—namely, that God is identical to the standard of goodness—is independently attractive and often accepted by classical theists, his argument also entails, and hence forces us to confront, the apparent absurdity that God is a universal.
  • 9:30 – 11:00am:  Andrew Bailey, “Magical Thinking”

    Chair:  Isaiah Lin


    11:15 – 12:45pm:  Brad Rettler, “A Dozen or So Metaphysics of the Eucharist”

    Chair:  Andrew Cortens


    12:45 – 2:30pm:  Lunch


    2:30 – 4:00pm:  Christina Van Dyke, “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Mystic Union (but Were Too Confused to Ask)”

    Chair:  Jeff Russell

    • Insofar as it involves direct access to the divine, mystic union is sometimes regarded as the pinnacle of religious life. What exactly mystic union is, however, is a subject of significant controversy both within and among world religions. In this paper, I present two depictions of union with God that emerge in medieval (Latin) discussions–one which involves complete self-abnegation, and one which retains some sense of individuality–as paradigmatic models of how human beings might relate to a Supreme Being. Although the model of self-loss has become the ‘standard’ for philosophical discussions of mysticism, I argue that the other model also deserves to be taken seriously, particularly by people who value embodiment.


    4:15 – 5:45pm:  Michael Rea, “Divine Presence in a Material World”

    Chair:  Matt Leonard

    • I argue that God’s presence, as well as certain kinds of divine communication, are, and always have been, widely available—to a much greater degree than is typically credited in the literature on divine hiddenness—to those who have the concept of God, and especially so to those who have access to scripture and the liturgies of the church.  Showing this does not by itself solve the hiddenness problem (the argument of this paper is a partial supplement to a solution that rests primarily on appeal to divine transcendence); but, as I shall explain, it does raise significant obstacles to establishing the conclusion that negatively valenced analogies–God as distant lover, or neglectful parent, for example–are more apt than traditional positive analogies for characterizing the attribute that we call ‘divine love’.


    6:30pm:  Dinner at Pitfire Pizza – 108 West 2nd Street, downtown Los Angeles

  • 10:00 – 11:30am:  Lara Buchak, “Faith, Integrity, and Identity Over Time”

    Chair:  Dee Payton


    11:45 – 1:15pm:  Amy Seymour, “Omnipotence, Omniscience, and the Open Future”

    Chair:  Sean Nalty


    1:15 – 2:45pm:  Lunch


    2:45pm:  meet at the Expo Line across the street from the Philosophy Department for a trip to the beach, followed by dinner wherever you’d like in Santa Monica

  • Information about the talks:

    • All talks will be in Mudd Hall, room 101.  (But check this page within a week of the conference to confirm.)
    • Talks will be 90 minutes each, with the time divided between the presentation and the Q&A however the speaker prefers.

    Information about Food and Recreation:

    • Friday night we recommend getting dinner at Mercado La Paloma (3655 S. Grand Ave), followed by drinks at The Lab (3500 Figueroa St).
    • Saturday night there will be a conference dinner at Pitfire Pizza downtown (108 W. 2nd St)
    • Sunday, for recreation following the talks, we’ll take the Expo Line to the beach and then get dinner in Santa Monica.  There will not be any organized conference event for dinner, but you are welcome to organize however you’d like.

Travel and Lodging

  • The official conference hotel is The Biltmore, located in downtown Los Angeles.  (506 South Grand Avenue.  213-624-1011)  We have secured a special conference rate, but it’s still incredibly expensive.  To get a room with this rate, make your reservation online by clicking this link.  (It’s important that you use that link, rather than just their general website.  The hotel has grouped us with another event in order to give us a special rate.)

    However, because the Biltmore is so expensive, you might consider alternatives:  my top suggestions are that you stay either at the the Radisson near USC, or that you check out AirBNB.

    The Radisson is within walking distance of the Philosophy Department, where the talks will be held, as well as near the Friday dinner and drinks locations.  The Biltmore is within walking distance of several restaurants and public transit links, as well as the Saturday dinner location, 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 (or make sure you’re near a stop of the Expo line for easy travel to campus!).

  • Getting to Los Angeles

    If you’re flying to Los Angeles, you’ll probably want to arrive at either LAX or Burbank Airport.  With either airport, my first and strongest recommendation is to get a ride with Lyft (or, if you prefer, Uber).  This requires a smartphone and that you download the app, but they are now able to pick you up directly at the airport.  They arrive quickly, they are often less than half as expensive as taxis, and the ratings feature lets you verify that your driver has lots of great reviews before you commit to ordering a ride from them.

    If you insist on another form of transportation, here is more information:

    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.  (Note, though, that this option is slow and involves several transfers.)  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.)