Department of Philosophy

The Lightness of Being: A Metaontological Investigation

Project Description

Ontological debates—debates about what exists—are among the most central traditional debates in philosophy. However, the vigor with which disputants pursue ontology is often met with skepticism. Debating whether, say, ordinary objects like tables exist seems to many somehow defective, even though to others such a debate seems philosophically central and urgent. This has led to a growing interest in metaontology, the study of ontological questions themselves. Perhaps one can make progress in ontology, or even philosophy more generally, by asking the fundamental question of what existence is to begin with.

One metaontological view, associated with for example Rudolf Carnap, is that questions about existence are shallow and easily answered. Call this the lightness of being view, or for short the lightness view. According to the lightness view, in many cases when we come to see what it is for things of certain kind to exist, we should be able to see that they indeed do exist, and that opposition to the view that they do simply relies on a misconception. Is some version of this view correct, and what exactly are the consequences of (a reasonable version of) this view? The idea behind the project is to undertake a thorough investigation of these issues, and to investigate the connections between these general discussions and specific ontological debates.

Seminars, Conferences and Workshops

Seminars, conferences and workshops will be organized within the auspices of the project.



  • March 16, 2017: Bruno Whittle, University of Glasgow, “Exceptional Logic”


  • June 1, 2016: Jon Litland, University of Texas, Austin, "Ways of Ground"
  • February 25, 2016: Donnchadh O'Conaill, University of Helsinki, "Grounding as Fact-Constitution"


Conferences and Workshops