Orange Alert

SPAWN Conference Addresses ‘First-Order Metaphysics’ June 26-28

Junior, senior philosophers discuss fundamental nature of reality

June 23, 2017, by Robert M Enslin

Rising stars in philosophy will get a chance to shine at the 12th annual SPAWN conference at Syracuse University.

SPAWN, which stands for “Syracuse Philosophy Annual Workshop and Network,” will run from Monday, June 26, to Wednesday, June 28, in The Kilian Room (500) in the Hall of Language.

Philosophers from around the world will participate in 10 workshop sessions, each of which features a paper on this year’s theme of “first-order metaphysics.”

Given the small-workshop format, participation at SPAWN is by invitation-only. Those interested in attending, however, may contact Kris McDaniel, professor of philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences, at 315.443.2245 or

Each workshop session pits a young presenter (i.e., someone who has earned a Ph.D. in the past decade) against a senior commentator. Both engage in a spirited debate about a specific topic—in this year’s case, the fundamental nature of reality—addressing current, new and emerging issues.

“By bringing together bright, young philosophers with experienced scholars, SPAWN helps shape the discussion and research about a range of issues", says McDaniel, who is co-organizing the event with Ph.D. student Arturo Javier-Castellanos.

This year’s SPAWN features 10 junior speakers, eight senior commentators and seven workshop chairs from a variety of institutions, including Stanford University, M.I.T., the University of Notre Dame, The University of Oxford (U.K.) and Yonsei University (Korea).

Metaphysics is a division of philosophy that addresses fundamental questions about reality left unsettled by empirical scientific investigation.

First-order metaphysics focuses on topics such as free will; the nature of existence and being; and the nature of space, time, possibility and necessity.


McDaniel says that, to understand first-order metaphysics, one must take into account something called meta-metaphysics.

"Every human activity is a source of philosophical questions, and is an appropriate subject for philosophical investigation. This includes the activity of doing philosophy,” he says. “Meta-metaphysics focuses on the activity of pursuing metaphysical questions; first-order metaphysics tries to answer these questions.”

Case in point: A popular metaphysical question is “Do we have free will?” Meta-metaphysics, however, might ask "What is the proper methodology for attempting to answer the question of whether or not we have free will?”

McDaniel continues: “In recent philosophical inquiry, there has been an intense focus on questions about metaphysics, rather than on questions of metaphysics. This conference focuses on the latter.”

SPAWN is made possible by the Alice Hooker ’34 Endowed Fund for Philosophy. Additional support comes from The Central New York Humanities Corridor, thanks to a generous gift from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Media Contact

Robert M Enslin