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The Metaphysics Research Lab

The Metaphysics Research Lab

Center for the Study of Language and Information
Cordura Hall 202
Stanford University
Stanford, CA 94305-4115

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Welcome to the web pages of the Metaphysics Research Lab. Whereas physics is the attempt to discover the laws that govern fundamental concrete objects, metaphysics is the attempt to discover the laws that systematize the fundamental abstract objects presupposed by physical science, such as mathematical objects and relations, possible states and events, types (as opposed to tokens), possible and future objects, complex properties, etc. Abstract objects are even needed to understand what may turn out to be scientific fictions (e.g., causality, models) as well as clearcut cases of scientific fictions (e.g., absolute simultaneity, the aether, and phlogiston). The goal of metaphysics, therefore, is to develop a formal ontology, i.e., a formally precise systematization of these abstract objects. Such a theory will be compatible with the world view of natural science if the abstract objects postulated by the theory are conceived as patterns of the natural world.

In our research lab, we have developed such a theory: the axiomatic theory of abstract objects and relations. In many ways, this theory is like a machine for detecting abstract objects (hence the name ‘research lab’), for among the recursively enumerable theorems, there are statements which assert the existence of the abstract objects mentioned above. Moreover, the properties of these abstracta can be formally derived as consequences of the axioms. The theory systematizes ideas of philosophers such as Plato, Leibniz, Frege, Meinong, and Mally. Our results are collated in the document Principia Metaphysica, which is authored by Edward N. Zalta (Ph.D./Philosophy), a Senior Research Scholar at CSLI. An online version of Principia Metaphysica can be found by following the link to The Theory of Abstract Objects (see below). In published work, the theory has been applied to problems in the philosophy of language, intensional logic, the philosophy of mathematics, and the history of philosophy.

Welcome Message (272K sound file) (.snd, .au, or .wav)
      (Recorded December 1, 1994)

The Theory of Abstract Objects (Summary and Tutorial)

Computational Metaphysics Web Pages (by Branden Fitelson, Paul E. Oppenheimer, and Edward N. Zalta)

Streaming Video Lecture: Towards Leibniz's Goal of a Computational Metaphysics
by Edward N. Zalta,
Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy Workshop, June 11, 2011
Slides For the Lecture (in PDF)

Streaming Video: Possible Worlds, the Lewis Principle and the Myth of a Large Ontology
by Edward N. Zalta and Christopher Menzel
Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy Workshop, June 4, 2011
Slides For the Lecture (in PDF)

Streaming Audio Lecture: A Logically Coherent Ante Rem Structuralism
by Edward N. Zalta and Uri Nodelman
Ontological Dependence Workshop, University of Bristol, February 2011
Slides for the talk.
(This talk was developed into a paper, retitled “Foundations for Mathematical Structuralism,” and in the journal Mind in 2014. Here is a preprint.)

Streaming Video Lecture: Steps Toward a Computational Metaphysics
by Edward N. Zalta and Branden Fitelson
Computing and Philosophy Conference, Oregon State University, August 8, 2003
Slides For the Lecture (in PDF)

Ernst Mally Plato and Meinong

Gottlob Frege Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

Metaphysics Research Lab Personnel

Active Collaborators

The following list of personnel are actively working, or have recently collaborated, on the research pursued in the Metaphysics Research Lab.

  • Edward N. Zalta, Senior Research Scholar, CSLI, Stanford University.
    Upcoming Presentations:
    • Colloquium, Department of Philosophy, University of Queensland, 30 April 2021, 2pm AEST (= 29 April, 9pm PDT), via Zoom .
  • Uri Nodelman, Senior Research Engineer, Stanford University
  • Hannes Leitgeb, Chair and Head, Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München.
  • Daniel Kirchner, Ph.D. candidate, Institute für Mathematik, Freie Universität Berlin.
  • Merel Semeijn, Ph.D. candidate, Philosophy Department, University of Groningen.
  • Paul E. Oppenheimer, Visiting Lecturer, University of Adelaide.
  • Christoph Benzmüller, Heisenberg Fellow of the German Research Foundation, Freie Universität Berlin.
  • Branden Fitelson, Professor, Philosophy Department, Northeastern University.
  • Bernard Linsky, Professor, Philosophy Department, U. of Alberta, Canada.
  • Colin Allen, Professor, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh
  • Otávio Bueno, Professor, University of Miami.
  • Michael Nelson, Associate Professor, Philosophy Department, University of California/Riverside.
  • Christopher Menzel, Professor, Philosophy Department, Texas A&M University.
  • Jesse Alama, Assistant Editor, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University.
  • Paul Daniell, Consulting Software Architect, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • Francis Jeffry Pelletier, Professor, Philosophy Department, University of Alberta, Canada
  • Mark Colyvan, Professor, Philosophy, University of Sydney, Australia
(Former) Visitors to the Lab (reverse chronological order):
  • Tadeusz Ciecierski, Assistant Professor, Institute of Philosophy, University of Warsaw, Poland
  • Johannes Brandl, Associate Professor, Universität Salzburg
  • Ondrej Tomala, Ph.D. Candidate, Charles University, Prague (The Czech Republic).
  • Gabriel Sandu, Professor, Theoretical Philosophy, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Ju Shier, Professor, Zhongshan University; Director, Institute for Logic and Cognition, Zhongshan University, Guangzhou, China
  • Nie Wenlong, Assistant Professor, Institute for Logic and Cognition, Zhongshan (Sun Yat-Sen) University, Guangzhou, China
  • Kristë Shtufi, Forschungsassistent, University of Graz, Austria, and Lecturer at University of Prishtina, Kosovo.
  • Sun-Joo Shin (Professor, Philosophy, Yale University)
  • Paavo Pylkkanen, Associate Professor, Consciousness Studies Program, Skövde University, Sweden
  • Anna Bjurman Pautz, Doctoral Student, Department of Philosophy, University of Lund, Sweden
  • Keith Stenning, Professor, Division of Informatics (Human Communication Research Centre), University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Daniel Nolan, Lecturer, Philosophy Department, University of Nottingham
  • Greg Restall, Senior Lecturer, Philosophy Department, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
  • Wolfgang Malzkorn, formerly of the Seminar für Logik und Grundlagenforschung, Universität Bonn, Germany
  • Steven Horst, Associate Professor, Philosophy Department, Wesleyan University
  • Godehard Link, Professor, Institut für Philosophie, Logik, und Wissenschaftstheorie, Universität München, Germany
  • Edwin Mares, Senior Lecturer, Philosophy Department, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
  • Karl-Georg Niebergall, Professor, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany
  • Peter Menzies, Associate Professor, Philosophy Department, Macquarie University, Australia
  • John Bacon, Associate Professor, School of Philosophy, University of Sydney, Australia
  • David Chalmers, Professor, New York University
  • Andrew Irvine, Professor, Philosophy Department, University of British Columbia, Canada
  • Christopher Gauker, Professor, Universität Salzburg
  • Mark Textor, Lecturer, Kings College/London, United Kingdom
  • Kees van Deemter, Informatics, University of Utrecht, The Netherlands

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