The University of Southern California will be hosting the 8th annual California Metaphysics Conference, January 17-19, 2020. This year’s topic is the Metaphysics of Spacetime!

Attendence is open (and free) to all who would like to come, but you must register by emailing sjk [at] parthood [dot] com no later than December 30, 2019.  Please include your full name and university (or other) affiliation in the email.  You will not receive a confirmation email, but your name should appear on the list of participants within 14 days.  Also, let me know if you are a graduate student from outside CA and you are interested in being an assistant organiser!

*If you’re wondering about Jeremy Bearimy, you can watch this.  But: spoiler alert for The Good Place!


  • Haroldo Altamirano – Biola University

    Puyin Bai – Biola University

    Dave Baker – University of Michigan

    Mark Balaguer – California State University, Los Angeles

    Yuri Balashov – University of Georgia

    Cole Bishop – Bila University

    Joshua Blanchard – Biola University

    Irene Bosco – University of Southern California

    Jeff Brower – Purdue University

    Jaime Castillo-Gamboa – University of Southern California

    Rebecca Chan – San José State University

    Phil Corkum – University of Alberta

    Louis Doulas – University of California, Irvine

    Joshua Eisenthal – California Institute of Technology

    Nina Emery – Mount Holyoke College

    Jen Foster – University of Southern California

    Cody Gilmore – University of California, Davis

    Sarah Griffith – Biola University

    Isaac Guarisco – Biola University

    Jasmine Gunkel – University of Southern California

    Hal Haller – Biola University

    Annalise Harstine – Biola University

    Stephanie Hughes – Biola University

    Jacob Huls – Biola University

    Abigail Jackson – University of Southern California

    Mahmoud Jalloh – University of Southern California

    Lindsey Jones – Biola University

    Shieva Kleinschmidt – University of Southern California

    Jonathan Krone – University of Southern California

    Matt Leonard – California Baptist University

    Philip Li – University of Southern California

    Logan Lusk – Biola University

    Chrissy MacQuilkan – Biola University

    Ned Markosian – University of Massachusetts, Amherst

    Michaela McSweeney – Boston University

    Jonathan Metcalf – Biola University

    Alyse Mgrdichian – Biola University

    Elizabeth Miller – Brown University

    Alyssa Ney – University of California, Davis

    Jill North – Rutgers University

    Hyram Ortiz – Biola University

    Adwait Parker – Stanford University

    Laurie Paul – Yale University

    Brenton Polluck – Biola University

    Tejas Ramdas – University of Southern California

    Rita Randazzo – Biola University

    Jeff Russell – University of Southern California

    David Sanson – Illinois State University

    Mark Schroeder – University of Southern California

    Mahlia St. Cyr – Biola University

    Andrew Stewart – University of Southern California

    Gabriel Uzquiano – University of Southern California

    James Van Cleve – University of Southern California

    Kadri Vihvelin – University of Southern California

    Levy Wang – University of Southern California

    Nehemiah Wood – Biola University

    Ashley Yukihiro – Biola University

    Jin Zeng – University of Southern California

    Eyob Zewdie – Biola University


All talks will be in Mudd Hall, room 101.

  • 1:00 – 2:30pm:  Elizabeth Miller, “Primitive Ontology in GRW”

    Chair:  Cody Gilmore


    2:45 – 4:15pm:  Yuri Balashov, “Multiple Lives in Relativistic Spacetime?”

    • Debates about material coincidence start with very realistic assumptions and lead to highly counterintuitive conclusions. Indeed, worries about coincident material objects – Tibbles and Tib, Lump and Vase, Lumpl, and other familiar cases – have been used to adjudicate many rather abstract and technical proposals in the metaphysics of composition and persistence, ranging from natural (constitutionalism) to radical (nihilism). Thus, while the seeds of theoretical possibilities emerge initially from common sense, their development transgresses its boundaries quite early in the process.

      I have no disagreement with this overall strategy: theories do need to turn abstract at some point, move beyond common sense, and eventually force upon us interesting, novel, and often counterintuitive revisions in our overall conceptual scheme. This applies to all theoretical areas, and contemporary metaphysics is no exception. But while the latter is widely regarded as being quite extreme in this respect, I want to argue that, in one sense, it is not extreme enough. I do it by developing a new hypothetical case of material coincidence that is initially motivated not by common sense but by physical considerations, and is not amenable to any of the standard solutions.

    Chair:  Mahmoud Jalloh


    4:30 – 6:00pm:  Laurie Paul, “Subjective Categories”

    Chair:  Matt Leonard


    6:30pm:  Dinner at Mercado La Paloma – 3665 S. Grand Ave, about a 10 minute walk from the conference

  • 9:00 – 10:30am:  Jill North, “Metaphysics and Equivalence”

    • Abstract: There has recently been increased attention paid by philosophers of physics to the notion of theoretical equivalence, of when two theories say the same things in different ways.  I argue that there has been too much focus on the formal aspects of physical theories, at the expense of what I call their “metaphysical” aspects: what these theories say about what there is in the world, what it is like—including the nature of spacetime—and how and why things behave in the ways they do.  Another way of putting the point:  philosophers have unduly ignored the explanatory apparatus of a theory, which is essential to a theory and to questions of its equivalence with other theories.  Although my primary conclusion may be somewhat uncontroversial, it will lead to more controversial conclusions about the non-equivalence of theories ordinarily considered equivalent.

    Chair:  Noah Gordon


    10:45 – 12:15pm:  Jeffrey Brower, “Thomistic Supersubstantivalism—A Framework for Understanding Medieval Views of Place”

    • Abstract: In this paper, I develop a new framework for thinking about medieval views about place—one designed not only to resolve their apparent conceptual difficulties, but also to situate them vis-à-vis positions familiar from contemporary debates about space. In developing my framework, I focus on the views of just one important and influential medieval thinker—namely, Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274). Moreover, my strategy is to show that, if we approach Aquinas’s views about place from the perspective of what he says about spatial location, we can see that they presuppose distinctive type of supersubstantivalism.

    Chair:  Jaime Castillo Gamboa


    12:15 – 1:45pm: Lunch


    1:45 – 3:15pm:  Ned Markosian, “Three New Arguments for The Dynamic Theory of Time”

    • Abstract: There are two main ways of thinking about time that have emerged in the metaphysics literature in recent years. According to The Static Theory of Time (which is the majority view), time is just like space – it is one of four similar dimensions that make up a single manifold that is appropriately called spacetime. On this view, there is nothing special about the present moment, and time’s apparent passage is merely a subjective feature of the way humans happen to perceive the world. The other view is The Dynamic Theory of Time, according to which time is very different from space, the present is special, and the passage of time is a genuine and objective feature of the world. This talk features three new arguments for The Dynamic Theory of Time: (1) an argument about personal identity and moral responsibility, (2) an argument concerning the aesthetic value of music, and (3) a sentimental argument that focuses on the correct way to appreciate certain important but poignant truths about the passage of time.

    Chair:  Jasmine Gunkel


    3:30 – 5:00pm:  Nina Emery, “What Was and What Could Be: What makes time different from modality?”

    Chair:  Paul Garofalo


    6:00pm: Dinner downtown, location TBA

  • 9:00 – 10:30am: Dave Baker, “Knox’s Inertial Spacetime Functionalism”

    Chair: Quyen Pham


    10:45 – 12:15pm: Tim Maudlin, “The Mathematics and Possible Physics of Discrete Spaces”

    Chair: Levy Wang


    12:15 – 1:45pm: Lunch


    1:45 – 3:15pm: Alyssa Ney, “The Emergence of Spacetime in Quantum Theories of Gravity: Some Themes”

    Chair: Irene Bosco


    3:30 – 5:00pm: David Sanson, “Potential Parts, Heterogeneity, and Cartesian Supersubatantivalsim”

    Chair: Stephanie Van Fossen

  • 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’s recommended dinner location is TBA

Travel and Lodging

  • The official conference hotel is The Biltmore, located in downtown Los Angeles.  (506 South Grand Avenue.  Call rerservations directly at 213-612-1575.)  The conference rate we’ve been given is $192/night, excluding taxes; just mention code USC when you book your room.  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 light rail (the Expo Line) 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.

    The hotel near USC (formerly the Radisson but now simply the USC Hotel) is within walking distance of the Philosophy department where the talks will be held, as well as near the Fiday dinner and drinks locations.  However, it is remarkably expensive, at $287.10 a night.  (Unfortunately they had no special rate available.)

    Because the hotels are so expensive, you might consider alternatives.  AirBNB is always an option, and there are also other hotels 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!).

  • 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.)