Skip to page Content.

"Metaphysics in Higher Order Languages" Workshop

New York Institute of Philosophy Event

Saturday, May 20 – Sunday, May 21

NYU Department of Philosophy
5 Washington Place, Seminar 202


This workshop will be concerned with questions of metaphysics which can be posed in higher order languages. Higher order languages allow for variables having different syntactic categories — for example, variables that are predicates, and variables that are formulae (open sentence) — and for quantifiers that can bind such variables. Sentences of such languages are sometimes treated as shorthand for sentences about abstract objects, such as propositions and properties. The workshop will explore views which reject such equivalences, or at least, take sentences of higher order languages as precise, intelligible, and metaphysically interesting as they stand. This approach has deep historical roots: it is arguably the view of Frege's Begriffsschrift, and was influentially promoted by A.N. Prior. It has also recently enjoyed a resurgence; for example, Timothy Williamson makes extensive use of higher order logic in his book "Modal Logic as Metaphysics. Some of the talks at the workshop will address meta-level questions about the approach, such as whether higher-order quantifiers are intelligible, and what the syntax of a higher-order language should look like. Others will use higher order resources to state object-level metaphysical questions and to argue about their answers.


Michael Caie (University of Pittsburgh)
Catharine Diehl (Humbold Universität zu Berlin)
Tom Donaldson (Stanford University)
Cian Dorr (New York University)
Peter Fritz (University of Oslo)
Jeremy Goodman (University of Southern California)
Harold Hodes (Cornell University)
Paul Hovda (Reed College)
Kevin Klement (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)
Harvey Lederman (University of Pittsburgh)
Bryan Pickel (University of Edinburgh)
Agustín Rayo (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Katherine Ritchie (City College of New York)
Jeffrey Sanford Russell (University of Southern California)
Rohan Sud (Bates College)


Cian Dorr (New York University)
Iliana Gioulatou (New York University); Contact

Saturday, May 20
9:30-10:00 Breakfast
10:00-11:35 Peter Fritz
‘Predication and Existence’
Comments: Catharine Diehl
11:35 Coffee
11:50-1:25 Bryan Pickel
‘Life at a Lower Order’
Comments: Jeremy Goodman
1:25 Lunch
3:00-4:35 Kevin Klement
‘Russell on Ontological Fundamentality and Existence’
Comments: Katherine Ritchie
4:35 Break
4:50-6:25 Michael Caie and Harvey Lederman
‘Classical Opacity’
Comments: Agustín Rayo
7:00 Conference dinner

Sunday, May 21
10:30 Breakfast
11:00-12:35 Harold Hodes
'Three Kinds of Ramified-Type Assignment Systems’
Comments: Cian Dorr
12:35 Lunch
2:00-3:35 Jeff Russell
‘Vague Existence’
Comments: Paul Hovda
3:35 Break
3:50-5:25 Rohan Sud
‘Ontological Deflationism, Vague Existence, and Metaphysical Vagueness’
Comments: Tom Donaldson


Workshop abstracts are available here.

Sponsored by the New York Institute of Philosophy. For information, contact: