Roberto Casati and Barry Smith

Problems in Ontology:
The Metaphysics of Spatial Entities

Friday 3-5
4 Clemens Hall

PHI 531

The course offers a general introduction to ontology, concentrating especially on examples derived from the domain of geospatial phenomena. We shall discuss the relationships between ontology and other types of philosophical enterprise, including epistemology and semantics. We shall outline the main formal methods in philosophy, and apply these to such topics as the ontology and semantics of maps. Other topics to be discussed will include: ontology and information systems, mereology and topology, qualitative physics, the theory of location, objects and fields, places, naive geography, boundaries, vagueness, land and real estate, the ontology of ecology, the ontology of international law.
This course satisfies the Ontological Foundations requirement of the University at Buffalo IGERT Program in Geographic Information Science.
1 BS* Sep 3 General introduction. Range of geographic phenomena. Geographic categories and empirical ontology. Mark/Smith/Tversky, "Ontology and Geographic Objects: An Empirical Study of Cognitive Categorization"
2 BS Sep 10 Niches, ecology and qualitative geometry. Smith, "The Niche"
3 BS Sep 17 Parts and wholes: 1: Principles. Casati and Varzi, Parts and Places, Ch. 3.
Casati, Smith, Varzi, "Ontological Tools for Geographic Representation
4 RC Sep 24 Logical symbolisms. Logic: applications. Logical form. Davidson, D., 1967, "The Logical Form of Action Sentences", in Rescher, N., ed. The Logic of Decision and Action, Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh University Press. (Variously reprinted.)
5 BS Oct 1 Visitor: Achille Varzi (Columbia). Mereology. Vagueness. Spatial reasoning and naive theories of space. Naive topology. Casati, "Naive Topology"
Smith and Varzi: "Fiat and Bona Fide Boundaries"
6 RC Oct 8 Naive physics and naive geography. Common sense and science. Pat Hayes, "The Second Naive Physics Manifesto"
Egenhofer and Mark, Mark/Egenhofer, "Naive Geography
7 RC Oct 15 Visitors: D. Mark. Cognition of geographic objects  Mark/Smith/Tversky, "Ontology and Geographic Objects: An Empirical Study of Cognitive Categorization"
8 RC Oct 22 Visitor: Berit Brogaard. Parts and wholes 2: Objects, fields and time. Casati and Varzi, Parts and Places, Ch. 4. 
Peuquet, Smith, Brogaard, "The Ontology of Fields
9 RC Oct 29 Folk geography and folk astronomy Casati and Noveck (Material to be circulated)
10 BS Nov 5 The Environment of Mind N.B. This class will take place beginning at 3.15pm in the Center for Inquiry, 1310 Sweet Home Road, Amherst
Smith, "Husserlian Ecology"
11 BS Nov 12 Ontology of real estate. Ontology of geopolitics Smith and Zaibert, "The Metaphysics of Real Estate"
Smith, "The Cognitive Geometry of War"
12 BS Nov 19 Visitor: Lynd Forguson (University of Toronto): Cognitive Epidemiology: A Case Study N.B. This class will take place in Park 280
Smith, "Agglomerations"
13 RC Dec 3 Maps I "Maps", Ch. 11 in Casati and Varzi, Parts and Places, MIT 1999
14 RC Dec 10 Maps II: Semantics "Maps", Ch. 11 in Casati and Varzi, Parts and Places, MIT 1999

*indicates faculty member/visitor having primary responsibility for the class indicated.

Grading: The grade for the course will be based primarily on a term paper, to be submitted on or before December 2. Additional credit can be obtained for active class participation.

Reading: The required reading for the course is indicated in the table above.